Durban — Zethu Nayali, affectionately known as “Zee the hair doctor”, began her entrepreneurial journey as result of a difficult and deeply personal experience.
“When my sister was diagnosed with cancer, she faced hair loss, psoriasis, and many after-effects of chemotherapy. I felt compelled to help her,” said Zethu.
Fuelled by compassion and armed with a mere R500 in her pocket, Zethu delved deep into the world of formulation. She blended plants and natural ingredients to create organic products to help her sister overcome skin and haircare challenges.
She used the little money she had to buy a few containers and some ingredients to create products. When her profits started to grow steadily, Zethu made the smart decision to invest most of it back into the business. This was her recipe for growth, and it worked.
“Even in today’s tough economy people can start a business with as little as R500,” says Zethu.
“You have to start small and multiply your growth, but you must also believe in your vision, even when times are tough.”
When she realised that her products were working, she saw the potential to help others facing similar challenges. The growth in her sister's confidence ignited a fire in Zethu and she became more determined to grow her brand.
Catering to the high demand for organic skin and hair products
The natural haircare and skincare sector is highly competitive. There’s a high demand for chemical-free products and entrepreneurs entering this sector need to have a competitive edge.
Zee Organics’ competitive edge is their personalised approach to skincare and haircare.
“We offer consultations that include scanning to identify the underlying issues before recommending products. This attention to detail ensures the correct products are recommended,” says Zethu.
Navigating entrepreneurial challenges on a tight budget
Zee Organics, like many other businesses, faced challenges such as inflation and an increase in the cost of raw materials. To overcome financial challenges, Zethu participated in numerous pitching competitions where she won money which she used to invest in her business.
However, Zethu says she and her team also had to embrace change to overcome entrepreneurial challenges. They decided to focus on marketing and promotion strategies.
“Marketing is essential for growth, especially when you are small,” says Zethu.
“I was able to reach way more people and break into the market just by using social media ads.”
Her biggest challenge came when her stock was stolen by looters in the 2021 riots.
“I was forced to raise capital to get back on my feet.
“Getting funding is difficult, but I overcame this by entering and winning business pitching competitions. Those cash prizes helped to get my business back on track,” says Zethu.
While looking for funding, she realised that getting finance was challenging because most organisations require a small business to make a certain turnover for them to even consider funding.
“My advice to entrepreneurs is to focus less on funding and more on being compliant. This gives you access to government grants and business competitions. Compliance is very important and is always the first step when applying for funding.”
Keeping the fire alive by lighting the way for others
Zethu is passionate about giving back to her community. She is doing this by creating jobs and teaching young people how to make detergents and soaps.
Through Zee Organics, Zethu is upskilling the youth and supporting a local organisation.
“I’m proud to be supporting the Mkhuze Cancer Medical Centre in Durban. We offer support to cancer patients and survivors by giving away products that will help with their skin and hair after chemotherapy.”
Hopes for global expansion and continued growth
Zethu envisions a global presence for Zee Organics. “We are aiming to deliver holistic products to cancer survivors on a global scale.”
She strongly believes that her organic products speak a universal language.
As the brand continues to grow, it stands as a vibrant example of how R500 together with a vision to succeed can blossom into a thriving business.
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