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Introducing the Future of Skincare

Founders of Golden Hour Skincare, Bonolo Matjila and Patience Kunene are disrupting the beauty industry with their groundbreaking offering. Their company creates environmentally sustainable, gender-inclusive skincare kits designed to holistically address targeted skincare concerns.

The beauty landscape is ever evolving, and conversations around skincare are taking center stage as more individuals seek to find visibility within this space. Enter Bonolo Matjila and Patience Kunene Patience; the best friends ventured into the skincare space after they identified a gap in the market. And as the brains behind the inclusive brand, they complement each other perfectly. Bonolo leads the strategic and operational development of the venture while Patience oversees tax, finances, inventory management, strategic growth and development, as well as company compliance.

The synergy between them reflects their mutual determination and entrepreneurial mindset. “I’ve always had a zeal for entrepreneurship,” shares Bonolo who started selling snacks at her school's tuck shop at just 9-years old. “When I was 15, I channeled my energy into tackling child malnutrition. My team and I created a social venture called Paragon Protein, which sold affordable Spirulina products.”

Image: Julian van Jaarsveld

Their mission was to offer low-cost meal supplements to the community and to fund a project that taught students how to grow this superfood in their own homes. Their hard work paid off when they won the 2014 Innovate South Africa contest, and Bonolo was invited to speak at the prestigious 2014 Techonomy conference in San Francisco.” Fast forward to 2021, fuelled by her passion for problem-solving and value-creation through entrepreneurship, she was propelled to co-found Golden Hour Skincare. She spent two years leading the formulation of the company's first four products, developing the business infrastructure, and raising initial capital.

At just 24, Patience serves as the director of Golden Hour Skincare. Just like her best friend and business partner, Bonolo, her entrepreneurial roots can also be traced back to her early childhood. At just 12 years old, she took a bold leap and founded her very own chip selling business. “Operating within the confines of the school, I strategically positioned my enterprise to cater to my fellow students’ snack cravings.”

Image: Julian van Jaarsveld

Through her hard work and resourcefulness, she quickly became the go-to source for delicious treats during school breaks. With a strong foundation in law, she earned her LLB degree from the University of Pretoria, and completed her articles in law. Not limited to law, Patience has also explored the world of business and entrepreneurship. And successfully completed a business startup school course with Investec.

With such an impressive resume, one might wonder how she juggles her priorities. Patience affirms that her true passion lies in her role as the co-founder and director of Golden Hour Skincare. “This venture reflects my entrepreneurial spirit, creativity, and deep commitment to skincare.” Golden Hour Skincare, under her leadership, has become a growing brand known for its high-quality ingredients and natural skincare products. With a focus on innovation and sustainability, she has successfully navigated the complexities of product development, marketing strategies, and sales. Positioning Golden Hour Skincare as a trusted and sought-after brand in the industry.

Q&A with the Founders of Golden Hour Skincare, Bonolo Matjila and Patience Kunene

Image: Julian van Jaarsveld

Can you share the inspiration behind starting Golden Hour Skincare, and how your backgrounds in law led you to venture into the skincare industry?

Bonolo: My motivation for starting Golden Hour was to solve a problem that I was struggling with personally at the time, which was acne. I’ve been a skincare consumer for years and have battled finding products that effectively solved this problem for me, in a simple, effective and financially sustainable way. This might sound impossible, considering the size of the skincare market and the fact that new products are launching literally every day. But I think that was part of the problem for me.

There are thousands of products across brands, hundreds within each brand, and sometimes tens of products under a single brand solving for the same skin concern. Capitalism and consumerism has to an extent, caused brands to lose focus and empathy for the person we’re solving the problem for. I wanted to quiet down the noise for myself, and others, and create a simple system that doesn’t detract from the efficacy of longer routines. My background in law helped me tackle this issue systematically, relying on research rather than my own personal preferences, and having due regard for compliance and safety.

Patience: Golden Hour Skincare was inspired by my father's entrepreneurial journey, which sparked my interest in entrepreneurship. His commitment and innovative business approach taught me the importance of diligence and resilience. This inspired my ambition to establish a brand that influences people's lives positively through a simple and holistic approach. My law background, while seemingly unrelated to skincare, equipped me with valuable skills for entrepreneurship, such as research, analysis, and attention to detail. I chose the skincare industry for its growth potential, innovation, and the chance to create self-care products.

The science behind skincare and its impact on people's confidence and happiness truly fascinated me. Golden Hour Skincare combines my passion for entrepreneurship and self-care. This journey of research, product development, and building a brand reflects my values of integrity, sustainability, and customer satisfaction. Though I had no specific skincare issues, I believe in a routine which promotes self-care and skin nurturing.

What challenges did you face in launching your company, and how did you overcome them?

We faced many challenges in launching our business, the most significant of them being raising capital. There aren’t many sources of pre-seed funding in South Africa, so it took us a while to raise funds. We bootstrapped through the first year of development, including the formulation phase of our business. Once our products were formulated, we did not have sufficient funds to get them formally tested, to secure all the raw materials and packaging to manufacture on a large scale, or to finance the operation of the business. In other words, we had four really great products, with no resources to get them in the hands of customers. We overcame this by participating in development programmes that had financial incentives - cash prize, stipend, etc. and used those funds to develop the brand until the point of where it would be ready for investment.

Could you elaborate on the process of formulating your skincare products to ensure they are environmentally sustainable and gender-neutral?

We knew from the onset that we wanted our formulations to be inclusive and conscious of environmental impact. We prioritized gender inclusivity, firstly, because our philosophy is that selecting products for your skin should be motivated by the skin concern that you’re targeting (ie. acne, blemishing, eczema, etc) and finding high-quality formulations that target those concerns, rather than selecting products on the basis of gender. Secondly, because a lot of brands that differentiate their product offering by gender, have little differentiation in the formulation of the product, instead, on the branding, scent and coloring of the products. And thirdly, in our current social climate and the progression of gender identity, we thought it a bit outdated to create “for men” and “for women” ranges. On the element of environmental consciousness, we wanted first and foremost, for the ingredients in our products to not have caused harm to any living beings, which meant that they should not have been tested on any animals or derived from any animals. This informed the ingredients that we selected throughout the process.

Image: Julian van Jaarsveld

How do you select the ethically sourced, vegan, and cruelty-free ingredients for your products, and what criteria do you consider during this process?

For starters, we were clear about our brand values ahead of the formulation process, and that guided the ingredient selection process. We communicated to our formulation team that we wanted high-quality ingredients with proven efficacies, meaning that the suppliers for these ingredients needed to have conducted tests to prove that they are effective. And secondly, these suppliers needed to have certified that they too, have prioritized certain values in sourcing or making the ingredients. There are a few industry bodies that conduct these certifications. Once suppliers were able to furnish us with these certificates (eg. vegan, GMO free, etc), we were confident in including their ingredients in our formulations.

What strategies have you implemented to minimize single-use plastic waste in your packaging, and how has this been received by your customers?

Consider the process of unwrapping a new cosmetic product - you might need to peel off a plastic seal from a box, open a box, toss out all the promotional product leaflets within the box, sometimes peel off another plastic seal around the bottle, before you can get to the bottle housing the thing you actually bought - the product. Our primary consideration throughout selecting our packaging has been considering how much of that packaging is actually essential or serves a function, other than beautifying the product.

Sure, packaging should be aesthetically appealing, and has become a major consideration for companies in the age of the #unboxing craze. However, companies, more than consumers, need to be accountable for the amount of waste we produce through selling a product or rendering a service that can’t go anywhere other than a landfill. Our consideration when implementing packaging is “what is the function of this component?” and if that component is serving an essential function, our second consideration is, “is this the most sustainable material we can use to maintain its function?” We try to action this as best as we can, within our means.

Image: Julian van Jaarsveld

Can you discuss the reception of your initial product line, and how customer feedback has influenced any changes or additions to your offerings?

We have received a great reception to our formulations, which is a relief to us, because a lot of time, love, and resources has gone into that. In other areas of the business, we have a collaborative relationship with our customers, and try our best to implement changes based on their feedback, with every iteration of our product. Most notably, we’ve changed our fulfillment packaging a few times, which is what the product is delivered to you in. We’ve changed suppliers for our print materials - boxes, stickers - where our customers have noted room for improvement. All feedback we receive from our customers feels like an investment not only in their experience, but in the actualisation of our vision for the brand. We appreciate that we can work hand in hand with them to create a brand that we can all be proud of.

What motivated the introduction of the Sample Kit, and what benefits have you observed for both your customers and your business since its launch?

When we launched our business, we expected to experience a boom in sales. And when we launched our site, we witnessed little to no sales. It was a really underwhelming experience, to say the least, and we had to go back to the prospective clients we’d engaged with to find out why. What we learnt is that, particularly in our current economy, people communicated a hesitation in investing in new brands no one had heard of, or that weren’t recommended to them via word of mouth.

We had to create a low-cost, low-risk way for people with interest to trial our products for a reasonable amount of time. Considering our commitment to sustainability, we couldn’t package our products with 2 - 5ml single-use sachets and had to consider a sampling mechanism that would be high value, but low waste. Our sample kit consists of three 15ml products that you can use for a two week period, and have become a best-selling product for us, both as an introduction for new customers, and as a travel sized product for existing customers.

In what ways do you aim to simplify skincare routines and promote equality in product accessibility and pricing for individuals of all genders?

During the research phase, we learnt that people were able to identify what skin concerns they were experiencing - acne, melasma, eczema, etc. However, they were uncertain about which products to use, how many of them to use, and in what order, to effectively address those concerns. This confusion, coupled with the echo chamber of “absolutely essential” products in the market, made it difficult for customers to affordably, intuitively and independently care for their skin. Our primary objective as a brand is to create effective routines without the anxiety of overwhelming product overload. We’ve achieved this through a streamlined, three-step routine offered in the form of skincare kits, which enables our customers - men and women - to care for their skin with clarity and confidence.

How do you envision Golden Hour Skincare contributing to reducing single-use plastic waste within the personal care industry on a larger scale?

Ah, lots! There’s only so much we can do at our current stage, but we plan to iteratively make more measurable changes within our brand. In the short term, we’re changing our packaging for our full range - our goal is that all our products will be housed in 100% recyclable and refillable packaging. By October, 50% of our range will fulfill that mandate. As we grow our retail presence over the next few months, we plan to shed a couple layers of packaging that are essential when the product is being shipped cross-country, that doesn’t serve as great a function when you’re buying it in-store. Beyond that, we’re hoping at some stage to ultimately produce our own packaging using post-consumer recycled plastics. That would mean that we’d not only minimize the amount of plastic that ends up in a landfill, but that we’d be reducing the amount of plastic that’s already there.

As founders who have participated in various entrepreneurial development programs, how have these experiences shaped the growth and direction of your company?

To be honest, we wouldn’t have been able to start our businesses without them. We are naturally product obsessed and we were clear on the impact we wanted to create in that sense, but we had no clue what it takes to run a business in the background. How do you build the infrastructure? What systems need to be in place? How do we keep track of everything happening beneath the hood? These programmes helped us fill in those gaps.

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