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Michelle & Niyati | Kenya | Start Now, Start Today

CEO & Managing Director | Co-founders

My Marinified Story. How I made a business from my kitchen.

Michelle: My father was diagnosed with cancer in 2013. It quickly became such a trying time for my family and I. He was my best friend, and when the chemotherapy treatment made him lose his hair, I shaved mine off in solidarity. Difficult times force us to persevere, and I made a decision to live a more healthy life. This was more to reduce my risk of a diagnosis, but also to honour my father’s memory. In line with this decision, and after shaving off my chemically treated hair, I knew I wanted to wear my natural hair.

Michelle: As my afro began to grow back, I could not find naturally-made hair care products in the Kenyan market. I could only order them from the US and Europe. This prompted me to start making the products I needed from home. I used ingredients like eggs, rosemary water, aloe vera and avocado to make conditioners, shampoos and other products for my hair. When some of my close friends used and loved the homemade products, the idea of Marini Naturals was born.

Michelle: I got a degree in Design and Communications from the University of Nairobi, and then spent time in Italy where I got a Master's in Interior Design from the Florence Design Academy in Italy. When I came back home to Kenya, my first job was for an IT company. I then joined the pan-African advertising agency Scanad Africa.

Michelle: I had long wanted to set up my own business, and while at Scanad I launched a branding agency, called Brandvine Group. We ran this together with my best friend Niyati Patel, who would later become my co-founder at Marini Naturals Limited.

Michelle & Niyati: Selling natural hair and skin care products have proven to be a viable business. The company is based in Nairobi, and ships products all over the globe. We have specific stores in various African countries including Zimbabwe, Uganda, Nigeria and Mozambique. To be able to translate that into a product that is changing lives of millions of women, men and children around the world is extremely fulfilling.

What were the biggest initial hurdles and how did you overcome them?

Michelle & Niyati: We launched Marini Naturals in 2015 and the main hurdle was convincing Kenyan women to give up chemical hair straighteners for more natural options. It was said that the African market was not ready for natural hair products because natural hair could not be beautiful. However, I was determined to make the company a success.

Michelle & Niyati: hired 30 models and launched a Youtube campaign dubbed #GetMarinified. This helped us to showcase more than 50 natural hairstyles using Marini Naturals products. The videos were shared countless times by people all over the continent. It went a long way in convincing people who were on the fence about transitioning from chemically treated hair.

Your advice to an upcoming youth or talents locally and internationally?

Michelle: My advice is always to start. Start now, start today. Whatever idea it is that you have, start working on it this minute. When you put your all into your dreams, no one can take it away. And if you fail, restart.

Social Media Handles

Michelle Ntalami - CEO

Instagram: @michelle.ntalami

Twitter: @MichelleNtalami

Niyati Patel - MD

Instagram: @niyati.patel_

Twitter: @Neeyah

Marini Naturals

Instagram: @marini.naturals

Twitter: @Marini_Naturals

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