AKAN Organics is a 100% natural hair and skincare products using sustainably sourced raw materials from Africa and the diaspora.
We talk to founder, Akosua Koranteng, about her entrepreneurial journey.
A native Ghanaian, Koranteng was born in Accra and immigrated to South Africa with her parents when she was five. A passionate Pan-African, she says she understands that her heritage and destiny are inextricably linked to this continent.
After transitioning her own hair to its natural texture while in university, she realised that the local black haircare market lacked the natural ingredients and components her mother had used as a young woman.
So, she set about becoming a purveyor of the finest Shea Butter and African Black Soap Products sourced directly from Ghana.
“AKAN Organics is made in Africa by Africans, for Africans,” she says. “The business was launched in my small flat in Cape Town in February of 2016 and really embraced the lean start-up methodology of starting a business.”
Building a brand
Koranteng started the company by bottling her own shea butter, making her own branding in Powerpoint and printing the labels at a local shop.
“The biggest challenge in the early stages was getting to market. I sold my products mostly to my friends and then started my own market after being rejected by most of the local Cape Town markets,” she says.
Scaling the business also proved challenging. She sought help from her friends but experienced a blow to the business when one of her friends took her to the CCMA. “When you are building a start-up, it’s important to acknowledge that you can’t do everything on your own, but you must ensure that you have the right people supporting you.”
AKAN Organics products are currently available on Zando and other online retailers such as Essentially Natural and Beauty on Tapp. Koranteng recently opened her first retail space in Woodstock, Cape Town and plans to list her offering in more bricks and mortar retailers this year.
“We are also working with a shea processing cooperative in the north of Ghana to see how we can even further contribute to the lives of the women who make the amazing shea butter and black soap we use in our products. We are committed to sourcing on fairly traded and organic shea and hope to acquire the necessary certifications from the fair trade and organic boards in 2017,” she says.
With an honours degree in Finance from the University of Cape Town, Koranteng is currently pursuing a Masters degree in African Studies. “Having been born in Ghana and raised in South Africa I’m a first-hand witness to the power of cross-continental exchange and AKAN is a physical manifestation of the possibilities of that exchange. Now, traditional remedies from Ghana that my mother grew up using are available on the shelves in South Africa. This along with exchange of music, art and ideas is what I believe will open us up to the rest of Africa and mitigate social ills like xenophobia,” she concludes.
Koranteng’s advice for aspiring entrepreneurs:
- Just do it. I really believe in the lean start-up methodology. If you have a clear vision of something, you should pilot it on a very small and simple scale by using the bare minimum resources you have and the rest will follow.
- Have integrity in everything you do. Whether it relates to how you treat customers, your employees or your suppliers. You can make mistakes in a business, but if you don’t have integrity, your mistakes can destroy the reputation of your business.
- Aspiring entrepreneurs tend to sit on an idea and never execute it because they are waiting for the “perfect time”. I don’t think there is a perfect time; you just need vision, hard work and commitment to see through your idea.