Sunday January 8 2017

Anna Bella’s passion for natural hair

Natural hair has become all the rage recently.

Natural hair has become all the rage recently. Anna Bella has seen the opportunity for business and seized it. 

By Carol B. Atangaza

Back in 2014, Anna Bella Nakato organised and held her first ever natural hair get together. Relying on her previous experience in public relations and marketing, the event attracted around 40 naturalistas who discussed and shared all things to do with natural hair. “At this point the only guidance I had was from following and reading African American natural hair blogs. What shocked me though was the backlash the event evoked on social media. “Why organise a natural hair event, what will we be meeting about next time? Natural nails?” the critics taunted. According to the naysayers, the EnviriZaNacho event was just another frivolous movement by yet another publicity hungry wannabe.

Why she started the movement
Wannabe she maybe, but there is nothing frivolous about Nakato’s determination to establish a strong natural beauty products movement. Apart from encouraging and nurturing others interested in investing into the industry like Charlyn Kentero, she decided to provide space where vendors of natural products could meet their customers and for the customer to buy safe and effective products.
Her store on Kisakye Mall, Ntinda currently stocks products from more than 14 companies and has since served thousands of satisfied customers. “I want to provide the customer with as many choices as possible by availing all the good products on the market. EnviriZaNacho is a marketplace for great quality non-toxic African Beauty brands to showcase their innovations and satisfy their end customer with quality wholesome products. We provide a space for our diverse customers to select from several options of quality African Beauty brands. It’s also the place where mothers, daughters, sisters and friends come to get beauty tips and advice but most importantly come to sample, test and purchase non-toxic wholesome beauty cosmetics, products and accessories,” Nakato explains.

Previous jobs
Prior to starting EnviriZaNacho, Nakato did interior design at Kyambogo University from where she got an opportunity to volunteer with AIESEC, a global platform for young people to explore and develop their leadership potential. “I was placed in positions that enabled me to gain an intensive, rich work, experience in Marketing, Communications and Public relations, across levels in different corners of the world. Over time I grew an interest in promoting our very own high quality African products to our own people and even beyond. But most importantly, I wanted an opportunity to save lives by availing information, resources and products that are free of toxins.”

About natural products
There are so many brands out there that claim to be “natural” or “organic” but are still harmful to the human body. And this isn’t as simple as chemical products being bad for you and natural ingredients being better for you. When you think about it, poison ivy is natural and yet very harmful to humans. In the same regard, some man-made chemicals may be completely harmless.
“That’s why I implore every person to read the ingredients label itself just to be sure.”
She further believes that Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) is doing a great job cracking down on dangerous cosmetics on sale.
A few months ago, UNBS banned the importation and selling of cosmetics containing hydroquinone and mercury ingredients. The list of products includes more than 100 products in the form of lotions, soap and skin creams that have been banned.
Mercury products, which also have functions similar to those of hydroquinone products, have the potential to damage inner organs such as the kidney and skin scaring.

Getting into the business
“EnviriZaNacho started as a Facebook page where my sisters and I shared natural hair care tips.
We grew it into a platform where we learned and encouraged healthy beauty practices and self-care.
We held a few workshops to share what we had learned and encouraged Ugandans to produce quality products instead of importing.
Currently, these local manufactures are growing thanks to the abundance of the natural ingredients and are now considering exporting to the neighbouring countries.
The natural beauty products industry is one of the fast-growing businesses as people all over the globe start consciously choosing healthy wholesome beauty products and practices.
My passion is to be able to put African products at the global forefront of this very viable economic opportunity.

The opportunities for Ugandans are endless. Everything from supplying raw materials to making the beauty products, to establishing their own product lines, to jobs within these different innovative Beauty Brands, to designing packaging and websites and so on. The more people are involved, the better. It doesn’t become an industry until multiple hands are holding it up and growing within and alongside it.
Not only will we have safe, quality and effective products tailor-made for our skin but we will also be able to provide an income for the farmer who until now had no or unreliable market for his shea butter, ghee etc.

Challenges, triumphs and lessons
The biggest triumph is hearing feedback that the customers truly and richly benefitted from the products and that the beauty brands are pleased with our efforts via EnviriZaNacho.
-The biggest lesson so far is the power of united collaboration: a group of determined, united, innovative and collaborative people can achieve immensely and cover larger ground in a shorter period.

What others say
Charlyn Kentaro, founder and managing director of The Good Hair Collective, shares;
“We met Bella Nakato, CEO of Enviriza Nacho (EZN) in August 2014 at a natural hair workshop she organised. The workshop showcased a few manufacturers of natural hair& skin products and her enthusiasm encouraged us to formalise what was then merely an idea; and begin manufacturing our own line of products.
Since then, EZN under Nakato has been a partner and ally in rebranding and altogether transforming the natural beauty space in Uganda. Together with EZN, the Good Hair Collective organised a natural hair seminar to teach women how to care for their own hair (August 2015). We have also done TV appearances together discussing natural hair care, as well as local festivals such as Blankets & Wine.

When the EZN Shop was set up, we knew we had to be part of the first retail shop in Uganda where solely African-bred brands could be purchased. Since Shop EZN opened its doors in April this year, we have benefitted in numerous ways. It has helped us reach a wider market, through a physical location besides our own retail store, but also through brilliant online marketing on the EZN social media platforms. We have benefitted from one-on-one feedback with Bella and her retail assistant, which helps us serve our clients better. EZN also organies brand circles to improve the marketing skills of the brands she serves.
As a young company, our experience with EZN and Shop EZN has been invaluable. Their passion for natural beauty alternatives and their mission to provide a space for quality African brands to grow is a refreshing and much-needed change in Uganda and on the continent.”