Bongani Ndlovu, Chronicle Reporter
WHILE the world is embracing the beauty of natural hair and the movement has gained ground over the years, African women especially in Zimbabwe are finding it hard to find products that suit them.
In Bulawayo, Ms Wyonna-Jean Britten, who runs The Organic Biochemist, saw an opportunity to come up with her own line that deals not only with hair but also skin care.
Ms Britten, is a holder of a Masters’ Degree in Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology from the National University of Science and Technology.
For her research, she did a study on the genetic diversity of Nile crocodiles in Zimbabwe.
Miss Britten, who learnt at Hillside Primary School and Speciss College in Bulawayo, said finding these products for natural hair and skin care was difficult and some had to be imported from other countries, something that she realised while doing her final year.
“The inspiration to form the company came during my final years at Nust doing my Master’s Degree in Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology when I decided to start my own natural hair and natural skincare journey.
I realised that sourcing such products locally was difficult and would have to resort to bringing them in from out of the country, which tended to be a long and expensive process.
I then decided to begin making a few of these products myself and hence The Organic Biochemist was born.”
Miss Britten said this is something that she has set her mind to and will not leave the cosmetic industry for anything else.
“I love being in the lab, so when I started my own production, I already had the fundamentals of what to order for a lab, to sanitise, do quality testing and checks.
“All of that I learnt at school and university, and I was able to implement that in my business,” said Miss Britten.
“This business that I’m in is for life. I’m not going to drop it because I have got a job, that is what I want to do.
It’s something that I’m really interested in growing and hopefully as I continue, I can incorporate more of my bio-technology that I learnt into the cosmetic business as well.”
To show that Miss Britten, who is a sole trader, is onto something, last year, she won the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) Women in Enterprise Award (WECA) in the Manufacturing Category.
She said the recognition made her more determined to up the company’s game and strive for more.
She said her major challenge is to source raw materials to manufacture her products, at her home lab, as she imports everything.
“What will really help grow is being able to source some of the stuff locally. That will really cut down on the costs of importing such as transport costs and buying the raw materials.
This eats about 40 to 50 percent of the revenue that I make and that also eats into my profits. I can use that money for other things such as to improve and grow my product range,” said Miss Britten.
On average, she has six ranges and each range sells 30 products per month.
She said her company was first introduced to the market at a local fair in Bulawayo in November 2020 and has since grown.
She registered the company The Organic Biochemist in May 2021.
From the profile, The Organic Biochemist has products ranging from initially skincare and bath time products (such as bath bombs, bath salts, body cremes and body scrubs) to include a natural hair care range called Kink.ed specifically for curly and afro- textured hair types three and four.
Kink.ed is one of her product ranges that caters for women with natural hair and this is a customer favourite.
“In the Kink.ed range, there are all the starter products needed for one to kick start and/or continue their natural hair journey.
“Products in this range include a deep conditioner, leave-in conditioner as well as oil blends that help nourish the hair and scalp and promote hair growth,” she said.
Miss Britten said she wants people to love their natural hair and be proud of carrying it.
“I’m very passionate about women embracing their natural selves. For me, this began with love of natural hair that over the years was deemed to be unfit and unruly.”
“With the Kink.ed range we make it our mission to promote natural hair love and also to teach women how to properly care for their natural hair to ensure its health and promote growth as there are many misconceptions about natural hair such as it “does not grow” which is totally not true.”
As someone who is big on everything organic, Miss Britten believes in protecting the environment.
“Our kraft carrier bags as well as cellophane bags are 100 percent biodegradable and can be fully composted.
In an effort to promote recycling in our company, we have a policy whereby discounts are given if customers return the glassware after the product is done so that it can be cleaned for reuse.
“It is our small but effective way of contributing to keeping our environment clean. – Follow on Twitter @bonganinkunzi.