Name: Mahawa Kamara
Job title: Founder and Creative Director at The Soap Connoisseur
Time in current role: 3 years
Mahawa is the founder of skincare brand The Soap Connoisseur. Visit thesoapconnoisseur.com for products.
Why did you decide to start your business?
I started about three years ago when I had my daughter. She had dry skin and I decided to find a solution for her, so I kind of stumbled across soap making and decided to explore it. That was when I realised I had a product that I could develop.
At the time I was on maternity leave and didn’t really have a job to go back to so I started off by teaching myself how to make the products for a year, just learning, giving my friends and family samples, and developing formulations. The following year I decided to launch the product. Once I launched in 2015 I went back and did a skincare course so I’m actually a skincare specialist now.
What are the key functions of your role?
Well, I’m the Creative Director and I do most of the other roles. I’ve got a Finance Manager but in terms of production I’m still taking on most stuff.
It’s a manufacturing company so I manufacture the products and market them. I network a lot, trying to get new business, making new connections and finding new partnerships and ways to grow.
Talk us through your typical working day
I try to start at 5am as there’s always work to do – that way I can pray and have time to myself just to think about what I’m going to do for the day. I use the Daily Greatness planner which is great. After that I’ll try to put a social media post together, then I get on to my email, and then my day breaks because my daughter wakes up and I get her ready for nursery.
Once I’ve dropped her off I come back home and then jump on the tasks for the day. So if it’s a day when I’m trying to sort out the website I’ll book that in for the morning, then take a break before trying to bring in production or finance.
If I’m doing an event that weekend I’ll start planning on a Tuesday or Thursday at the latest, so I’ll need to make sure I’ve got enough stock. Then the day breaks again and I have to pick up my daughter, bring her home, then have two or three hours of dinner and family time. I try to put her to bed at 8pm and spend some time with my partner. Sometimes what I’ll do is end the day there and take a nap, and set my alarm for 4am to wake up and start over again.
Your favourite part of the job?
Definitely production. Making the products and having people tell me how well they’ve worked is the best part.
…and the part you could do without?
Cash flow and numbers (laughs). Having to learn that part of it was quite difficult but it’s so important because that’s really the reality of your business.
How would your staff and clients describe you in three words?
Passionate, knowledgeable, dreamer.
Plans for the future?
We’re looking to expand into the retail market as well as the wedding market. I’ll also be
refining our packaging and product offering.
I just launched ‘skin talk’ which is a Facebook live session where we talk about products and I give skincare advice. I’m also looking to launch a YouTube channel.
Do you have any advice for other aspiring entrepreneurs?
– Definitely do you research and get to know your market so you understand what you’re really getting into.
– Do a business plan, even if you don’t go for funding. That was one of things that always helped me, because I always had something to go back to.
– Don’t be afraid of the numbers. LLY