20 Jun Success Meets Hardwork: Mahawa Kamara of The Soap Connoisseur
When Mahawa Kamara’s job contract was not renewed due to her maternity leave, the young mother had to devise new strategies to make a living. She had already tried her hands on starting several businesses but none felt right. When she could not find the right soap for her one year old at the time, she decided to try her hands on soap making. After several research, trial and error, Mahawa was able to make the right soap for her daughter. She then decided to share it with her local church who loved it. From there, she turned the soap making into a business called The Soap Connoisseur. Today, she teaches people about healthy skin, provides personal body care tips, makes soap to cure several skin diseases and also teaches entrepreneurs and small businesses how to strengthen their core value proposition.
Please tell us about your business.
I have my main business which is The soap Connoisseur. It is a specialist organic toiletries company based in London. we specialise in creating soaps and personal body care products. The company started five years ago whilst I was on maternity leave and I needed something other than the usual to bath my daughter, I discovered soapmaking and embarked on this journey of building a manufacturing company.
I also have a side business, which developed as I grew The soap Connoisseur and that is as a business consultant. I help entrepreneurs, small business owners and organisations strengthen their core value proposition to maximise profits and scale there business operations. I have an MSc in International business management and have a love for business development and bringing ideas to life. I run business modelling and design workshops that support entrepreneurs to build the business they love.
What made you decide to embark on soap making?
I didn’t have a job as my contract had ended following being on maternity leave, and I had tried starting several businesses, this one felt more like a calling. I prayed over the idea, did my research and found out what the market and industry was like. I started slowly and kept doing my research. Over time my confidence grew, I started making soaps and selling them at my local church. I then took out a small loan to get me started and have never looked back.
What influenced your decision to become an entrepreneur?
I was 24 years old, returning to London after a broken marriage, I had no job and a one year old to look after. In that time God had given me this idea, and entrepreneurship became my saving grace, it was an idea given to me by God himself and I ran with it. So, I would say it is my gift from God
To what do you attribute your success?
Faith. My faith has carried me through all types of circumstances and situations. So my faith is what has kept me going.
Lack of capital is often cited as one of the most challenging parts of being an African entrepreneur. How were you able to fund your business?
Yes. It is a big problem. I took out a Start up loan in the UK which was a small amount to get me going. Ever since I have self-funded and reinvested sales back into the business.
What piece of advice would you give to other Africans just starting out?
Believe in your idea and take ownership of it. Remember it is your idea God gave it you, so it means you have everything required to bring it to life.
Do your research, know your stuff be the expert not just in your business but also the industry in which your business sits in.
Have you eyes on the big prize, but take the small steps necessary to build your dream. And never ever give up on your dreams.
What are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve made? How did you recover?
OMG! Where do I start. Everything has been a learning process. one of my biggest was when I wanted a website and the developer built me a site that didn’t have a checkout basket. We then got into a dispute, which made him close my website without my knowledge. I lost sales and customers and it hit me hard as I was only six months into business then, I had spent all the funding I had received on the website and now it was shut down. I was shattered.
But it made, it forced me to really take ownership of my business, I went back and reviewed my business model and built one. I redefined my business mission and brand message. I then learnt how to manage domains and build a website and ended up building the corporate site. I have gained so much from that process, that I can it was one of the best things to happen to me looking back. That I now offer those lessons as part of my business development workshops.