Sonto Pooe has always been an entrepreneur at heart. Growing up, she would make clothes for her barbie dolls – soon enough, she was making clothes for herself and her friends.
By the time she was 15, she was already plating people’s hair to earn some money for herself – today it comes as no surprise that she owns and operates her own hair care business.
Sonto founded NativeChild in 2015, after losing her hairline and taking action by experimenting with plant-based ingredients in her kitchen.
She was raised by a single mother in the dusty streets of KZN. Her mother was a school teacher, so education had always been the number priority in her household.
She studied Quantity Surveying at University. The profession came naturally to her because so many of her family members worked in construction.
During her studying days, she landed a job at Steers flipping burgers. She bought all sorts of clothes and junk food with her first salary.
After completing the qualification, she couldn’t find a job in her chosen career path. She got one at UWP Engineers and not long afterwards, was appointed at a large firm where she was to be groomed for a managerial position, however fate had other plans.
According to Sonto, there was a conflict internally, she knew she would make great money from the position, but at the same time, knew she wasn’t ever gonna be fulfilled.
When she got married, she took it as an opportunity to move to Johannesburg and start afresh. She used the money she had saved up during her employment days to study a cosmetic science course.
She studied cosmetic science because she wanted to have an insight on how to create the products by herself, and not to depend on outside sources.
After noticing that the haircare market was flooded with chemical products, it ignited her entrepreneurial spark to develop NativeChild – a hair product line designed to be a representation of a proud African woman with strong roots.
She decided on the name “NativeChild,” because she wanted something that connected to the target audience. It was literally out of love for being a black African female.
Things started taking off in 2016, Sonto launched her first product, the hair growth stimulating caster oil.
She single handily mixed all the products in her kitchen, and as time went on, she launched more products within haircare and body care.
With no money to hire a designer, she created the look of her caster oil bottle on her computer using Microsoft Word. Once she got the prototype done, she sent it to the printers.
She initially sold the products online, this allowed the company to grow organically. Interest in the business continued to grow, but some customers said they preferred to buy from a physical store, as they were weary of online shopping – that called for a new approach.
Sonto then started approaching big retailers – today, 29 products of Native Child can be found at Pick N Pay, Game, Clicks, Akerman’s, and Dis-Chem.
According to Sonto, although getting onto these leading retailers came with its own challenges – the fact that NativeChild had already established a market online, made all the difference.
She also ships her range to neighboring countries like Lesotho, Swaziland, Botswana, and Namibia. In the future, she plans on penetrating the global market against big brands.
Hair & Beauty Bar
In October 2021, NativeChild branched out, and launched its first hair and beauty bar at a shopping center in Johannesburg.
According to Sonto, the hair and beauty has been long overdue, as clients have sent in many requests over the years. The move came as a solution to the lack of knowledgeable African hair stylists in the industry.
Sonto’s key principles that every aspiring entrepreneur needs to arm themselves with:
- Be ready to work. The number of hours you’re required to put in, will far exceed your expectations.
- Surround yourself with supportive people. Not everyone may see your vision at first, but emotional support is very important, and necessary to get you through the inevitable tough days.
- Avoid debt where possible. It’s okay to start small and grow organically, don’t run faster than you have strength.
- Being an entrepreneur, means you’re the visionary and engine of the company. You need to know everything there is to know about running your business. Don’t rely on others to move the needle for you.
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