1. Who is Sonto Pooe and what brought about native child?
Sonto Pooe is a mother , a wife, an entrepreneur and a philanthropist. I was born in t he dusty streets of KZN and raised by a single mother ( a teacher by profession) so education in my household has always been important. I’m the first if 3 girls so responsibility / leadership skills I learnt growing up having to play second in charge when mom was out working . I also had to learn to be resourceful quiet early because money was limited and I could go to Ma to ask her to buy this and that. After teaching myself how to do my own hair, I used to as a teen do my peers hair for extra money.
I think like most young people I experimented with a lot of things trying to find my way. I’ve always had a love hate relationship with my hair since I was a young child. I come from a line of builders / construction related jobs so when that suggestion to study Quantity Surveying, that came very natural to me because although I didn’t know the profession , the industry I was familiar with and the decision made sense at the time. Once I was there I realised this is not my life’s work. I think since we are dynamic beings we can all do many things but there that one thing that you can do really, really well and that sets your heart on fire. I had to make the decision to start afresh and abandon what I felt like would not be a fulfilling like longterm. That’s when I started my journey to creating Nativechild
2. Taking up competitors who have years worth of experience in the beauty industry has to have been quite the feat. What made you think you could do it?
I’m a believer and I work hard, so it never even crossed my mind that I could not do it. Secondly, I am my target customer . I know the needs of our target market from experience, I live it everyday. Big giants are so big and generally decisions are made by people who don’t share the experience of those they are trying to sell to. No amount of money or schooling can substitute for experience .
3. Why the name: native child?
I am African and so coming up with a name that the children of Africa would be proud of was very important to me. Being born African or of African descent is not always easy and often we are seen as second best , so I wanted to create something that we can be proud of & call our own.. We manufacture our products locally using mainly raw materials that come from Africa. More than ethically sourced & created products, the legally is like to leave is one where every Nativechild feels proud of their heritage and not feel like they have to be someone else to be accepted.
4. Your business has grown significantly to servicing the beauty markets in South Africa, Swaziland, Namibia, USA, Botswana and Ghana. Did you ever dream this possibility?
Yes I did but I have been humbled at how quickly it came. The initial dream is have every family in SA have atleast 1 Nativechild product but I soon realized how connected the world is and that people move around and before you know it, you have requests from all over the world. Then that helped expand my vision to the world.
How have you been able to achieve this?
our distribution outside South African includes a combination of Retail distribution which have a footprint in other countries and teaming up with courier companies
5. What are some of the challenges you’ve faced and how have you overcome them?
Using Technology to buy products and buying online is new age and ever evolving so Educating our potential customers on online buying has been a massive task. Not everyone is comfortable venturing out into the unknown.
Then assuring customers that it’s safe and we won’t run away with their money ( given the scams that are out there) is also a massive responsibility . However, it has gotten easier as we’ve created a step by step guideline, and w shave dedicated staff that assists customers to create their orders. these customers also come back to thank us and then tell others about how easy it is 🙂
Entering the brick n mortar retail space. It’s easier than it looks. We have been fortunate to team up with the right partners who have helped us to speak the retail language, look at our data , analyze it and see the financial picture of our business.
Finding the right staff that not only understand the vision but also are aligned to it . I’ve learnt not to employ people who come to you because they ‘need’ a job. The strategy is now to employ people who are passionate about they do and who’s vision aligns with the company. Meaning needing a job is not enough, but you must love what you are employed to do.
6. What would you say are some of the key principles entrepreneurs should arm themselves with?
1. Be ready to work. The amount of hours will have to put in, will far exceed your expectations.
2. Surround yourself with supporting people. Not everyone may see your vision but emotional support is very important and will get you through tough days. Everything is energy. This more positive energy you receive, the better for you.
3. Being an entrepreneur, you’re the visionary, the engine of the company . You need to know everything ( or as much as you can )there is to know about running your business. You can’t rely on others to move the vehicle for you. Learn how to all there is to know.
4. Avoid debt where possible. Its ok to start small and grow organically. I started off by selling just 1 product, hairgrowth castor oil and grew from there. Don’t run faster than you have strength.
7. Where will native child be in 5 years?
Nativechild will be a household name & definitely more global than we are now 🙂
Part & parcel of the need to strive for respect across the globe comes with taking pride in who we are as Africans; embracing all the unique elements involved in our make-up. Sonto is a believer in African hair and has built a thriving business out of it. We celebrate her this month as not only an aspirational entrepreneur but also one equally on the quest to changing our narrative as a continent as a people who are black and unapologetically, proud.
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