Valentine Mabaso: I am a warrior, I got scars to prove it

I aspire to help those with skin conditions and scars to see that their strength Click To Tweet

…Shape, size and scars. These are some of the common insecurities that massacre every shred of confidence one can possess. Women feel the pressure to weigh certain kilos, have a particular melanin shade and definitely a clear skin tone.

But trying to be something else is honestly a waste of who you truly are. You need to accept the areas that make you feel fragile and capitalise on your  strengths. A beautiful soul called Valentine Mabaso embraced her own scars and now gives hope to all those who feel trapped by their skin conditions. This #MotherlandMogul is a Marketing Specialist by day and a Rock Scars warrior every day. Her aspirations are to help others see that their strength is written on their skin and to help them see the beauty in their scars.

She lives with a chronic skin condition called Atopic Dermatitis and has been living with it for 10 years to date. The 23-year-old was born and bred in the rural villages of Limpopo and currently resides in Johannesburg, South Africa. Valentine has two awesome younger brothers and they were raised by a single mother who is Valentine’s number 1 cheerleader in her mission to change the world.

What Rock Scars priorities are you focusing on right now?

At this stage we are prioritizing on the following:

  • To provide a platform and an environment that serves to empower and inspire people living with any form of skin condition or a scar of any kind.
  • To restore self confidence in people of any age and gender, living with scars by providing support, networking, mentoring, encouragement and health care activities across the nation (particularly concerning skin disorders, cancer and scars of any form).mabaso

Rock Scars also educates people about skin conditions. Do you do this personally or do you have professionals who conduct these sessions?

We have unfortunately not worked with any dermatologist to date but we hope to have a professional assisting with that in future. I personally made thorough research about different forms of skin conditions, the common ones and those that are rare. I look at how they can be prevented and/or treated and how to live with them and then I share that with others.

We call this Skin Condition Awareness and it is Rock Scars’ way of educating people about skin conditions. However, I always make it clear that our participants should in all cases seek medical attention with professional Skin Doctors. Also, as people come forward to share their stories about their skin conditions, I further research about the skin conditions and then create awareness about them, especially with our online communities.

rs logo

How do you tackle discrimination against the people you assist?

I believe that no one is born with a discriminatory mind, such things are learned from people and events around us. If we can teach people especially those not directly affected by us and our scars, then we can change their minds thus tackle being discriminated. We teach people to learn to appreciate diversity and respect people who are different in any way.

People may be disabled, transgender, dark-skin or have a different hair color, scars, stretch marks or a skin condition but the truth is, no one chose to be that way so why should we discriminate them. Rock Scars promotes dialogue on social media and during the events where we engage those living with skin conditions and scars and those who don’t.

In as much as I wish to protect the people I assist against discrimination and negative remarks, I unfortunately, cannot be there for them all the time. This is why during the sessions or our 1 on 1 conversations I remind them that they are warriors. That way they will be strengthened and will stand their ground under any circumstance.

I call them warriors not because I want them to feel better but because it is true. If you can survive a burning house, car accidents, cancer, and its many surgeries, live with a chronic condition for so long, why should words from someone you don’t know break you? I remind them that it matters NOT what others say. They should know that they fought bigger battles and won them and now they have the scars as medals to prove it.

rock scar

How do you respond when Rock Scars is held up as an object of ridicule?

The best tool I believe in is education. Most people make such remarks because of misinformation, so the best way to correct such behavior is through educating them about our conditions.

For example, I was told a lot of times that I must be HIV positive because of my skin and its scars. This example goes to prove that people can just look at you and make their own assumptions and conclusions. Through Rock Scars, I show people it is not ok to make your own conclusion just by looking at me.

Often when we get ridiculed for what we do, I always remind people that no one ever voluntarily goes out there to get a scar for the fun of it. We try to make those ridiculing us understand that even if they are not infected they are probably affected in some way. They have someone in their lives who has a scar or is living with a skin condition. We are patient with those who do not agree with what Rock Scars does and let them know that in any case the same happens to them they are welcome to our family of warriors.

To grow, do you advertise Rock Scars or do you rely on word of mouth? Why?

I use every opportunity I get to promote the good work Rock Scars does. We interact with most people online and therefore use that as an advertising tool. It allows us to reach a large number of people across the globe instantly and it is cost effective, which is beneficial for a small social enterprise like Rock Scars.

We are also occasionally given the opportunity at various TV and radio stations in South Africa to advertise our brand through interviews. Podcasts and videos are available on our website. We also attend seminars of other organizations with similar objectives which contribute to our growth.

Besides the struggle to get proper venues for events what other challenges are you facing as an NGO?

My biggest challenge is running this organization and having to do my 9-5 cooperate job. Rock Scars is a social enterprise and as much as I would love to devote 100% of my time to it, I unfortunately, can’t.

I depend solely on my income to run the Rock Scars campaign and help others. I am not complaining, I love my job but I would love to travel across the country especially schools to encourage and educate learners that scars are beautiful.


What are the key indicators by which you measure your impact?

There are various ways we use to measure the effectiveness of Rock Scars. One would be an increase in the number of attendants and participants to our sessions. On our second session, we realized growth in the number of participants who came through to share their stories.

We also measure the effectiveness of our work through testimonies and reviews. There is nothing that makes me happy like seeing someone who attended our session/s having the courage to wear anything they like and feel absolutely confident and beautiful in their skin.

With our online community, it’s very easy to measure our effectiveness. For example, we can post a story of one of the warriors with a picture of themselves attached and once we see people open up about their own scars and skin disorder stories, we know that our message has been positively received.

The number of likes and shares each post gets is also a good indicator of the impact our organization has. Another way is when people from other countries who contact us to share their stories which indicates that our organization is serving its purpose.

Valentine, I understand to date you are funding Rock Scars. How do you plan to increase your income streams besides calling out for sponsors?

It is very difficult getting people to invest into your idea and vision, especially one that is something totally different and is based more on changing people’s lives than profit. That is why I resorted to self-funding the organization.

We are currently in the process of making a few Rock Scars items that will be for sale and help us raise funds so we can be able to travel across the continent to reach more warriors. Items will include, Rock Scars shirts, caps, fruit juices, and more exciting things.

If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here

Chinonye Akunne: My purpose is to help people and save lives

Chinonye Akunne
Chinonye Akunne had unknowingly been practicing the craft of making products for years Click To Tweet

Chinonye Akunne is a Nigerian, born and raised in Columbus, Ohio. In partnership with her sister, Chinonye owns personal care company ILERA Apothecary. The company utilizes mostly organic materials, educates on health with relation to the skin and focuses on reducing the environmental impact of the cosmetic industry.

Chinonye is also co-founder of educational platform Motor City STEAM, a program that aims to increase student literacy in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) with art integration.

How did you come up with the name ILERA Apothecary?

ILERA means “health” in the Yoruba language of Nigeria and Apothecary is Grecian for a person who sold medicine and drugs.

Originally, ILERA Apothecary was called Delicate Serenity and Action Level, a women’s and men’s personal care line respectively. My family and friends gave me feedback on the company, leading to a name change and re-brand. I searched Google Translate for words such as ‘luxury’, ‘beauty’ and ‘health’.

Ilera Apothecary

As a family company, how is the responsibility shared? What role do you play in the running of the business?

My sister/business partner and I use our experience and educational backgrounds to run the business. Nneji has a Masters in Marketing, so she handles the brand of the business from social media design to marketing material. I have a Science and Manufacturing background so I handle the development process from sourcing ingredients, overseeing the batch processing up through final packaging.

Chinonye Akunne: I have always known that my purpose is to help people and save lives Click To Tweet

Since you have a degree in public health and come from a family of makers and healthcare professionals, had you always known this was what you were going to do?

I have always known that my purpose is to help people and save lives. Up until 3 years ago, I was on the path to medical school. A month prior to completing my Masters in Public Health I received admission to med school and a job offer. After much thought and planning, I took the job which eventually led me to where I am now.

It is interesting because I have unknowingly been practicing this craft of making products for years. As a child, I loved the DIY and beauty sections of magazines. It was from these magazines that I started experimenting with beauty.

In the 4th grade, I put eggs in my hair after reading about its great deep conditioning properties. Unfortunately, I did not read the part about rinsing with cold water. I rinsed with hot water and the eggs ended up cooking in my hair, it was gross. That day, I learned valuable lessons in following instructions, properties of a chemical reaction and trying again. Practices like this lead me to create hair products in grad school such as styling gel and almond hair milk, eventually developing into ILERA Apothecary.

Chinonye Akunne

How long did it take for the business to break even and yield profit?

We officially broke even with our first wholesale order which came 5 months after I launched the original lines (Delicate Serenity and Action Level). Breaking even is the easy part.

Sustaining and engaging old and new customers is the hard part and key to yielding high profits. As of today, we have not reached our target customer or profit goal. Honestly, it may be another 6 months to a year before we do.

However, every single day, we are getting closer with each customer engagement and sale. That sale may be online, at one of our stockist shops, via a wholesale order or at a vending event. As a company, we are constantly strategizing and finding new ways to reach future customers, many of which do not yet know we even exist. This takes time, forward thinking and persistence.

Yielding high profits in business takes time, forward thinking and persistence Click To Tweet

What does success mean to you?

To me, success is a combination of goals that ultimately leads to flexibility, peace, and growth towards being a better person.

Being flexible in what hours and what locations I work are important to me. Some days I am more creative at 9pm than at I am at 9am, or have the urge to work on my dining table versus in the office. I want to be able to visit my parents on a random Tuesday without having to request work off. That is the flexibility that I envision in success.

In terms of peace, it is being self-loving, mentally well and not owning debt (yes, you own not owe debt). Peace takes practice; you practice forgiveness; you practice stress management; you practice money management.

Though I often don’t see it, I am growing into the success I envision every day. I am increasing my global presence through platforms such as She Leads Africa, I discuss my issues with my therapist rather than holding it in, and my family and I are currently enrolled in the Financial Peace University. These simple steps are growing me into a better and more successful person.

Chinonye Akunne: Success is a combination of goals that leads to being a better person. Click To Tweet

What advice would you give to 16-year-old Chinonye?

“ChiChi (as I used to go by), Open your eyes. Listen to your mother when she blesses you with good wishes no matter how long and drawn out they may sound. Listen to your dad when he forewarns you about watching the company that you keep, ‘unsuccessful people are not friends with successful people…’

“Continue to speak your mind but make sure you finesse your words. Understand that in a few years you will forget the names of the people you are trying to impress so be yourself. The extra-curricular activities you partake in will lead you far so take note and never stop being inquisitive.”

Chinonye Akunne

Who would you take to lunch, Oprah or Michelle Obama?

Since I have to choose one, it would be Michelle. I love Oprah but at this point in my life, I relate more to Michelle Obama. As “unprogressive” as it may sound I want it all; the husband, children, and successful career. I will not feel as if I am living my full potential without the “trifecta”.

I am currently reading the book “Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor; The New Way to Fast- Track Your Career”. The book outlines the differences between a mentor and a sponsor. Mentors act as a sounding board or a shoulder to cry on, offering advice as needed and support and guidance as requested; they expect very little in return. Sponsors, in contrast, are much more vested in their protégés, offering guidance and critical feedback because they believe in them.

In my life, Oprah would be a great mentor, the person who can guide me based on her holistic life experiences. On the other hand, Michelle is the sponsor. The person who is in a similar circle and can give direct guidance on navigating everything from climbing the corporate ladder and creating social-based programs to having a husband and children

If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here

Twitter Chat with Carol Nyazika: Moving back home as an entrepreneur (Nov. 3)

moving back home twitter chat

Thinking of moving back home? Thinking of starting a business? Thinking of moving back home AND starting a business? You’re not alone. There is a growing trend of Africans abroad moving back home and there are resources and organizations like Resource Nigeria and Movemeback that are helping people do just that.

Within the group of people moving back home, are also those that are doing so to start a business. Some do it because certain ideas they saw abroad have not yet reached their part of Africa or because the economy of certain African countries are ripe for entrepreneurship, others still do it because they want to give back to their home and they are passionate about the industry they are venturing into.

A UK resident who moved back home  to Zimbabwe, Carol Nyazika fits into many of these categories. She is the founder of the African Women Awards and the founder Ndanaka, a natural skin care line.

Join us Thursday Nov. 3rd for a Twitter chat with Carol Nyazika to discuss the perks and set backs of moving back home and starting a business, or businesses.

Follow She Leads Africa on twitter and use the hashtag #SheHiveJoburg to ask your questions and participate in the discussion.

Topics that we’ll cover:

  • Deciding whether it is time to move home
  • Knowing if your business idea will live on when you move back home
  • The importance of celebrating African girl magic
  • Balancing two busineses & a 9-5

Twitter chat details

  • Date: Thursday Nov. 3, 2016
  • Time: 8am NYC // 12pm London // 2pm Harare
  • Location: Follow She Leads Africa on twitter and use the hashtag #SheHiveJoburg

Help us spread the word:

I'm excited to learn about moving back home to start a business from @CarolNyazika & @SheLeadAfrica. : Click To Tweet


moving back home twitter chatSelf- motivated, dynamic, hard-working and goal oriented are some of the many characteristics that Carol Nyazika has developed through her few years as a successful social entrepreneur. With a focused mind-set, she has managed to centre her business ventures on the development of women in all aspects of their lives. This has primarily been based on the promotion of the beauty within through business initiatives and independence. Carol has packaged herself as a complete influential brand that reaches people through all mediums of life, whether through the radio, television or print media. Her effort to reach clients through the expansion of her brand is what has made her a rising personality in the Zimbabwean community, at home and the diaspora.

Through her popularity in the beauty industry, Carol founded Ndanaka by Carol Nyazika, a lifestyle brand platform that showcases beauty and hair. She then expanded this platform and launched her beauty brand with the same name which covers hair care, skin care and body care products. Her YouTube videos show the simplicity of beauty without breaking the bank with views of over three hundred thousand.

She is also Founder of African Women Association, a female empowerment association. AWA is not be a platform that excels in rhetoric but fails in practice; it is invested in making sure that people’s lives are truly changed. This project is highly rated by the experts in the industry. The African Women Awards are under the association and have been hailed as the ‘Oscars of Africa’ by most media outlets. The Awards have been well received by many across the continent and truly appreciated for the impact is has had on many African women. The other platforms under the association include AWA Foundation, AWA Media, AWA Network. Carol continues to break barriers, positively impacting women around her, pushing the boundary and challenging the norm.

Zeze Oriaikhi-Sao: Following my life long dream makes the best use of my time

zeze oriaikhi-sao

According to Zeze Oriaikhi-Sao the qualities necessary for a successful beauty entrepreneur are determination, passion, instinct, financial savvy and strong communication skills. Just having a good idea isn’t enough. Zeze is the founder of Malée, a range of luxury fragrance and body care products that draws inspiration from the traditional beauty secrets found across Africa. African beauty and healing secrets don’t get their due and with Malée, Zeze updates them with modern science and technology. The name Malée itself comes from her great grandmother and is a term for a strong-willed woman in Bini language.

What pushed you to start Malée?

In 2009, I moved countries from UK to South Africa. It was the height of the recession and finding a job wasn’t easy. After halted interview processes, I decided that following a life long dream would be a good way to make the best use of my time while having a larger social and economic impact along the way. In a few words, circumstances of the recession forced me to believe that I had something to offer to not only to consumers but to the African economy.

Your brand seems to draw heavily from African traditions, is there any particular reason why you’re inspired by tradition?

I believe there are hidden gems in tradition. Unlocking those with the scientific knowledge we have now and giving a voice to cultures and traditions that otherwise don’t have one in the global market place is a passion. Africa is full of beauty and I deeply motivated to share that.

Malée is present in both South Africa and the UK, what challenges have you faced expanding your brand to other countries?

Each market brings with it a lot of learning. The most important thing I have learnt is that regardless of the country, establishing a brand takes patience, consistency in the quality of your product and service, belief in your brand/business and building a great team to help turn the vision into reality.

We have launched in the UK with 6 of our best selling products. On a stand alone basis they do what we say they should. They work!

UK_mainvisual-copyDo you have any plans to continue expanding within Africa?

Yes, the rest of Africa is definitely on the cards for Malée. I am excited about the next 5 years.

How do you unwind after a long day?

Taking time out for me some ‘me time’. My favourite routine is my at home spa, light some candles, have music playing through my bluetooth headphones then I scrub before settling into the bath, usually while reading something.

What’s one thing in your fridge you always use as a homemade skin treatment?

Lemons; they are just so versatile and harness a lot of natural benefit for the skin. My favourite remedies are my DIY facemask which can be made by mixing baking soda, honey and lemon juice. You can also use lemon to make a detox toner with some green tea and water.zeze oriaikhi-sao

How do you source ingredients for your products?

Ingredient sourcing process begins with understanding what makes up on traditional beauty remedies. I dissect these to understand what ingredients actually have long term skin care or aromatherapy benefits. We take these away and plug them into our formulations and then look for the best local suppliers who have food grade ingredients. If it is good enough to eat, it is good enough for your skin.

If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here

Thokozile Mangwiro: Africa is producing the most beautiful, natural and organic skin and hair care products

nyla organic hair care

Global black hair care is on the rise. In South Africa, the black hair care industry was estimated to be valued at R9.7 billion a year in 2015. Budding entrepreneur Thokozile Mangwiro believes that Africa is producing the most beautiful, natural and organic skin and hair care products. Her brand, Nyla is reaching for a share in that billion rand market by creating products using marula oil, an indigenous oil to southern Africa.

What is the natural  hair scene like in Johannesburg? What sort of events do you have?

The natural hair movement in Johannesburg is absolutely inspiring. There is a lot of consciousness and awareness about the movement from chemically laden products towards greener natural hair care. We are currently in the midst of the South African winter which can be very harsh to the skin and hair. Protective styling is the order of the day. Hair-line friendly plaits and wigs are definitely in.
Naturals here also have “Hair stokvels”, where we get together to share and educate each other about caring for and growing our natural hair. Hair stokvels also have natural hair care product stalls and guest speakers. There are other events like the “For Black Girls Only” event, which does not set out to exclude other races, brings together all African women from all walks of like to celebrate just who we are.


Why does your brand focus on marula oil?

We believe that marula oil the secret to timeless hair  and skin nourishment. This magical oil is obtained from the core of the marula fruit. Marula oil is indigenous to Southern Africa, yet clientele have never heard of it and it’s rich properties. The Tsonga women of South Africa and Mozambique have used this oil as a moisturiser and a massage oil on babies for years. Marula oil has protected the African skin and hair against harsh and dry, hot and humid weather conditions.  It’s multi-purpose, used for personal care and is safe for both babies and adults.

Marula oil contains properties that create a high performing cosmetic oil that mimics the skin’s outer layer, regenerates the skin cells, thus promoting a youthful looking, well-nourished healthy skin. It’s a light weight oil, meaning it quickly absorbs into the skin and hair, while leaving a non-greasy silky smooth feeling. It is gentle enough to use alone or with any lotions and facial skin creams.

Do you only create hair care products?

We focus solely on natural hair with Nilotiqa Hair Care which is formulated for dry and damaged hair. Nyla Marula Beauty is our luxury natural and organic brand that caters for all types of skin and hair care. Our Marula Evolution Collection showcases pure Marula oil, fused it with various natural botanical and organic ingredients to create the most luxurious products to nourish skin and hair. Because the products are organic and natural, they are suitable for all skin types.

Our product line consists of a deep replenishing co-washing conditioner, deep moisturizing butter, detangling cream and nourishing scalp and hair oil. Our natural products are formulated with high-quality nourishing ingredients such as shea butter, coconut oil, castor oil and avocado oil. We avoid artificial sourcing of ingredients and our products do not contain petroleum, lanolin, parabens, phthalates, or artificial colors.


What tools do you use to grow your business?

Firstly, our business is incubated. This has given the business organizational, financial and operational structure. Secondly, we ensure that we collaborate with cosmetic organisations that have high standards for compliance. This forces us to look into how compliant we are and ensure we distribute high quality products locally and internationally.

Lastly, we purposely use social media to reach out to clients that are not only local, but also international.

What is your favourite style for a bad hair day?

Bad hair days for me means seriously dry hair. I first try to get moisture back in my hair using my Nilotiqua Deep Moisture Butter.  I am lucky enough to have long dreadlocks and so after adding the butter, I can just tie my hair up into a bun.
I am also huge fan of head wraps, known as doek in South Africa. Those can get you by for a week.

If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here