The Black Lives Matter movement has encouraged more and more black female entrepreneurs to voice issues they've faced along their journey. Many are often linked to feelings of unworthiness or forms of discrimination - but another aspect amidst this is the additional strength and courage required to face the loneliness that comes with starting a business all by yourself.
As part of this week's Let's Talk Black Business, we interviewed Hannah from NARLOA about her journey of making it on her own as a black female entrepreneur.
NARLOA is a beauty brand whose products are based on the therapeutic qualities of plant/seed/earth derived ingredients. They thrive on using minimal ingredients and being honest and open about exactly what goes into each bottle - no fillers, no artificial fragrances, no parabens, no toxic chemicals - just ingredients rooted in nature to give your skin and wellbeing, a clean and holistic treatment.
The interview shows us it most definitely is not essential to have a team of people behind you to build a successful business. All it takes is ambition, purpose and hard work to make your dreams come true, just as Hannah has.
Hannah is NARLOA's founder, product developer, marketer, photographer, accountant (& everything else!). Here is what she has to share about her journey of setting up and running a business as a solo, black female - and showing us that success is most definitely possible!
1. What inspired you to start NARLOA?
I started NARLOA in the summer of 2017 because of a desire to explore alternative means of controlling my eczema, which is worse in heat. I read up about natural oils as an alternative to typical steroids and decided to try out Hemp Seed Oil because of its anti-inflammatory properties. I bought it, used it and three days later saw a visible difference in my inner arm eczema. I was very impressed and decided to start exploring what other natural oils and essential oils could do.
There are some very potent plant-based ingredients so experimenting with them, blending them together and testing them was such an exciting process. From that exploration, I created the original three NARLOA products – the Balancing Face Oil, Mandarin Cleansing Oil and Jasmine + Neroli Body Oil.
2. What sets NARLOA apart from other brands out there?
Firstly, we use a minimal amount of ingredients in each product. You don’t need a whole bunch of ingredients in your skincare – you really just need a select few potent ones to really do the job and maintain healthy skin.
Secondly, we have sensitive skin in mind. This means we limit the ratio of essential oils in each product and ensure there are no harsh chemicals that might irritate skin.
Thirdly, everything is handmade so we know exactly what goes into each product and we take care to ensure quality and freshness in each bottle!
3. What is the biggest challenge/s you've faced being a black, female entrepreneur?
I’d say having the confidence to start up was one issue – trying to make sales and getting people to notice the brand was tough. As a black woman, I second guessed myself and whether people would even want to buy from me.
4. What’s been the most rewarding moment of your journey as a business owner?
For me, being stocked in different independent stores around the world is really a dream. I always imagined NARLOA products on shelves in shops so seeing that happen is very exciting. Our very first stockist was Boom Boom in Bordeaux and now we are also stocked in the Netherlands with plans to continue expanding into more stores so more customers can experience NARLOA's natural & therapeutic products.
5. How has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?
When I initially started, I didn’t really factor in the amount of admin I'd need to do. I have to keep on top of a lot of things to make sure the business runs smoothly. I also underestimated how lonely running a small business can be. I do everything myself from making products, labeling, packaging, marketing, web design, social media, photography etc. so I have no one else to talk to, bounce ideas off or just interact with on a daily basis so this required some getting used to.
6. Can you tell us about another business owner/brand who inspires you and why?
I really love Vitae London. The owner is a black man called William Adoasi. I used to follow his journey a lot in the beginning and it was great to see the progress he was making, the celebrities who endorsed his brand and the amount of support he had. I also really like that his business is focused on giving back to the community and he gives back very visibly so that customers know that each purchase does something good. That is one of the first brands that inspired me to get started.
7. What’s the most exciting thing happening for NARLOA right now?
Right now, it’s the wholesale orders! This is what we are currently getting a lot of enquiries about and as I mentioned before this was always on my vision board for the brand - so the fact that stores are reaching out because they like the look of NARLOA products is a really big deal for me!
8. What is one thing you feel customers should know about NARLOA that they may not be aware of?
NARLOA is a one man band run by me, Hannah. Although I always refer to “we” in my socials and website (and even in this interview), there is no team! It’s literally just me and although it can be lonely, I absolutely love it.
There is certainly lots more to come from NARLOA so keep a look out. Every piece of support helps, so go ahead and check out their wonderful products and follow their beautiful Instagram.
And a huge thank you to Hannah for sharing her journey of challenges & success for the gorgeous NARLOA.