Nigerian Sisters Taking Walmart by Storm
The potential wealth and talent existing in the African Diaspora is enormous. In the U.S alone, ” immigrants account for 30 percent of all small-business growth”, sisters Dr. Onyeka and Dr. Amaka Ugbome from Nigeria are among this group of business owners experiencing rapid growth in their business venture called Omalicha Naturals. What started out as a personal natural hair journey, is now a hair and skin care line sold in Walmart, after less than 3 years in business.
Per the World Bank Group, it is estimated that by 2040 Africa will have a larger workforce than China or India. This youthful workforce “will require targeted new enterprise growth in areas that can enhance food supply, healthcare services, and educational solutions within local communities”. Small businesses owned by the African diaspora, like Omalicha are looking to explore this potential business opportunity in the continent. Is this the model to follow for current and future business owners, learn about their startup journey.
Tell us your story. Who are Dr. Onyeka and Dr. Amaka?
We are two sisters who developed a love and passion for helping people live a healthy life through their daily products. Over 10 years ago, we started mixing and creating products for ourselves, our friends and family. Everyone loved them so much, and kept telling us we should start a business so, we vowed that we would eventually. After a few major life changes in both of our lives, we came together and created Omalicha Naturals.
How did you come up with the name for your company?
When we first started, we actually had a blog called Omalicha Curls. On our blog, we would discuss transitioning to natural hair and our own respective journeys, natural DIY skin care and DIY haircare. We, also, discussed Igbo culture in reference to our personal life. Omalicha comes from the Igbo language and it translates to ’beautiful’. We evolved from Omalicha Curls to Omalicha Naturals because we wanted our message to be about more than hair. We want the focus to be about bringing your inner beauty to the forefront, naturally.
What made you want to develop a skin and hair care line?
It was always something that we knew we wanted to do. The love for it started so long ago that the people that really know us knew that this was a natural next step. We’re excited about all that we have in store.
Walk us through the process of developing a line of haircare. Where did you start?
It is definitely a lot of work! We rely heavily on our Pharmacy background. A lot of the formulating techniques we use to create our products we learned in our Pharmaceutics class during the first year of Pharmacy school! So, we would say you have to understand formulating, percentages, reducing/enlarging formulas etc. before you can get into the fun part of actually making a product!
What advice do you have for those of us looking to make environmentally conscious changes to our beauty routines?
Our advice is to know what ingredients are in your products. Don’t just buy a product because the packaging looks good, really take the time to read the ingredients. It can be overwhelming at first especially, with all the chemical names but it’s good to know which ingredients are beneficial and which ingredients are harmful. There are a lot of companies that are just looking to make a quick dollar and do not actually care about the health of its consumers.
What do you think sets your products apart?
What sets our products apart is that they actually deliver on their promise. We stand by the fact that we created our products to address a need in our community. Our products were created specifically for Type 4 hair and melanin rich hues.
Has it been challenging to wear both titles of scientist and entrepreneur?
It has been extremely difficult especially, since we both wear many more hats in addition to those two! We, also, still play the roles of Wife, Mother, daughter, friend you name it! Finding balance has been difficult but we are taking it one step at a time.
What’s next for Omalicha? Where do you see yourselves and the company in the next year? Next five years?
We are growing very quickly, and are so excited about it!
We recently announced a partnership with Walmart.com. We’re hoping for more growth and more retail presence. We’re also working on getting distributors for our products in Nigeria and hopefully, other West African countries. In the next 5 years, we hope to be a household name, providing personal care products ranging from hair and skincare all the way to body care, baby care, prenatal and postnatal care.
The Our Stories, Our Way Fast Three!
1. What are your favorite songs at the moment?
IVD – Bolanle, Kizz Daniel – pak n go, Fireboy DML – party scatter
2. Craziest haircut/hair trend you ever had?
Probably, the big chop!
3. What’s one ingredient (i.e. shea butter) that everyone should add to their hair care routine?
We would say nettle because it really helps with thickening and strengthening the hair which can help with length retention.