The entrepreneurial journey can often be challenging yet quite rewarding. It is a journey that only the brave and ambitious endeavour on. To learn more about this journey, we spoke to Sarah Otieno, a young entrepreneur and the Founder and CEO of Curls and Wraps, a premier beauty brand providing safer, organic, natural hair care and skin care products for the discerning African woman. In this edition of our Member Spotlight, Sarah shares more about her entrepreneurship journey, and the key benefits she believes all entrepreneurs and individuals can gain from collaboration.
Would you mind giving us a brief overview of who you are and your professional journey?
I have always been passionate about women empowerment and creating solutions for challenges facing our continent. My passion for women began while in university where I studied Gender Studies.
After completing university, I worked for a year as an intern on Exchange with AIESEC and worked with social entrepreneurs in Kampala, Uganda. Eventually, I moved on to work with Yusudi LTD, Kenya, an award-winning, NITA certified social enterprise that focuses on delivering high quality, holistic learning experiences that achieve behavioural change. Working with these two organizations ignited my passion for homegrown solutions to challenges facing the continent and eventually inspired my journey towards starting Curls and Wraps.
Curls and Wraps focus on the discerning African woman. Drawing from the vast richness of botanicals on the continent, our products are formulated using age-old beauty secrets that nurture the skin without harsh chemicals. With my background in Gender Studies, I also fused my passion for women empowerment into the brand, upholding values of representation, self-care and community as important tenets in achieving not only outer beauty but also inner beauty.
Wow, you seem quite passionate about what you do. Can you tell us more about the journey of founding Curls and Wraps?
Skin bleaching and colourism are major issues rife in the community where I come from. Launching Curls and Wraps was in many ways personal because my family once had a cosmetics business and from that, I could see the lengths that many women would go to attain a certain idea of beauty. Sadly, because of the chemical compositions in these products, these women would either have to keep using the products continuously or have severe reactions at discontinuation or when doing something as normal as walking in the sun.
Curls and Wraps first began as a platform to celebrate and uplift women hence our tagline; Every Woman’s Crown. We started by sharing simple beauty hacks and recipes that can be made in the kitchen such as face masks, hair oil, conditioners and shampoos and simple hairstyles that were painless. Through this, we created a platform that challenged existing notions of beauty such as the idea that African hair is unmanageable, kinky and unrepresentable.
When it came to the products, I had to do a lot of research and formulation. Finally, we were able to create a solution that is safe, organic and good for natural hair. Currently, our products include body butters, hair butters, hair oils, shampoos and face masks.
This week, we are talking about the power of collaboration. What does “collaboration” mean to you and how has it helped shape your journey as an individual and as an entrepreneur?
When I think about collaboration, I think of it as mutually beneficial relationships that work to achieve a set goal. This could be growing a business or completing a project. As an entrepreneur, collaboration has truly been instrumental in the growth of my business; be it in gaining new clients, running campaigns or even getting our products into the market.
As an individual, collaboration has brought me fresh perspectives and sounding boards that were helpful when making decisions or testing new ideas. It is the difference between a failed concept and a validated one. It also makes the entrepreneurship journey less lonely.
What are some tips you would give young leaders and entrepreneurs when it comes to effectively collaborating with others and also seeking collaborations?
There is no such thing as a lone ranger. Sometimes, we have the tendency to hold tight to ideas that we think are so groundbreaking that others would steal them if we shared. But collaboration doesn’t work like this. As young entrepreneurs, we need to look at collaboration as these four benefits:
- Collaboration is educational: They provide an opportunity to learn from other’s skillsets and strengths.
- Collaboration saves you money: As a new business, you will often incur a lot of expenses such as rent or marketing costs. Although it can be quite expensive, with the right collaborations, you can split intellectual contribution, hands-on-work and business expenses to save money. It is these trade-offs and relationships that help you eventually stand on your own.
- Collaborations help you grow your relationships and networks: You need to familiarize yourself with existing businesses in your line of work, build relationships so that others grow with you. You cannot operate in a silo and neither can you expect to only have family and friends as your clientele. Your network is your net worth.
- Collaborations challenge you to get out of your head: it’s quite easy to get stuck on the perfect idea. Collaboration provides an opportunity to trigger your creativity afresh, bounce ideas and to also affirm you.
At the end of the day, I believe that collaboration is a win-win for everyone. It’s an exchange of value for value. This value may not always be material or monetary. However, we have to remember to give as much as we receive.