- Being an influencer can provide an opportune environment to pursue entrepreneurial endeavours.
- YouTuber Yolenda Jawe has embraced the opportunity that online media offered and entered the skincare market.
- We spoke to this creator behind Yolz Channel about what it took for her to launch a beauty business.
The influencer industry has hugely benefitted those who find success in it. Digital creators not only find opportunities to do brand partnerships with coveted brands, but, at times, it forms a lucrative foundation for entrepreneurial endeavours.
Countless digital creators collaborate with existing brands to release product ranges, but there's much fewer who go out on their own to start an independent business.
It's a risk, like all other entrepreneurial ventures, but social media influencers like natural hair YouTuber, Sheila Ndinda who's opened a hair salon in Kenya, has seen success in the industry. Nigerian-born Asiyami Gold started a creative agency based in Atlanta, Georgia. In South Africa, Aisha Baker, who is recognised as a fashion blogger, has recently launched a fashion line.
Adding to the list of influences tackling the entrepreneurial world is Yolenda Jawe, the creator of Yolz Channel. She has taken the leap into business - not once, but twice. Her recent venture is a skincare line featuring the skincare cult-favourite, sheet masks.
Having taken the leap into the popular skincare market, we chatted to Yolenda on what it has taken for her to launch her business. She offered tips on thriving in the beauty business.
What sparked your interest in pursuing entrepreneurship?
Last year, I created hair care accessories for natural hair care and that was because we [myself and my co-founder] that there weren't enough hair accessories for us - we saw a need and wanted to address it.
For Yolz Beauty, on the other hand, I'd find myself buying a lot of Korean beauty products such as your sheet masks, your seven-step Korean skincare routine and I wondered who's doing this in South Africa - who looks like me that's offering this? Then in the US as well - who's doing it that looks like me? No one. I'm one of those people who believes if you want change, you be the change, so I created the change I needed to see.
I started off with sheet masks, which are an essential part of my skincare routine. And then obviously being in lockdown I found myself reaching for that more often, where self-care was becoming more and more of a priority, an escape - a good escape - where I found myself relaxing more, serving to my wellness, my mind, my body, my skin was thanking me for that time and I wanted to serve but also again serve the need by creating something for us by us; something that works for our skin type, for our melanin. [The sheet mask range] is called Hunie Hydrate and it's an overall range to regulate your skin, to allow to fully optimise the health of your skin, have luminous, radiant skin - that glow.
You previously had a corporate job. Has your former career and what you studied at university helped at all with starting this business?
I studied finance and investment so I utilised the skill I learnt in strategic management in order to understand my brand and narrow down the target market.
I'll be honest in saying that the skincare and manufacturing industries are new to me - that's been a totally new learning curve. My professional background definitely helped in terms of just articulation, understanding how supply chain works, understanding how overall business works, so I apply that every day when I work.
As a digital creator, how did you know it was the right time for you to expand into business?
There's no 'ah-ha' moment. When you have the funds - I'm a big saver who has always believed in saving and investing - you have the idea. I'm a starter, I'm such a doer, I'm an executor. I've got the idea, I put it down. I put down the logistics that are necessary to have and make calls then put a date to it. I'm never waiting on the time, the time almost waits for me. I work on timelines so it's all about preparation, that's how I work. When the idea comes, put it down on paper, set goals, put a timeline to those goals and make it happen. Don't wait for the right time, create the right time yourself.
What steps did you have to take in preparation for launching the business?
Definitely a budget. I had to understand the cost of starting a business like this. The first thing I did was make a call to the manufacturer that I wanted to create my sheet masks with. I called them up, found out what they do, what differentiates their sheet masks from any other sheet masks and of course, I wanted the numbers. How much would it cost for me to start this and I realised when they gave me the numbers they were far too high in terms of my own budget so I negotiated lower rates. So that's been a good way of me preparing myself financially and understanding my budget.
Then I started drafting every single thing I needed to [get] my products to the customer, so that's with the courier costs, the packaging - not just the packaging the sheet mask will be in, but the packaging I need, like a box to present to the customer or the envelope or whatever you need to package or hold the product. I needed to understand those costs. And then I realised in terms of capacity, physically, I can't do this alone so I decided to get an assistant. I found out what was out there on the market in terms of pricing and I also had to add that to my budget.
Do you have a team assisting you?
It's a self-funded project, so I am a one-man show. But I do have a team of people who assist - so I have a temporary graphic designer, a branding team that is assisting me with the website. I'm putting all that together and of course, I have my assistant and I have my friends who play the mentor role, who help me with some of the decisions I make or some of the avenues I need to go to get things like the barcoding, the admin. I don't necessarily have a team-team but these are the people who assist me on a temporary basis.
How long did it take you to work on this product launch?
To start this business and be ready for launch, I'd say it's taken me four months, maybe five. I'd rather say the setting up of it, including production of the actual sheet mask. Everything is made here in South Africa, which is what I wanted. I was so fixed on that, very stubborn and it also caused a lot of difficulty. I remember when I looked for self-care [products] I was presented with all these international brands, Korean brands, European brands - all these brands are serving our skincare needs and I asked myself, who's doing this in Africa? I wanted the pride and joy of being on our home soil for our people. I wanted it to be tested on our skin type as well, on our African skin. That was crucial for me.
How did you decide on the branding of your product and who your target market would be?
I started off with Yolz, my brand as an influencer and YouTuber. Who is Yolz? I wanted to use Yolz Truly, because generally when people say what my brand is, the first thing that comes to mind is authentic, down-to-earth, truthful and almost the whole sister thing - it's always about the big sister. Yolz already has a logo, Yolz Channel already has that going. I basically upgraded what the Yolz Channel looks like, the original logo and then I found out that Yolz Truly was already taken on social media so then I switched to Yolz Beauty because it is essentially a beauty line.
In terms of the target market, because it's self-care, I wanted to target the girl who prioritises it. I looked at her and I profiled that girl. Where does that girl shop, what does she like, what does she look at when she picks up a product, does she look at the back of the product? You profile her to the T and that's how I did it.
With starting this additional business, how have you managed to keep a balance and remain productive?
There's no such thing as balance. There's harmony, there's flow - that's all I'm trying to do. I'm trying to keep things flowing. I try to keep the harmony by listening to my body and obviously trying to stick to my schedule. I try to then tick off at least three things on my priority list. That is a non-negotiable, that's something I push myself to do and even if I know it's going to be tough to get there. Out of the 10 things, if I've done the three, I'm good to go and rest and listen to my body. Tomorrow, we're cracking the rest of the seven and we're hitting the next to-do list. I live on lists, I write things down, I prioritise and I goal-set all the time - goal-set on a weekly basis, goal-setting short-term goals, medium goals, long-term goals. The most prevalent and the one I look at the most is my daily and my weekly goals. What am I achieving this week, who am I calling, what do I want to have that is tangible at the end of the week?
What advice do you have for someone who wants to start a business with a similar career trajectory as yours?
I would say immerse yourself in your research - an educated girl is an empowered girl. Whatever it is you want to start, whatever ambitions you have - read, research, find yourself always feeding your focus daily. If you haven't done much today, make sure you have read up on something that's related to your goals, even if it's 10 minutes before you go to bed. Allow your mind to explore, challenge your mind to things that you do not know... the only way we will get to know what we don't know is by reading, researching and feeding our focus.
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