Every business success story starts with an idea. The best business ideas are born from the hearts and minds of people.
But for Samantha Okulo, a 25-year-old, her hair care line, Lengo Organics was born as a solution to her mother’s hair loss problem.
Lengo is a purely organic African luxury hair care line, which is used on both natural and relaxed hair. The brand’s name, Leng is derived from the Luo language meaning beauty.
“I started Lengo Organics because of my mother’s hair condition. She has a hair loss condition called alopecia. The condition caused partial bolding, and spreads out gradually,” she says.
Okulo, a Makerere University alumni, says after receiving many inquiries from different kinds of people asking for products of hair growth, lost hair edges, and strengthening, she was prompted to create a formula she was sure would be ideal for her clients.
With only Shs3 million, Okulo was able to start her company. The capital was mostly spent on formulation of the products and outsourcing raw materials.
“We had to get into the laboratory to have the formula created for the products, outsourcing of raw materials, including sheer butter that is purchased from Gulu. We had to purchase other ingredients such as castor oil, coconut oil, almond oil, peppermint, and tea tree essential oils,” she says.
The company, which has existed for only a year, is penetrating the market and this is attributed to digital marketing.
“For anyone that has a startup, digital marketing is something I would highly recommend. Social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram have made it easier for us to reach out to many customers, something we would have struggled to achieve if we were using the traditional marketing tools,” she says.
Okulo says through establishing the target audience and having the relevant content is what has gotten the company the wider market reach. She says currently, the company has about 3,500 customers following on its social media platforms.
Quality control, according to Okulo, has been one of the winning strategies when.
“Making sure your products are up to standards all the time is crucial in this business,” she says.
Okulo, however, points out that the biggest hindrance was the packaging that forced the company to outsource for a packaging manufacture out of the country.
“My goal for Lengo Organics is for it to be a mid-range to luxury brand made in Africa, and also for it to have the ability to be on shelves with renowned brands. So I wasn’t about to compromise on the packaging,” she says.
Currently, the company imports its packaging from Nigeria, something she points out is quite unfortunate, as such products should be made locally.
“I would prefer to buy the packaging materials from Uganda, but the available quality doesn’t match the brand vision,” she adds.
Lack of information, especially for new businesses, is one of the challenges that Okulo faced while starting Lengo Organics.
“I first conducted research on this business, for more than nine months before opening my business and it was very difficult. Some of the women associations weren’t very forth coming with the necessary information I needed during my research, so there was a bit of a struggle. And lack of the right information could be a huge hindrance for someone that’s trying to set out to begin their business,” she says.
Currently, the business, according to Okulo makes a million shillings a week, during peak season, and between Shs600, 000 and Shs800, 000 on the low.
“The Covid-19 crisis and lockdown period has been quite good to us I must say. Since people were locked home and unable to visit salons, they resorted to do hair care at home, and that’s where we realized a peak in the orders for many of our products,” Okulo adds.
Speaking on the issue of her target market, Okulo says she doesn’t have a set market, as the products can be used by all genders and age groups.
“Since our products are majorly organic based, they are ideal for everyone. Children can use our shampoo and hair food, women can use literally all the products and there are some that can be used by men,” she adds.
Like any other startup, Okulo explains that Lengo Organics could be projected to its full potential, if it receives the right funding that the company is currently short of.
“Our projections are to grow and be able to produce as much products to be exported to as far as West Africa, and sub Saharan Africa. We would also love to be producing our products at our own plant,” she explains.
With the expansion and more funding, the company would be able to employ over 250 jobs, directly and indirectly. Currently, Lengo Organics employs 15 people both directly and indirectly employed.
“Most of our production steps are done manually, like the packaging. But with the right funding, we would be able to acquire the right machinery to do the work, something that would both save us time, and also improve on the quality of our products,” she adds.
Advice to upcoming entrepreneurs
“The time to get started is now. If you feel there are skills you don’t possess, and feel your business will need, then outsource someone that has them,” she Okulo says.
She says it is better to start with what you have as there is no enough capital. She adds that sticking to your business model is important, and ensuring that you are flexible to change with the trends and times.
“No one is you, and that’s your power. So look at the market and see where the gap is. You also need to keep your ears open to the criticism and embrace it with positivity,” Okulo says.