In a sea of beauty products, two sisters, Parvis and Diana Swan are trying a hand in the organic skincare market.
The two founded Akusi Organics a few years ago.
Parvis is the product formulator and has a background in procurement and farming.
“We want consumers to go back to nature for skin solutions and remedies,” she says.
Parvis, who had eczema all her life, had the burning desire to find an organic solution to her skin problem.
“Steroid creams worked for only a short time. So, I sought a natural solution. Akusi started in our kitchen in Nairobi’s Ngumo Estate. I started making products for myself, then family, then friends then I joined forces with my sister Diana and we turned it into a business, which is still home-based,” she says.
With savings, the duo began building its customer base by going to popup and organic markets like the German School Fashion and Beauty Market.
They showcased their products and asked people what types of products they would like. The feedback helped them build a product line.
Diana and Parvis had to bootstrap for a while. Starting a business with minimal personal funds and no external capital was harrowing, as Diana explains, but the two grew by reinvesting and maintaining lean operations.
“Building a brand is not a walk in the park. It has taken years of hard work getting it to where it is in terms of product quality, sourcing of quality organic ingredients, settling on eco-friendly packaging, and building consumer trust,” says Diana, who is the CEO, owing to her background in events management and human resources.
Their headache has been competition.
“New players are coming into the industry every other day which makes it super competitive and daunting to start. However, there is room for everyone, and identifying a niche is the best way to survive,” says Parvis.
Finding reliable suppliers is also a huge task.
“You need to do thorough research and vet your suppliers,” Diana says.
Parvis says nowadays, three out of every 10 consumers read the product label. They are more aware of what ingredients they do not want and what to look out for.
“The planet provides an array of fruits, plants, spices, herbs, nuts, and flowers, that it is hard to understand why we have strayed so far from what we have now.], mass-produced plastic containers full of harmful synthetic chemicals,” says Diana.
Advice to business women looking to enter the beauty and skincare market?
“Start small and build from there. Test, learn, implement, improve. Then repeat. Do your research. Figure out where you belong in the sector. Find your niche,” Diana says.
“Find a mentor. You would be surprised how ready people are to share knowledge and offer guidance,” Parvis adds.
Their favourite products from the Akusi range?
“I would say avocado soap and shea butter soap,” Parvis says.
“Mine is coffee scrub soap, lemongrass soap, and the lavender and tea tree body butter,” Diana says, adding that the key to healthy skin is maintaining the moisture barrier and avoiding harsh products that strip away the moisture barrier.