I love Twitter! Along with funny memes, it’s become a platform where I consume a lot of my news and find out about cool events. A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled across the Launch of UK Black Tech, hosted at the very impressive BloombergLondon offices.
The occasion was fitting of the venue.
I didn’t know what to expect, but listened attentively to the UK Black Tech team as they laid out their 100 Year Plan –building an inclusive tech economy and unlocking cultural diversity. The aim is to have a burgeoningonline space, where tech individuals and digital business are given tools they need to thrive, in one of the most dynamic industries in the world.
For most of us, seeing someone we can relate to can be a catalyst for igniting a passion within, that could otherwise stay dormant. The UK Black Teach team, have carved out their own careers within the tech industry and are keen to lend a helping hand to others.
An extension of this ethos is the #FacesLikeMecampaign, encouraging black tech professionals to use the hashtag stating their tech occupation. This increased visibility along with the support UK Black Tech offers to digital entrepreneurs and tech professionals, aims to diversify the UK tech industry socially and economically.
It was an inspiring evening where young (8–16 year-olds) entrepreneurs gave the audience insight into their startups. We heard how Chocoria is taking her chocolate spread to South Africa, FinTech platforms helping teenagers manage money and improve their financial literacy and Roadman Central, a sportswear price comparison site.
Technology is all about interactivity and UK Black Tech is no different! To understand the needs of those they aim to help, they’ve launched a survey. I’ve already filled it out and you can too, right here. There are also opportunities to get involved and offer your own skills; find out how.
I was frustrated with the lack of quality products for natural hair and the poor customer service experienced when buying products. So I took things in to my own hands and started TreasureTress UK in November 2015, says Jamelia Donaldson, Founder.
I met Jamelia at an African Technology Business Network (ATBN) event focussed on up and coming online businesses. Jamelia was on the panel and I thought the concept of her business was perfect for my blog, so I asked for an interview to find out more! It wasn’t easy to match up our schedules so we settled for a telephone interview. On a cold January night in London this was the best (and warmest) option. Despite her car being broken into (but not stolen), Jamelia still showed up for the call, so we jumped straight in…
Women are at the forefront of this latest natural movement; but children seem to be at the heart of TreasureTress?
Initially TreasureTress was supposed to be for young girls because I wanted my niece to grow up knowing how to take care of her natural hair. I only learnt how to take care of my natural hair at university and didn’t want her to wait that long before feeling comfortable with her hair texture.
“We focus on young girls as a starting point for everything we do. There is already lots of natural hair information for women. Young girls are growing up in an era where they are susceptible to social media; which also represents an opportunity to engage them to celebrate natural hair.”
Who else does TreasureTress cater for?
There’s a monthly ‘Mini-Me’ subscription box for young girls, aged 2-9 years. After so much positive response from older women we expanded the range, creating two additional boxes for ‘Tweens’ aged 10-18 years and for the ‘Qweens’ aged 19 years and older.
How does TreasureTress work?
You can subscribe throughout the year. If you order your box before the third of any month, you’ll receive it within that month, otherwise it will come the following month. It’s a rolling subscription, renewing every month but you’re notified about this via email. You can cancel or pause your subscription at any time, so if you’re on holiday or don’t need products each month you can pause and continue later. We also educate, by sending weekly newsletters and information cards.
“The relationship with our subscribers is quite intimate; there’s a constant dialogue”.
What products are in the TreasureTress boxes?
I have regular conversations with our subscribers about what they think of the service and useful products. Based on the feedback, I decide which products go into the box each month which usually comprises, a shampoo, conditioner, two styling products such as a gel and oil/serum.
Beyond the subscription boxes, how do you engage with your customers?
Last year we launched the Mini-Me VIP Tea Party, for ages 2-11 years. We invite mothers and their daughters to central London for Afternoon Tea. It’s so nice for young black / mixed-race girls to experience having Afternoon Tea with their mothers – something they may not do regularly. We also discuss hair and do product demonstrations.
Our Mini-Me VIP Tea Parties, sell out all the time. Mothers have said how positive it’s for their daughters to be in an environment with other little girls who look like them, celebrating their hair.
Why the name ‘TreasureTress’?
It’s a play on words [‘treasure chest’]. I want women and girls to treasure their tresses / hair. Getting to know your natural hair and discovering new products is an adventure. When you think of treasure: luxury, gems, gold and diamonds come to mind and I want our subscribers to value their hair in the same way.
What’s the TreasureTress ethos?
Our tag line is ‘the hunt is over’, we’re helping women find products that work for them, through a luxurious customer experience. A lot of thought goes into the box presentation.
“Growing up, I was always obsessed with hair but didn’t have access to the products and YouTube wasn’t around back then”.
Do you operate only in the UK?
That was the idea, but we now have subscribers in the Middle East, America and the rest of Europe, especially France.
Do you work with British haircare brands?
We work with British and American, established and new brands. I use brands that I’m familiar with and tried myself. I’m always on the hunt for new brands and ask for samples to try before recommending.
“I had a few years of being a product junkie, which set me up perfectly for this business!”
The main highlight of running TreasureTress?
There are so many, but is has to be the Mini-Me VIP Tea Parties.
The biggest lesson you’ve learnt?
Trusting my instincts. I worked in finance and tried to build TreasureTress at the same time, but I knew finance wasn’t my purpose. I was saving money and set a deadline of when I’d be working for myself and be in charge of my own time. I stuck to that deadline!
What’s in store for 2017?
Hopefully more collaborations and there will be more Mini-Me VIP Tea Parties.
We’ll be launching our first event for teenagers (Tweens) in April this year, it won’t be a tea party but we’re still working on the format. We’re not hosting hair events just for the sake of it, there’s always a deeper message behind what we do.
Yes, we are still talking about this issue, why? Because it’s still an issue! There has been an effort by big brands to make foundations for darker skin tones. In 2014, Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o became the first black ambassador for Lancôme. In 2016 L’Oréal UK launched #YoursTruly campaign, where they expanded their foundation range covering 23 shades.
Iman face powder has been my staple for years, I love it! Before using it I didn’t wear face powder as I never found a shade I was completely happy with. Even when I had acne, I didn’t wear makeup partly because I didn’t have confidence I’d find my shade but also because I didn’t want to add anything else to my already troubled skin.
It’s good that big brands are expanding their ranges, but I don’t think we should just give our money to them on a plate. There are other brands which have included products for darker skin tones a part of their core ethos and we should be supporting them too!
L’Oréal was established in 1909, and in 2016 they expanded their range. Hmmm…ok, I guess as the saying goes “better late than never”, can be applied here?
According to the UK Greeting Card Association, in 2015 we spent around £1.7 billion on greeting cards. We sent £564 million worth of birthday cards to each other, with Christmas Single Cards accounting for more than 10% of total retail value for all cards.
Cards are definitely popular in the UK; they’re a personal way to communicate a message. But is it always easy to find the right greeting card?
It was my sister’s birthday and I was looking for a card with a young black female on it. After trawling most of the big high street card shops, I couldn’t find one, Says Nicola Lespeare of www.nicolalespeare.com. There are cards out there for black people, but they’re not always easy to find and can sometimes look a little old fashioned. So, I decided to create a solution to my own problem!
Tell us about your latest business venture
Nicola Lespeare is a new greetings card brand, showcasing illustrations designed by me, of mainly black women. However, my Christmas collection, launching on 14th November, does include a black Santa and kids…Santa’s little helpers!
I’ve already had people ask, “What about the black guys?!” I’m open to designing male illustrations and other family members but as I’m at the experimental stage with designs, I’m paying attention to what customers like before creating new designs.
When did you start your business?
From inception of the idea in July this year, I officially launched on 4th September 2016, it was a crazy 6 weeks!
You’re originally from Nottingham why did you move to London?
After the recession, job opportunities were few and far between in the property industry. I came to London 5 years ago for new opportunities.
How did you start your business?
Although I have a background in fashion illustration, I was a little daunted. I’ve never run a business before. I designed my first collection of cards, emailed my friends to spread the word, and received fantastic feedback!
What is fashion illustration?
Sketching garments on models, using personal drawing techniques to make the outfit look stylish. I can also pattern cut and make garments too, but I’ve been there, done that and ready to try something new.
How did you get started as an illustrator?
After graduating in Fashion Design a while back, I freelanced for a few years before working full time in a variety of office based roles to support myself. I’ve been in Operations Management for a few years but now want to return to my creative roots. I have no intention of going back to fashion design, but started drawing again. I didn’t foresee designing cards so it’s been a brilliant discovery for me.
I read a book called, ‘Be a Free Range Human’, which talks about remembering the passions of your younger self. Mine was drawing, so I went to a stationary shop got some pens and started drawing again.
The most challenging thing about running your business?
Setting up a website! I didn’t know anything about buying a domain name, finding a host etc. When first designing the cards, I realised that water colours didn’t photograph or print well. I had to work out how to make the illustrations pop and look great, which involved a lot of trial and error. Working full time while setting up a business is never easy, but I’m determined to make the business a success.
I went on a steep learning curve; I wasn’t even on social media at the time!
The main highlight of running your business?
Selling my first card! I was so excited when I got my first order via social media. Overall, the whole journey has been a highlight, especially as I set it up in a short space of time and the response has been amazing reaching all the way to NYC!
What’s the nicolalespeare.com ethos?
To design memorable celebration cards reflecting aspects of black culture, characteristics and trends. My vision is to become a brand synonymous with high quality black celebration cards, where people of African/Caribbean heritage can choose from a diverse collection of cards & gifts for every occasion.
Do you do bespoke cards?
Not yet, but I’m considering doing personalised cards in the future.
Any exciting developments?
There’s a wedding and Valentine’s Day collection coming in the New Year, which I can’t wait to start working on.
Where can we get your cards?
On my website nicolalespeare.com. Cards are posted within 24hrs all over the world; prices start at £2.49.
Any other card illustrators that inspire you?
I try not to look at what other card designers are doing, I want to maintain my own creative style. I’m inspired by anything around me…a piece of fabric, a person’s hairstyle that I’ll see on the bus, hot air balloons – which helped inspire the first collection.
Do you have any tips on starting a business?
Your social media game needs to be on point! It’s easy to become insular and paranoid that someone will steal your idea if you put it out there, but share it with friends and family because you need feedback. Most ideas are alterations of what’s been done in the past, but only you can put your own unique spin on it. What’s most important is that you act and keep progressing to reach your goals.
Good hair…hmm.. two simple words that have caused controversy on social media in recent times. But what is good hair?!
You can define it however you want; I think it starts with healthy hair, says Oyin, Founder of The Good Hair Club (TGHC). In the black hair community, unfortunately it’s still defined as having a specific (looser) curl pattern, but perceptions are changing with this latest natural hair movement.
What is TGHC?
An online platform with (at the moment) independent British hair care brands, that compliment natural hair. TGHC is about being good to yourself, your hair and the world – while defining beauty on your own terms.
Why was TGHC started?
From March 2015 I lived in Nigeria for a while and decided to shave my hair off. It was just too hot! I came back to London, and chose not to relax my hair again. When my hair was relaxed I didn’t think about the damage these chemicals could cause or even considered how to look after my hair properly.
What was it like for you looking for natural hair products?
I found so many amazing (independent) brands catering for natural hair. However, they weren’t always easy to find, as they don’t always have the distribution channels to reach customers.
We don’t have to settle for products which damage our hair and scalp!
When was TGHC launched?
June 2016, with a photography exhibition showcasing the diversity of black women. Prior to launch I did a lot of research, speaking to friends and family about where TGHC could add value in the market place.
Do you think the UK natural hair market is growing?
Yes! Social media has provided black beauty bloggers/vloggers the opportunity to create a fun space for tools/advice; and visual evidence of what can be achieved with natural afro/curly hair.
There is proof that natural hair isn’t IMPOSSIBLE to maintain. Women are wearing their natural hair with pride.
How do you decide which brands to feature on TGHC?
Along with looking at brand reviews, I talk to the brand owners to understand if their values are in line with the TGHC ethos. I’m not limited to British brands, but this is where I’m starting.
A large proportion of black haircare businesses in the UK are owned by Asian or Middle Eastern men, why do you think this is?
I don’t know. It’s the same in America. Black people need to empower and support each other and build our own establishments. When I went natural and visited these shops, I realised that we settle for an experience that isn’t about us (even though we are the main consumers). I’m a black woman and believe I have a better idea of black beauty needs, compared to an Asian man.
I want to create an experience that is fun, exciting, fashionable and beauty-led.
Most popular products on TGHC?
Moisture is key for healthy hair, so conditioners are popular, especially with the rise of co-washing. Soap bars and oils are also near the top of the list.
Autumn is upon us, any product recommendations?
I recommend them all! It’s about finding what works for your hair type. The natural hair journey is an individual one. Products used in colder months may be different from what you use in the summer.
Exciting developments we can look out for?
I’ve got an international project coming in 2017; I won’t say much at the moment, but watch this space. I’m also planning on bringing more amazing brands to TGHC.
Any natural hair inspirations?
Of course! Solange is the embodiment of the care free black girl. Lupita Nyong’o has challenged western beauty ideas. Most importantly, both have fun with their hair.
Solange scored her first #1 Album (A Seat at the Table) a few weeks ago.
Good hair, don’t care! You can check out TGHC to find out more.
Kantanka cars made in Ghana. Yes that’s right. An African company manufacturing cars in Africa. The name ‘Kantanka’ doesn’t roll off the tongue like BMW, Toyota, and Mercedes, which is understandable. These brands have been driven for decades all over the world – including in Africa. So can the new kid on the block make a dent in the tough exterior of the global automobile industry from a corner in West Africa?
According to the Africa Report, inflation in Ghana was around 18.5% in February 2016. Unsurprisingly the Bank of Ghana is part of an IMF programme on job creation and economic growth. For developing countries to move up the development index, home grown businesses, whether it be manufacturing, agriculture or services, are key.
The road to production has been long, with inception of Kantanka cars starting in the 1970’s. The Brain child of Kwadwo Safo, Kantanka cars are being rolled onto public roads in Ghana by his son, CEO Kwadwo Safo Jr, who is determined to make Kantanka a household name.
Unfortunately, the $18,000 to $35,000 price tag maybe out of reach for the average Ghanaian, but some businesses and the Ghana police service have started to use the cars. In a country which imports more foreign goods than it should, due to the fledging manufacturing industry in Ghana and the perception that foreign products are ‘better’ than domestic products, Kantanka has a lot of (PR) work to do! Also, at the moment the Kantanka factory can only produce around 100 cars a month.
Some Ghanaians who can afford it are willing to buy homemade cars BUT want solid evidence that the cars can match up to international cars.
Kantanka want the “Made in Ghana” tag to become a slogan of pride and has developed cars for the domestic market. It is the first car brand to be designed and manufactured in Ghana.
Ghanaians are employed at the Safo Technology Research Centre located between Gomoa Mpota and Gomoa Asebu, just outside the capital Accra. Apparently, the research centre is located on part of the land acquired by Ghana’s first president, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. The wood from the dashboard is sourced from Ghanaian forests and the leather seats are manufactured in Ghana’s second city – Kumasi.
Safo Jr. has big ambitions for the Kantanka brand and has already used African movie and music stars to test the cars. These African cars are for sale, watch this space.