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WATCH: The prospect of getting stretch marks pushed me to start my business

Picture: Supplied

Picture: Supplied

Published Jun 17, 2022

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Johannesburg - Nicole Nelson, 32, who was born and raised in Eldorado Park, south of Johannesburg, is an entrepreneur with big dreams, not only for herself but for helping other aspirant entrepreneurs through the challenges that they face when starting a business.

She is the founder and chief executive of Coached to Excellence and Coco & Co SA; her flagship brand is “Made by CoCo” a natural-based skin, hair, and beauty range.

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The origins of her business are rather unconventional as it was born from her personal fight against stretch marks. That's right. In 2014 she fell pregnant with her second child and she wanted to prevent getting the stretch marks she developed during her first pregnancy.

“I was hell-bent on not developing new stretch marks,” she says. “When I was pregnant with my daughter I had tried everything. None of the products that you find on the shelves - all those that promote improving elasticity and minimising the appearance of stretch marks - worked for me.”

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Nelson then set out to find raw ingredients and put together her own mixture in her kitchen to tackle her problem.

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“That's when I met this wonderful lady in Kempton Park, a Ghanian lady, who supplied raw shea butter and cocoa butter.

“I purchased two 5kg from her, went back home, and just started mixing. I remember using the lavender essential oil and orange essential oil, it smelled horrible - absolutely horrendous but it worked”.

She also used her concoction on her then six-year-old daughter who was suffering from eczema, and said it worked wonders. As a result, her daughter no longer has eczema. It was then she knew she was on to something.

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Nelson spent the next two years, from 2014 to 2016, putting things into place to be able to leave her corporate job in order to focus fully on building and scaling her business.

“I was funding it all myself. I actually had two jobs, I was moonlighting between one coaching job and another coaching job so I could fund my own little business. Before I knew it, I had somewhat of a brand and I started to take it to market. The first time I sold a product was in 2016 and I never looked back.”

Nelson decided very early on to use only natural ingredients in her products, a decision she took lightly at the time but has now come to learn that is her competitive advantage.

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Not having any formal training in creating all the formulas for her products meant she has had to learn through trial and error - a lesson that has proved to be expensive at times.

She did extensive research to better her product offering and is currently studying towards a diploma in organic skin and hair formulation.

Bringing her product to market has not been easy but through sheer determination and persistence, she has managed to get her products on the shelves of a handful of Spar retail stores.

She has also managed to bring the Smollan Group and Daymon on board to take over her merchandising and retail listings, allowing her to concentrate on other aspects of the business.

Nelson laments the difficulties experienced by would-be entrepreneurs. She believes funding agents need to spend more time on the ground with entrepreneurs so they are able to better understand their needs and tailor-make solutions for them instead of applying a one-size-fits-all approach.

She also wants to pay it forward by taking budding entrepreneurs under her wing and imparting her knowledge, thus making it easier for them to find their feet in business.

Nelson says: “I feel that nobody should go through what I went through, and because I have acquired all of these contacts and these resources and these listings, it is only fair that it is made available to entrepreneurs who are going to contribute towards stimulating our economy and, of course, cultivating sustainable entrepreneurship and employment.”

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