Bespoke and handmade: Afua Asantewaa is the hair care brand that is changing lives and promoting the love of natural hair, one handmade product at a time.
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Born to a German mother and Ghanaian father, Melody – middle name Afua Asantewaa – has created a natural hair care brand that not only takes care of hair, but promotes hair love too, therefore making hers an impactful brand.
27 years ago, Afua’s parents who had been living in Germany, decided to move to Ghana. Once there, with no experience but filled with drive, they opened a school which grew rapidly in capacity and in success.
She cites her parents and her personality as her motivation for pursuing her own business. They are entrepreneurs and she is not really for taking orders from somebody else…as with most entrepreneurs.
Meet the Afua Asantewaa product line and brand
At the moment, Afua has six products in her product line.
The Herbpoo, as in herbal shampoo, contains herbs and powders that promote hair growth.
Cremeux is a deep conditioner. It is made purely from bananas, honey, butter and a number of oils thus making it very rich. It hydrates and moisturizes, giving one’s hair the ultimate shine.
This is a lightweight conditioner that’s primarily made out of baobab oil that does not weigh hair down.
The Curl Definer helps one achieve defined, coily curls.
This seals in the Bouncee. It is a moisturizing butter which acts as a sealant for thick or dry hair.
When applied to the scalp, this oil blend that contains a number of herbs aids in one’s quest for hair growth.
What inspired Afua to create Afua Asantewaa?
One of Afua’s motivations to create her product line is the children from the school that her parents opened. As she describes this inspiration that pushed her to start this brand, I could hear the passion in her voice.
“I work at the school and my kids – I call them my kids – they have hair that’s more on the, I’ll say, kinky side and the one thing that used to bother me is that they would say to me ‘oh Ms Melody your hair is so much prettier and softer.’
That used to upset me because kids are not supposed to think that way and that kind of talk comes from parents telling their children that. I was determined to do something, make some products that can really help soften their hair.
It’s all about knowledge. When I was younger, having moved to Ghana, the reason my cousin used to put relaxer in my hair is because she didn’t understand natural hair. She didn’t understand that you shouldn’t comb natural hair dry and so forth.
Now people are more knowledgeable but for the most part, some people still don’t know. So it makes the child feel like ‘my hair is so hard’ or ‘my hair is this and that.’
Also, people think that curls are the only beautiful thing when it comes to natural hair. No! Everyone’s hair is different. Everyone has a different hair pattern or curl pattern.
So yeah, that was a push for me. I was determined to make products for those kids, and everyone else, to make their hair nice and soft so that they can enjoy their hair.”
Challenges and setbacks are inevetable
Trying to build a brand or a company from the ground up takes a lot of work and can be both physically and emotionally draining. I asked Afua to share the struggles she has faced and continues to face as an entrepreneur in her field of hair care. She willingly shared and they are a whole buch!
“Number one would definitely be packaging. Essentially we have one major packaging company in Ghana. They source, I believe, from China and partly make the plastic bottles in Ghana. They source the other parts that they need for the bottle, like caps, from China. The challenge with this is most companies are sourcing from this company which means that most of the bottles are going to look the same.
Then there’s the issue of quality. several times the lids don’t fit properly. Even worse, when the pandemic hit, they could not source from China because of the restrictions. So you had to start thinking of what to do next.”
Afua is able to source some of the ingredients that she needs – baobab oil, honey, bananas – from Ghana. However, some of the other ingredients need to be sourced from other countries.
“Some of the ingredients I use I get from the US or England. So that is expensive considering the exchange rates and shipping, which is a big one. These are the challenges that I’m still facing.
As I’m looking to scale up, there are things I need to think about. Am I going to be able continue getting these items? And then there’s the fact that the work I do is very sensitive because you have to keep your formula a secret. You have to look at temperature control for your products to be stable, percentages and all of that. It’s important for me that my clients get the best all the time. So as much as I can employ someone, I can’t be constantly watching over them otherwise I might as well do it myself. Like I said; when you are formulating there’s science, chemistry and any little thing can make a big impact, so you have to be very careful. So trusting people with that process is challenging for me.”
Afua had a lady who was shipping her products to Tokyo and Benin for wholesale purposes. The challenge she faced here is quite scary.
“I was formulating the deep conditioner, using avocado. I made over 30 or 40 containers and kept my eyes on them. A few days later, they exploded! I was like ‘you are kidding me.’ I used over 80 avocado’s and they went to waste. I told myself I was going to try gain. I did it again and packaged everything. I delivered her products. The next day I get a picture from her; everything had exploded!
I didn’t know at the time what I was doing wrong. My husband told me to heat one of the ingredients to a certain temperature and that was super helpful.
For me, those experiences only fueled me more. I had to figure it out and I’m grateful that I have.
When Afua decided to get her products to the public, she didn’t just go out and that was that. Prior to launching her products at the market place she was super nervous.
” I was nervous and almost didn’t go. My mum was the one who told me to just do it. I kept contemplating whether or not I was ready. I had put the Cremeux in an ice chest because I was scared something would happen to it; like explode or something.”
At the time she only had access to cheaply made packaging that ran the risk of having her products leak – and leak they did. At that stage her products fell more on the liquid side in terms of their consistency, which did not help much either.
All of these factors made her nervous and uneasy about getting her products to people.
“I was nervous because I wasn’t comfortable with my products. Back then if you would have asked me if they were 100% and if I loved them and if I was proud of them I would’ve been very uncomfortable with saying yes because it was not true.”
Regardless of her setbacks and anxiousness, with the help of her sister, she put together a table cloth and a table and set up her stand at the bazaar.
“I guess the part that was nerve-wrecking is the way the bazaar is set up. You are on the sidelines and there are walkways. People get to look at your products and just walk by. You have to greet them and try to pitch to them. They can easily say nope, not interested, which can definitely make you feel a little bit bad. Some may listen and say maybe next time. You just have to take it, have faith and try the next person.”
Afua remembers not having a sale for about an hour or two. She told her sister that maybe they should just pack up and leave because it didn’t look like anybody was going to buy.
Great support structures go a long way when you are trying to get a business going. Her sister told her to “have faith.”
She says, “I actually remember that. That was a bad attitude to have, by the way. She was like have faith in your things. And really, people did end up buying. Thank God for that.”
Her most note-worthy moment in her business
I asked her if she could describe her most satisfying moment in business. She laughed and stated that it would be the fact that her products stopped exploding.
Having products that are stable and worthy of client use is one of the biggest milestones she has achieved. She has built a strong customer base and not only has recurring clients, but clients from around the world. She has a customer base in Europe and the United States.
“I know in the next few years its all going to be even better.”
From Afua to you
“Some of my clients are business owners. What’s nice is that they always give me advice. I remember I had told one of my clients that I was going to take a break just to get everything sorted because I want to work on my packaging. She was like ‘yeah your packaging can definitely be sleeker. That is true, you know what I mean. That’s good feedback. She’s using my products and knows my products.
You just have to be open to other people’s suggestions. You have to assess whatever information you get and decide if it works for you or doesn’t work for you.
When it comes to networking, be open and be professional at all times. Be genuine.