Sarah KajeeThe Beauty Network

Favorite quote: Everything they say you cannot do, you can.”

What is your story (tell us about yourself)?
I am a first year Phd student in Psychiatric Genetics and have been in the research (science) field for the last 10 years. I have always had a passion and interest in wellness and organic products, as well as beauty. Besides being the co-owner of The Beauty Network, I also co-own a sister company, Beauty Network Spa based in Cape Town. I firmly believe in creating a brand that is transparent, authentic and affordable to South Africans.

When did you start your first business and what inspired you to start?
The Beauty Network was started in May 2019 by myself and two other females, Gadija Kaprey and Gadean Brecht. We started with launching just one product- Hydrolyzed Collagen (Bovine). The idea came from previously using and trying collagen brands ourselves and realizing the need to provide a premium quality yet affordable collagen that contains no additives, is safe for the entire family and Halaal.

What is the Key Objective(s) and Vision of your business? (Has it changed overtime or is has it always been this?)
We aim to build a fully female owned and run business, providing opportunity to women of color especially, while maintaining an honest and authentic relationship with our customers. We try our best to ensure any product produced by The Beauty Network is of high quality and can be trusted by all, while also being fairly priced.

What challenges did you face in your journey? What’s the biggest obstacle you had to overcome (are still overcoming)?
The biggest challenge was starting a company with zero capital. Through a customised bootstrapping financial model, we started by buying what we could afford and making do with what we had, until we built up enough capital to move forward. The main challenge faced through this was that our ideas could not be actioned immediately and required some patience as we grew the capital required for each product to be ready for the shelf. Another major obstacle was knowing nothing about how to run or start a business in the beginning, we made many mistakes and learnt along the way-we are still learning and continuing to build on these skills! Adjusting to the new way of doing business under lockdown presented another major challenge in our marketing and sales process; we overcame this challenge by introducing our ecommerce store and partnering with third party service providers such as a courier company to assist us with our reach. Lockdown forced us to reidentify our target market and their new found pain points and adjust our marketing strategies accordingly.

How did you manage to navigate your company through this period of the Covid-19 pandemic? (What business strategies/operational adjustments have you made over this period and how has it impacted your business model?)
We were lucky enough to still operate during the lockdown periods in SA, as we supply wellness products. Covid made us realize the importance of eCommerce, as we saw the major shift as more people started making use of online shopping. Lockdown forced us to fast-track the launch of our website and online store; a major milestone for our business!

How do you approach networking and building partnerships in your industry?
We reach out and network with individuals and brands both in and out of our industry, and network with many other female entrepreneurs who have similar brand values. We also try our best to reach out to other start up brands and assist where we can, be it in the form of collaboration or valuable advice. Our networking process is very fluid as we understand that many of the people and businesses in this network operate at different scales and communicate in a number of ways eg it’s easier to speak to a small business owner in person or via a call then later move towards email conversations, versus reaching out to a big brand/franchise where we would need to send emails to buyers and marketing teams and pray for a response.

Do you have (or ever had) a mentor in your journey, and do you believe it helped (if yes, in what way)?
I think the main mentor(s) I have had that has helped me navigate as an entrepreneur as my parents and sisters, and my aunt who also has her own business. I come from a close, hardworking, determined and supportive family. My parents showed me that nothing is too difficult to overcome with the right foundation and support, and my sisters showed me small sacrifices yield benefits in the long run. Assisting my aunt with her business when I was younger also helped me to understand the hard work, long hours and thought process that goes into everything needed to have a successful business.

What is your perspective on the South African entrepreneurial landscape before and after Covid-19 pandemic? (Would you say the “new normal” context drives more or less opportunities for entrepreneurs?) How can entrepreneurial policy development aid in expanding opportunities in this new context?
The pandemic was very tough on many new and established businesses, which sadly resulted in many forced to close down. Covid has definitely forced many more people to find creative ways to generate an income to support themselves and their families. Entrepreneurial policy development can certainly assist in getting more start up businesses further. The pandemic has also forced business owners to play closer attention to the needs of their target market and has shown them that brand authenticity is more important than ever before. People’s ideas and values have changed since the start of the pandemic and businesses who have not identified this change and tried to move with it, have unfortunately been unsuccessful in remaining afloat.

In your opinion, what are the secrets to being a successful entrepreneur?
Being successful is relative to what you deem as successful. For me, it’s having the freedom and flexibility to spend time with my loved ones when I want. Once I can do this, I’ll have reached the point I deem as successful.

What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs?
Make sure you’re doing what you’re doing for the right reasons and not for the money. Be patient and understand that your first few years in business will be challenging with little to no return as you build your brand. It also helps to start your business by having a proper business proposal/guide which includes understanding your problem, solution, target audience and market strategy. Lastly, don’t be afraid to reach out to people!