S1 E3 Obulunji – Embracing your natural beauty

Natural beauty
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In recent times, black women all over the world have begun to re-embrace their natural beauty in all its curls and glory. However, as big as the movement is now, it wasn’t always as accessible. The advice sought would suggest products found with relative ease in the US and UK, but in South Africa, it was a major problem. In stepped Obulunji, encouraging women to embrace their natural beauty. Pinky and her team / family could tell that the “natural” hair movement was taking a positive turn globally and in South Africa and so they chose to be ahead of the curve and found a way to import popular international haircare brands that helped to stoke the fires within the continent.

In this interview, Pinky gives us insight into the hair care industry, challenges that they face daily and why she won’t let that stop her.

Obulunji products  Obulunji hair  Obulunji - Marley Obulunji

Show Notes:

Pinky gives us some insight into how her entrepreneurial passion was sparked from a young age [04:00]
Pinky was given her first business opportunity from her previous employer, but finances prevented her from taking it up. [06:25]
Pinky describes how the idea of Obulunji came up. [09:00]
Pinky’s own hair journey inspired her interest in learning about natural hair products and routines. [12:15]
Some of the products they have: Cantu, Shea Moisture, Ecostyler [16:00]
Their website and managing an eCommerce business is a constant learning experience [19:00]
Pinky describes how the work is split amongst the 5 co-founders [20:45]
Pinky talks about how she has resolved some issues such as delivery [22:40]
They have customers throughout RSA and the rest of the African continent, and a mixture of end-users and wholesalers [22:50]
Obulunji are looking at different ways to expand [26:00]
Pinky explains what Obulunji means [27:50]
Pinky discusses the things that keep her up at night, such has having stock and handling the fluctuating currency’s impact on their profitability. [29:30]
Pinky describes how they went from no competition to a flood of them, and in particular the big businesses. [37:50]
Obulunji is looking to leverage off their partnerships to build a “coop” to help with purchasing and licensing products. [39:00]
Pinky believes that the natural hair movement is not just a trend. [45:00]
The co-founders used their pension to assist in funding, as well as paying from their own pockets. [49:40]
Obulunji is looking to expand into the Salon space. [52:47]
Tips for starting a business. [56:05]

Significant quotes:

“Why can’t I do something for myself” 08:30

“This was cooked for a while before the products came to South Africa” 10:14
“I struggled to manage my hair for a long time, until I met Naomi” 14:15
“That is a gem, people live Ecostyler.” 16:55
“Obulunji means something beautiful. Its basically what we want to do. Embrace your beauty, embrace your natural beauty.” 27:38
“I don’t like not delivering” 29:30
“Locally made products are not known yet” 36:05
“The moment you find that product that your hair loves, you’re not letting it go.” 36:55
“It keeps me going to see people excited to get products that you couldn’t before.” 41:00
“We can’t let people down. We have to be there for the people.” 41:32
“You can’t expect returns as quickly as possible” 49:50
“Starting a business is an investment” 56:30
“You should be the last person to get paid. You should always reinvest in your business.” 59:15

Links Mentioned:

Natural Moisture 


The song used in the podcast is The Passion HiFi – Mo’ Blues.

About the author, Charlotte

Charlotte, or Charlie as she likes her friends to call her, is what you would call a multipotentialite or a jack of all trades if you must. She been an auditor, an English teacher, a consultant, an executive assistant and product manager. She loves to read, watch shows, learn, tries to exercise, eats a lot, travels and tries out new things.

Entrepreneurship excites her not only because of its capability to bring joy (read freedom) to entrepreneurs, but also because it can vastly improve a country or continent for the better.

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