A year ago, 25-year-old Mphela – Director and founder of Malia Nail Care – would never have imagined that she’d be running her own nail care range.

She admits that she’s always had a keen interest in her nails, from choosing colours to match her outfit to extensive nail care. “My love for nail polish and having been through a few bad experiences with the likes of  acrylics paved the way for this dream”, says Mphela. “I was always looking for new ways to maintain my own nails.”

Enter Malia Nail Care. According to Mphela, the idea of starting her own nail care brand came about two years ago when she started doing research.

She tells DESTINY: “I saw a gap in what I found interesting, viewed it as a challenge and grabbed it. I’ve been doing research about how I can get the best kind of products and even make them myself. Eventually, I started conceptualising all this research.” And that’s how Malia Nail Care was born.

Currently, Mphela heads a team of three: herself as the Director, a salesperson and a graphic designer. She will be employing a marketing person very soon.

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The young entrepreneur is quite hands-on with the making of the product. In the beginning, she learnt about the two main ingredients need to create nail colour – suspension base, clear nail polish and nail powders. Mphela didn’t have the necessary machinery to create everything all at once, so she got a company that deals in manufacturing beauty products to help. “I sit down with them and we conceptualise. They also have a hand in seasonal fashion and beauty trends, which is always quite helpful,” she says.

The name Malia was inspired by women who own their lives. The nail colours are named after queens, princesses, warriors and other influential women from African history who took pride in looking good.

“If you as a woman have control over certain things, own it. Take ownership of looking good, feeling great and being healthy at the same time.”

Mphelatrades from her website, malianailcare.com, where she also offers users nail care advice, ie what to eat or drink, how to file your nails etc.

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Malia Nail Care has already been through the hands of Joburg’s A-listers, being part of the South African Music Awards (Samas) goodie bag experience.

She says: “Having worked on the Samas previously on the PR front, I have built a network which made it so much easier for me. Apart from having my product in the hands of key trendsetters, being able to liaise with other brands was an amazing experience. I believe that we have to learn how to help the next person.”

Besides including the nail colour in the goodie bag, the team made the experience interactive on the day by laying out the colours and giving the stars the chance to create their own winter nail wardrobe.

As a start-up entrepreneur, Mphela admits that one of her biggest challenges is distribution because salons and spas are brand loyal. “Being loyal a good thing, but it doesn’t make room to introduce upcoming brands,” she adds.

Malia Nail Care

“I don’t see it as competition, I see it as expansion – being open to the new.”

Mphela also believes that local entrepreneurship deserves a bigger scope in SA.

What are her future plans? Mphela is hoping to expand to great horizons with a bigger product range that is organic-based.

“Eventually, I would love to open a nail bar, too!” she adds.