…the story of Awakn Beauty Africa
While many of us frequently find it difficult to perceive the positive aspects of challenges, the few that do often benefit from them. One of those people is an enthused entrepreneur, Janet Nyarko, who out of a bad experience trying to get the right product for her skin began her own entrepreneurial journey in the cosmetics industry.
This week’s B&FT Inspiring Start-ups has more. Read on!
Janet Nyarko is an entrepreneur and the founder of Awakn Beauty Africa. She is a business mentor at CAMFED Ghana – a non-governmental organisation, and a certified cosmetics formulator.
Before starting Awakyn Beauty Africa – a manufacturer of African black soap, black soap shower gel, shea butter cream, moringa hair cream, organic facial soaps and other related products – Janet recounted that she learned to prepare liquid soap at a church workshop and started selling to her church members, family and friends.
However, little did she know that the skills she acquired were just the foundation for a larger business until her search began for the right skin-product.
During the search she tried a variety of unprocessed local products, which worked for her. This, she explained, made her realise an opportunity in turning those products into well-formulated and well-packaged cosmetics that would be soothing for the skin and by extension, hair.
Janet added that the journey was not a walk in the park, though, and aside from taking vital courses in cosmetic formulation she relied on the guidance and inspiration of her mother and grandmother; both having enough knowledge about the local black soap.
“So I started in 2017 as a hobby, but in 2021 I decided to turn it into a business after the pandemic affected almost every sector of the economy. Being household essentials and cleaning products, the demand became high – which prompted me to take steps to register my products with the Ghana Standards Authority and Food and Drugs Authority,” she recounted.
Awakn curently boosts more than ten products: including Awakn black soap; shower gel; Awakn black soap paste; Awakn facial soap; Awakn baby shea butter; and Awakn shea butter with baobab oil/cream.
“We use nature’s own ingredients that do not have any side-effects even after long use of our products. We are consistent and have very affordable products. Awakn Africa Beauty’s uniqueness is hidden in our processes. One example is our loyalty to the customer. We strive to remain loyal to our customers and our mission of providing products that restore and nourish our customers’ health, skin, hair and well-being,” she said, responding to what sets products apart from other brands.
She narrated that though she started with a little savings of about GHȼ150, she continuously reinvested the profit she got into the business; and today she is able to meet large orders from retailers.
For her to be able to scale-up and better meet market demands, she “kept learning and researching about the industry, the products and all stakeholders. I believe in focusing on my products and customers, and consistently keeping my gaze on the bigger picture rather than competition”.
Training other women
As part of effort to empower other women and girls, Janet organises training sessions to teach ladies how to make skincare products, soaps and hair products.
“I am where I am now as a result of my desire to learn and the opportunities that have been given to me to learn. I was driven to share what I had learned with others. I organise training sessions and workshops on developing household products such as liquid soap, bleach, laundry bar soap, hair products and many more,” she said.
Janet has so far trained about 350 people on how to make household products at home for commercial purpose.
How experience and education have helped
She told the B&FT that her experience in working for other companies, including a shopping mall, has influenced how she packages her products.
“I choose my colours well, with the exposure and knowledge gained from what customers have said about different products during my time at the mall. One can say this particular work experience has contributed a lot to my branding, marketing and packaging choices for the products,” she added.
“I am continuously learning and taking advantage of any learning opportunity presented to me. To name a few, I have dedicated time and resources to undertake short courses such as a Diploma in Natural Skincare; Business Management Certification; Cosmetics Formulation Masterclass; Packaging and Branding Certification; Kaizen; Standardisation and Export Certification, among others,” she said.
These short courses, she added, have helped to shape her business.
Janet stated that her main obstacle as a startup that promotes sustainable environmental practices is the lack of environmentally-friendly packaging options. “We also aimed at exporting our products, but most of the packaging containers available do not meet international market standards; those that meet requirements are very expensive. Additionally, import costs for some raw materials continue to increase, which makes operation and production very expensive,” she said.
She said her goal is to make the Awakn brand well-known throughout Ghana and West Africa in the next five years. “We will be exporting to major countries in Africa and Europe as we position ourselves to take advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and other trade agreements.”
How government can assist startups
She is of the view that government can support startups by making grants available to them, especially during their formative years.
Economic empowerment for women
“It is important to empower women economically because they make up more than half of our country’s population. With such a labour force, holistic development can be expected when none is left behind.
“More importantly, women have proven that they are able to manage businesses better when given the needed opportunities,” she said.
Advice to prospective entrepreneurs
“I would advise potential entrepreneurs to not only start a business, but also ensure they identify a problem in their community that others care about – then they can develop an idea to solve that problem.
“It is worth mentioning that it won’t be easy, but put every thought down on paper as it drops. Research, start with the little you have – and never start with a loan. Know that consistency and truthfulness pay in the long-term. Be unique and don’t try to compete from the beginning,” she advised.
Contacts: +233548677566 / +233248461171
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