Advocating for natural hair and body products: Profiling Mrs Ntombenhle Khathwane

Ntombenhle Khathwane

Mrs Ntombenhle Khathwane is featured by Forbes Magazine as one of the 30 most promising young Entrepreneurs in Africa 2016 and honoured as one of 100 Most Influential People of African Descent (MIPAD) in the Business and Entrepreneurship category.

We would like to introduce Mrs Ntombenhle Khathwane, the founder of  premium African brand 'AfroBotanics' that was inspired by the need for quality hair care products. Established in 2010, AfroBotanics was more of a reponse to Mrs Kathwane's frustrations resulting from not understanding her hair and realising that there weren’t enough high quality products in the South African market that were formulated to assist her to grow strong and healthy hair.

"During my visit to my grandmother, she had asked me to do her hair. She mixed Aloe vera gel with some natural oils and asked me to apply the mixture to her hair. Her hair was coarse, hard and dry like mine, but after applying the concoction, it immediately became soft. After returning home, I tried to recreate what she had made and finally I could enjoy my hair naturally because her mixture softened it so beautifully and from that moment I decided to launch in the natural hair-care industry," said Mrs Khathwane.

Khathwane started working on AfroBotanics in 2009 and by 2010, she begun developing and testing products. After winning a national pitching competition called Pitch & Polish, she has gained confidence in her idea. She quit her provincial government job that she held for eight years and used her pension to pay for a trip to the US to explore what they were doing and to speak with experts in trichology and dermatology about the best hair care products. After doing research on the best formulations, she came up with a premium product that was 100% natural. Following an extensive two-year testing period, AfroBotanics was established in Nelspruit in 2010 and by 2011 had established an online presence. However, later Khathwane moved to Johannesburg to promote her business.

AfroBotanics manufactures premium haircare products using African botanical oils and other natural products and formulas to care for the hair and limit damage as much as possible. It is also a goal for AfroBotanics to educate people on ingredients so that they can choose cosmetics the same way they choose food. Its main product lines are the super hair growth cream, conditioner and moisturiser with a leave-in-conditioner.

The haircare industry has grown and evolved with a huge variety of locally made products for natural hair. "Over time AfroBotanics has really grown. The company kicked off with seven products and now we have 12 hair products on the market. AfroBotanics' products are available in almost 300 stores of three retailers – Clicks, Pick n Pay and Game – and we’re in the process of getting into Edgars. We're also in eight African countries including Swaziland, Botswana, Zambia and Uganda. Furthermore we have started the listing process with Game stores for AfroBotanics natural bodycare products. At the moment, we have six bodycare products in total, but soon we will starting to manufacture shower gels and body butter creams. I want afroBotanics to the leading hair care brand in South Africa as well as the African continent. I would also love to be one of the first African brands to compete head-to-head in the US market," the savvy businesswoman elaborated.

Mrs Khathwane has been nationally and internationally recognised for  her outstanding work by different organisations. This entrepreneur has a post-graduate degree in Public Policy and Politics BA Politics & Philosophy. While getting into entrepreneurship she had no business skills but her research and writing skills helped her in market research and business planning. In 2012, she was in first cohort of the Goldman Sachs-GIBS 10,000 Women Programme. In 2014, she was awarded with Archbishop Tutu-Oxford University Leadership Fellowship and was the runner-up in the Standard Bank - SABC3 Think Big Competition.

She was named by Mail & Guardian among 200 Young Leaders and selected as Investec Young Treps (2015). She was also selected as the South African representative to spend a month in the USA as part of the AWEP Programme sponsored by the US government.

She said that recognition for Africans matters because we need representation: “Young people also need to see that it’s possible to really build something from nothing.”