When KENYAN Michelle Ntalami’s father was diagnosed with Cancer in 2013, she cut her hair in support of her father’s journey to health. Little did she know however, that doing this would eventually lead her along the path to create Marini Naturals – Kenya’s No.1 natural hair care product line. Speaking to Lionesses of Africa Mag, Michelle recalls being in a state of reflection at the time.
“They say when a woman cuts her hair it means that there is something big going on in her life. So whilst I’d cut my hair, I also re-evaluated a lot of my life choices in terms of keeping healthy, losing weight, diet and exercise. At the time, there were no locally available products to cater for the African woman’s natural hair. I used to order products from Amazon and U.S websites, but found it all too expensive. I just thought, “Why can’t I do this myself?’- With the support of my parents I began mixing different home-made remedies in my bathroom, and the results were great!” She says.
Although friends, family and local stylists admired her work, Michelle increasingly sought to take her new creations to the next level.
“From the get-go, I wanted the name to mean “gorgeous” or “naturally beautiful,” just like women are intended to be! I also wanted something very African-sounding and easy on the tongue and mind. So, I Googled how many other ways to say “beautiful” or “charming” in any African language. I didn’t mind the language, so long as it was African. And right there was the name “Marini” which is Swahili for the same. I instantly fell in love with it.”
Armed with prior experience in setting up her design and branding company Brandvine (now run by business partner Niyati Patel), Michelle was no stranger to running a new business of her own. Speaking to She leads Africa on her initial challenges, she explains:
“The hardest part was getting the start-up capital for this, but I knew the most important “capital” I needed was the passion and fire in my belly. I believed in myself, and the doors slowly opened after several “No’s” from lots of lending institutions and banks. With a few savings and my mother’s help, we found a way.
“When I approached a few cosmetic scientists, most told me that the natural hair and skin market is not quite ready in Africa. Rather, I was advised to go for generic, synthetic products which “sell more and have higher margins.”
“I had a set focus and vision in mind and to me it was producing 100% natural products with no compromise on quality. Fortunately, a few formulators and one factory believed and shared in my vision, and the rest followed.”
Since Launching in October 2015, its growing popularity and soaring sales in East Africa has attracted the likes of CNN and other prominent African media outlets wanting to discover more about Marini Naturals. Through Media exposure, the business has flourished and garnered lots of attention from African consumers in the disapora. This year, Marini Naturals is poised to break even. Having gained a massive social media following, Michelle speaks on the importance of reining in oneself amidst the excitement of growth and exposure.
“To be honest, the way people make you feel as though you have made it – is completely false. I mean, people will read about me in the Business Daily and think I have made it. I haven’t. You should see my humble beginnings; we are selling from a tent! This is not glam. This is how it starts and so much goes into it, but when people see you in the media, they think this is it. It can’t be that easy, surely.” She says.
With a strong team of eleven fresh, young, passionate and energetic individuals, Michelle hopes to take on the rest on Africa first by establishing Marini Naturals as the No.1 hair care line for all women with natural hair. With a desire to see her products on supermarket shelves and leading beauty stores both in Africa and globally, there is still a lot of work to do.
“We’re considering exciting new products from Marini Naturals. We believe men, kids and even our dreadlocked brothers and sisters need to be taken care of too! There has been a lot of demand from these markets and we are working on something fantastic for them. We hope for this brand to slowly and steadily be one of Africa’s premier beauty products for natural hair and skin.”
Considering the challenges that may come with operating in Africa, Michelle has some words for African Leaders:
“If I had the opportunity to have a serious sit-down with banks and our leaders, I’d encourage them to believe in young entrepreneurs.”
“Entrepreneurs have a fire and a passion like no one else does because they have their entire future ahead of them and the determination to make it is ten-fold. I’d tell them to help us realise our business ideas, rather than shut the doors on our face at the mention of supporting our start-ups.”
With an impressive CV to hand, (First Class Honours BA Design Communication UoN; top overall student globally in chartered post-graduate diploma, CIM, UK; top overall student in Kenya for post-graduate diploma in marketing, CIM 2007/2008 and in 2010 and more), we wish for Marini Naturals to thrive.
To follow Michelle’s Journey, please visit: