Sonto Pooe’s natural hair and body care range, Nativechild was born out of a less-than-ideal encounter with a hairdresser and frustration with Supermarket Shelves saturated with chemical-filled hair products.
Glamour: What inspired your business idea?
Sonto Pooe: I didn’t wake up one morning and decide to start a business. It grew on me, over years of being in this space informally.
I believe love follows us, and my love for hair and all things natural progressed into a business. After experiencing my own frustrations, I mastered how to take care of and do my hair. I plaited peoples’ hair at weekends to earn money in my teens. I started a natural skincare brand because I reacted negatively to artificial food and products when I was a child.
G: what makes your products different?
SP: We’re not only a leader in the space of plant-based care,but we’re the only brand whose products have a multi-use function. You can use our products on your body and hair. When we say we only choose the best quality for our products, we mean it.
G: What were some of the challenges you faced?
SP: There were many, from juggling funds to negotiating supplier rates, employing quality staff, and finding routes to market and creative ways to market the brand – the list goes on. Ultimately, you’ll always experience challenges. The test is how you overcome them, and for me, your attitude is crucial. You must have a solution-based mindset and keep calm through the storms. Step-by- step, you’ll overcome those obstacles.
G: What’s the most rewarding part?
SP: Seeing our customers happy, being able to see hundreds of thousands of people use our products, reading their reviews, seeing how many of our customers have invested in us emotionally, our growth and how they’ve chosen to become part of our story.
G: Your customers’ most pressing needs?
SP: Most of our work involves educating our consumers about the dangers of chemicals, how to grow a healthy ’fro, and how to retain length. We also receive tons of requests from mothers who’re concerned about their kids’ skin conditions.
G: What goals have you set for your business?
SP: They grow every year, with each milestone we reach. Ultimately, we’d like to be a household name, and we’re well on are our way to achieving that. Our goal is for our customers, from all walks of life, to be happy.
G: What percentage of your products are organic?
SP: We don’t claim our products are organic, but they’re plant-based, natural and responsibly sourced.
G: What inspires you to be successful?
SP: I’m not a quitter. I believe that once you start something, you must see it through. Our Heavenly Father inspires me. When I look at what He created, in this world and each of us, I have no choice but to live to my fullest potential. I continue Mom’s legacy of hard work and pushing forward, no matter what.
I draw strength from my husband, who’s supportive and has my back. I aim to build a legacy for my children and grandchildren so that they have no excuse not to succeed.
G: What’s the most significant barrier to female success?
SP: The fact that in 2020, some men still believe in the male hierarchy. Although it’s sometimes subtle, we’re often not taken seriously as women, until we take our business elsewhere.
I’ve seen it. The reality is that large retailers aren’t transformative when it comes to gender equality for entrepreneurs. You have to find other ways to get your products to customers before retailers pay attention to them. They’ve said to me, “Sorry, there’s no market for your products.” I think, ‘if only they saw the demand we’re seeing through our customer requests, they’d be begging to stock our products. That’s the sad reality. It took us longer than what it should’ve to appear on the shelves, and the opportunity only arose because our buyers were Black females, so they understood the market.
G: What advice would you give your 18-year-old self ?
SP: You’ll be OK. Everything will fall into place. Don’t let other peoples’ voices be louder than yours.