Starting a business is a daunting task. I chatted to Monique Fleming a young female entrepreneur who has braved the world of male grooming and is being richly rewarded for it. I am both inspired
and impressed by how simple she makes it seem to start a business. By combining her her passion for hair dressing and her love for her husbands’ beard with pragmatic business principles she has created a Proudly South African brand. Bonafide Beards is a complete beard grooming range. The products are handcrafted using all natural, organic products.
What inspired the creation of Bonafide Beards?
My husband Joe was my inspiration. He started growing his beard early last year but it got to a point where it was not only irritating him because his skin was itchy and dry but it began irritating me because the hair became wiry which hurt my face and it began to develop a not so pleasant aroma that assaulted my nose. I love facial hair, so him shaving his gorgeous man-mane was not an option for us and neither was importing the products from America as it was too costly. So I set out to find and buy the products here in SA but to no avail. After some intensive research I soon realised that most of the products being produced overseas were being handmade by enterprising individuals and I thought “if they can, then so can I”. The first batch was meant to be Joe’s gift but after he raved about how amazing it made his beard feel, I thought it was only fitting to share the love with other bearded beauties and so the business was born.
How did you fund the business in the beginning?
I initially invested R1300 that I used to buy materials and ingredients to make my first batch of products. Each time I sold anything I simply plowed the money back into the business to purchase more stock. I was fortunate enough to have some money saved up that I used to pay for Facebook advertising, as well as to pay for stalls at flea markets to create awareness for the brand and to help us through the early “dry” stages.
What is your career background? Have you had experience with such products? I ask because most people don’t just whip up a hair product – but it seems to have come easily to you.
I have a diploma in Marketing and PR and spent my working career trying to find my place in the corporate world but my real passion lay in Hairdressing.
I attended a part time hair extension course 7 years ago and fell in love with the industry. I quit my day job and began doing hair extensions. There came a time though when the quality of hair began to change and I could no longer trust my supplier or how they were sourcing the hair. It was a scary time as it was my main (small) source of income and I could no longer, with a clear conscious, supply my clients with bad hair.
Luckily for me, the universe had other plans and that’s when my husband began growing his beard.
Too many small businesses fail not because they were a bad idea but because they failed to market themselves, how did you overcome this obstacle.
My husband (@sotallrightnow) and I (@monabean74) are very active on all Social Media platforms, FB, IG & Twitter (that’s actually how we met but that’s another story completely) so we used our knowledge of this and began creating brand awareness content for each of these platforms. It didn’t cost us much and because we’re pretty active and engaged with our audience, we began creating a wonderful rapport with them pretty quickly. We also made “customer service” part of our marketing strategy and all of this encouraged positive word-of- mouth reviews and as a result we have gained a vast group of loyal and very supportive men and women who spread the “Bonafide” word for us.
What are the major challenges you have faced?
I was probably my own worst enemy and once I got out of my own way and believed in myself and believed that I could make a success of this little business, the challenges I faced after that, like setting up a website for an ecommerce store; finding a courier company that I could rely on; finding suppliers of containers & ingredients at wholesale prices seemed somehow manageable.
We sought the help of a business coach to keep us guided and were very fortunate to receive the help of an amazing entrepreneur who had all the knowledge we needed and who assisted us with the setup of our online store. The challenge I currently face is finding a few more extra hours in a day!
A woman creating men’s grooming products? Has this come with perks and challenges?
I was not taken very seriously at first by my competitors or by some of my customers because “what does a chick know about beards” but when I started passing on valuable information to men about their beards that they didn’t even know, they started to listen and ask more questions and when I could answer those questions, then they listened even more. It was very empowering. The perk of this journey for me has been about education. Educating men and women (who love beards) that they don’t have to suffer through discomfort, bad smells or wild man cave beards; that it is ok to take care of yourself (as a man) or as a woman to encourage your man to take care of himself. The days of there being a stigma attached to men who look after themselves are dead and buried.
On a lighter note, beards have become very trendy as of late, why do you think that is?
Beards became a trend quite a while ago and have now actually become more a lifestyle choice rather than being trendy to have. The trend setters have moved on and they have left a wonderful group of individuals who have embraced their inner cavemen and broken away from the norm, in a society that traditionally frowned upon beards, especially in corporate environments.
Plans for the future?
We recently launched a new range called Bonafide Faces that we will expand upon next year. We are also opening a physical retail store at the beginning of 2016, that will incorporate space for a barber, production area for product manufacture and office space for admin.
Any advice for female entrepreneurs?
My advice for any entrepreneur is trust your gut. If you have any doubt get out but fight for it if it feels right. Find leaders in your field that can assist you and ASK for help, 99.9% of time, you’ll get it.
A business coach is a great investment that can guide you in the right direction and give you invaluable advice.
Ladies, if you love your man’s mane and would love to treat him to some Bonafide Beards products email us your name, address and contact details at firstname.lastname@example.org to stand a chance to win a Bonafide Beards hamper valued at R1200. Also be sure to follow us on social media.