Winning Women: Natural energy that glows

2013-04-07 10:00

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Our Winning Women series, which identifies established and emerging entrepreneurs, continues this week with Africology’s Renchia Droganis.

Her company is the nation’s leading ecofriendly and holistic spa and skincare firm, and is now operating in the UK, the US, France and Turkey.

She spoke to Sue Grant-Marshall

Renchia Droganis is the embodiment of her Africology business. Her entire being glows with the energy and beauty that her all-natural products promise.

She’s 47 years old, yet she doesn’t look a day over 30 with her smooth, unwrinkled skin. This softly spoken, unobtrusive woman is the personification of a small start-up that has grown into a multimillion-rand business.

Droganis’ business was born, like so many fledglings, in a kitchen in 2000.

She had run a supermarket bakery with her husband for seven years when their marriage ended and she was left with four children – aged between six and 12, to bring  up alone.

“I had no qualifications whatsoever,” she recalls, and so she began studying psychology through Unisa.

Droganis became interested in Carl Jung’s life coaching, counselling and metaphysics.

She found during her therapy sessions that massage and using essential oils benefited her clients, particularly the newly bereaved.

Her enquiring mind led her to Africa’s traditional healers, using their wisdom to source natural plants for her products.

Soon, her four young children were stirring cauldrons of creams and oils made from African potatoes, calendula, lavender, aloes and rooibos, to name a few of the natural plants that she uses to this day.

A Magaliesberg hotel asked to use her products in their spa. When a despairing mother showed the therapist at the hotel her young boy’s bleeding feet and disintegrating toenails, she was advised to put on some of the Africology African potato body wrap.

By the third application, the boy’s small feet were healing and soon the message of Africology was spreading by word of mouth, something the business continues to use effectively to this day instead of advertising.

When Droganis received an order for 4?000 bottles, she set up a home production line. Days later, helped by her children and her neighbourhood friends, the labelled goods were ready.

The next logical step was to set up a factory. But Droganis is passionate about “the integrity of our planet” and is keenly aware that our health is under constant attack “because of dangerous and toxic ingredients in our food and beauty products”.

So she stuck to natural and non-chemical sources for her products instead of making them up in a laboratory.

It was the more difficult, arduous route to take “than following the culture of fast and cheap, which is why it’s taken me 12 years to get to where I am today”.

But it has paid off.Not only has Africology created a devoted and loyal following, but it gives her highly professional and alluring products their unique selling point.

For years Droganis’ products were only available in spas and skincare salons. She continued to research new sources for her products in her efforts to promote healing “because there is too much poisoning of the body while you are working with the mind”.

“Don’t heal and then hurt by using chemicals,” she insists, adding that she is opposed to animal testing.

Gradually, Africology was asked to supply South African hotel spas and game lodges with its products. And today, it supplies more than 300 South African lodges as well as many in Tanzania, Kenya and Ghana.

Travel company Abercrombie & Kent uses Africology products extensively in its swish lodges, which are often frequented by the world’s wealthy.

A couple of years ago, Droganis opened an exquisite store in the then Zone 2 in Rosebank, north of Joburg, so that ordinary people and her spa clients could access what she describes as her “authentic African offering”.

Some years ago, spas and hotels in Paris, Belgium and the US began using Africology’s products and two years ago, it launched its first stand-alone spa, in partnership with Bloww Salon on Regent Street, London’s famous shopping area.

Now Droganis is opening her own spa in France. Product distribution has recently begun in Russia, as well as in Istanbul, Turkey, in famous British emporium Harvey Nichols.

She is equally excited that Sun International in South Africa will in time have her Africology spas “in their 30 hotels here”. Already the group’s new hotels in Port Elizabeth and The Maslow on Sandton’s Rivonia Drive have opened Africology spas.

The Palace at Sun City, Rustenburg, in North West is next and Droganis is working on plans to do a tented safari spa at the Royal Livingstone Hotel in Zambia.

“But best of all is having my four children – the eldest is now 30 – working with me,” she says. “They handle the administration of Africology, leaving me the fun of creating new spas.”

Droganis pulsates with joy “because my kids have been with me from the beginning and it is their choice alone to work with me”.

Adding to her happiness is her marriage in November to Turkish software engineer Suhail Maqbool, whom she met in Istanbul. He too works at Africology now.

Droganis has for years had discussions with medical doctors about her products, engaging thoughtfully and robustly with them over Africology’s efficacy and healing properties.

This has been fruitful.

Recently, a brand-new Africology spa partnered with Exec|care, a leading provider of comprehensive executive medical services, to integrate traditional medical interventions with holistic wellness treatments.

“It is the first of a kind,” says Droganis with her eyes sparkling.

The spa is in the Exec|care centre in Dunkeld, north of Joburg.

She explains that her Africology massage treatments “are designed to assist a stressed muscular system and an unbalanced endocrine system. We focus on optimising blood flow while ensuring more oxygen is passing through the arteries.”

» If you’re a female entrepreneur who needs a springboard to more success, sign up for the fully sponsored Goldman Sachs-Gordon Institute of Business Science (Gibs) 10?000 Women Certificate Programme for Women Entrepreneurs at Gibs. Visit

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