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!
Do 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.
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.