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All About the Beauty… and Brains

Posted on July 18, 2018

Award-winning entrepreneur Lebo Mpela’s introduction to entrepreneurship was influenced by the need to have fashionable nails without compromising the health of her own natural nails. “I drew from my own bad experiences with acrylic nails and the damage that they cause. That’s why our product is a three-free formula because it doesn’t contain the three toxic chemicals commonly found in nail polish – your nails still grow and remain strong underneath.”

Lebo is the founder of Malia Nail Care – a range of locally produced nail polish that she started mixing from her mom’s kitchen. So impressive and well-developed is her product that just months after its launch, the gels were among the products included in the South African Music Awards goodie bag in 2016.

The political sciences graduate describes herself as an activist at heart. She was selected as a top six contestant on the SABC 1 youth development debate show One Day Leader. As runner up on the show and the only woman in the top 3, she was able to use the prize money to reinvest in her business. “I was able to buy machinery to start producing internally and to do my own mixing. I was also exposed to extraordinary mentors that I am still in contact with who assist me in business and even academically”. She was awarded the Fairlady Magazine Woman of the Future Award in 2016 for  her work in business and leadership. “That was an incredible experience because business women that I’ve looked up to from a wide spectrum of industries actually noted my potential”.

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Creativity and innovation are a valuable currency in a saturated beauty industry where you’re faced with competition from both local and international brands. Malia’s strategy is to personalize their offering for customers to give them sentimental value.

Customers feel more connected to the product when you make it personal to them – by adding a name on their nail polish, a message or tailoring their products for an event

Apart from having to convince customers who have been using established beauty brands for years to give her product a try, Lebo says logistics and distribution are challenging in her line of business.

It’s very hard to distribute a small product like nail polish and getting it to people across the country can be very costly. We’ve made the process easier with our online shop and trying to be accessible through boutiques

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On youth entrepreneurship, Lebo says that the country needs a two-way approach where the emergence of new and improved entrepreneurial hubs is supported by seed funding and more long term mentorship. “You can’t only have a hub that encourages entrepreneurship but no capital to fund it. At the same time, you cannot just keep giving people money without the skills they need to grow it”. The next five years for this multi talented business woman are about transforming Malia Nail Care into Malia Beauty Care -producing a wider range of products and building her own store.

You can shop Malia Nail Care products at: http://www.malianailcare.co.za/

About the Author

Dimpho Lekgeu is an award nominated radio journalist and digital writer. She began her work in the Ann7 newsroom at 19, hosting daily news programs and the daily African bulletin. She aims to create dynamic platforms for African youth to tell their stories and be inspired. She’s Christian and believes in black girl magic.