- Michelle Ntalami’s hair care business was inspired by her father’s fight with cancer.
- She speaks to Simon Mburu about its growth thus far.
Michelle Nkatha Ntalami is well known amongst naturalistas for her product line, Marini Naturals.
She started the business on November 19, 2015. This was not just any other ordinary date.
It was on this day, in 2014, that Michelle lost her dad, Edward Ntalami, to cancer. “Opening a business that advocates for healthier lifestyles was a huge way for me to honour him,” says Michelle.
Prior to opening this business, Michelle had been employed for four years. “I worked with Scangroup as an accountant director,” says Michelle. Her pay was sufficient, but not the primary reason why she was in employment.
Neither was it the reason why she switched from employment to business. “I hardly quit jobs because of salaries, especially if there was more on offer than just money,” says Michelle, who is in her early thirties.
She was lucky to have a boss who nurtured her business leadership skills. On the side, she ran a brand and marketing consultation company called Brandvine.
“I learned the ropes of building brands and advertising, networking, and gaining entrepreneurial experience. Eventually, I decided to quit because I felt that I was ready to spread my wings and discover newer and bigger territories.”
Apart from being ready, Michelle says that her primary inspiration to start a business came from her dad. “He inspired our family to adopt a healthier lifestyle after he was diagnosed with cancer.
I began juicing, keeping fit, and did an entire overhaul of the products and habits that I felt were extremely unhealthy to my lifestyle at the time,” she says.
One of the things she changed was using chemicals to straighten her hair. She also cut her hair and decided to strictly use natural products to grow and maintain it.
In her journey to natural hair, Michelle realised that there was a gap for natural hair care products for men and women in the market.
“I identified a need that beamed with an opportunity to change lives as well as make money,” she says. “I decided to open a business offering natural hair care services and products.”
Starting a natural hair care business for people with natural hair was not easy. The business required heavy capital injection to lift off. Michelle says that getting this capital was not an easy task. At first, she sought for start up loans from banks. Unfortunately, not too many of them were willing to consider her business idea. “Government, women and youth lending institutions were not even an option due to the nature of the business I was starting, its ownership and the amount of capital required to get it going,” she says. But this did not deter her from re-thinking how to fund her start-up.