Natural Solutions: Innovative Opportunities in South Africa
Tumi Mphahlele struggled to find beauty products for her sensitive skin in South Africa, so she turned to her knowledge of biochemistry and began her own business.
When Tumi Mphahlele struggled to find beauty products for her highly sensitive skin in Johannesburg, her passion for biochemistry and her entrepreneurial instincts kicked in. She started a natural products company called Ardhi Business Services focused on water purification and natural skincare.
Tumi is one of many young entrepreneurs in South Africa following their passions and helping the economy grow. The number of people running small business in the country has increased steadily over the past decade, and unemployment levels have been declining since 2009. Still, growing a business requires access to capital and markets, and having a viable business plan.
Tumi tested cosmetic formulations that used all-natural ingredients in place of ingredients in conventional products. She knew she had a winning product line based on feedback from friends and neighbors. She also recognized a market opportunity in making quality cosmetics locally: “In South Africa, a lot of the premium products are international; we don’t have our local premium products,” Tumi said.
Still, she didn’t know how to market her creations. She dreamt of one day building a skin boutique, but wasn’t sure how to get past the fledgling stage. Looking for business training and advisory support, Tumi enrolled in AWESAM, a TechnoServe program implemented in partnership with the Citi Foundation.
“As an entrepreneur you go through a lot of challenges and disappointments, it’s nice to have someone holding your hand throughout the process.”
Tumi worked with her business advisor to scale her business, identifying two key hurdles to success. Firstly, Ardhi needed to comply with local regulations. The business also needed to ramp up its marketing and branding.
As a result, Tumi launched a rebranding campaign, positioning her skincare line under the brand Modish I, as a premium, locally-owned and created product. She worked with her business advisor to retool the packaging and promote the products over e-commerce and direct marketing.
Tumi is now seeking to get her products into mass and high-end retailers. Hoping to build her company’s brand awareness and credibility, Tumi has begun selling her products at the Box Shop, a retail space and business incubator bolstered by the partnership between TechnoServe and Citi Foundation.
The support and individualized attention from the AWESAM program has proven to be invaluable to Tumi. “As an entrepreneur you go through a lot of challenges and disappointments, it’s nice to have someone holding your hand throughout the process, to have someone to talk to, and help you create the strategy and the systems. That helps you look at it as a business and not just a passion.”