This Black History month we want to continue to champion the work of Britain’s black female entrepreneurs and celebrate our black-female founders in our community. We caught up with Okiki Skincare , a West African-inspired, cruelty free, handmade natural skincare and homeware brand run by Ade and her daughter, Antonia.
Ade started the business in 2016, as a way of feeling connected to her heritage and her mother who used to make soaps in Lagos. Antonia was at university when the business started, and used to wake up at 6am on Saturdays to go with her mother to markets. She’d push her mother to increase her prices to reflect the quality of the soaps she was creating, and worked on the packaging and branding while her mother broadened their range of products.
Lockdown and redundancy
During lockdown, when Antonia was made redundant from her job in corporate finance, she took the chance to jump into working full-time on Okiki. She quickly built them a website, allowing them to take online orders and make more than what they used to at markets.
“We’ve bonded even more during lockdown – I’ve moved home and the business is doing so well and I spend the day working across the table from her,” Antonia says.
Okiki itself means “prestigious” in Yoruba
As Black entrepreneurs, Ade and Antonia love to celebrate their heritage in their products, many of which are named after family members. The name Okiki itself means “prestigious” in Yoruba, as the founders want to celebrate the high-quality ingredients and marriage between Nigerian, Ghanaian and British influences. They also partner with One Tree Planted to plant a tree in Ghana for each candle they sell.
Okiki saw a huge increase in sales and features when the Black Lives Matter movement focused attention on Black Pound Day and similar initiatives, but Antonia wants to make sure the interest is long-term.
“We’re a Black-owned business, but people shouldn’t just support us for a cause. We’re also an amazing skincare brand!”
Hatch Female Founders Incubator
Antonia joined Hatch’s Female Founders Incubator to brush up on her technical and operational skills, including legal contracts and cash flow forecasting. She enjoys taking a day out every fortnight to go to workshops and learn new skills. “There’s a lot of hype about waking up and just being an entrepreneur,” Antiona says, “But there are a lot of areas I don’t have knowledge on.”
She also loves being around a supportive community of other women-led businesses. Connecting with other entrepreneurs has already brought benefits, including listing her products on The Do-Gooders, a platform run by another founder on the programme.
Looking to the future, Okiki wants to move into a warehouse so they can keep up with the volume of orders, and run a few pop-up shops – perhaps one day looking to get a physical space of their own.
Antonia’s advice for entrepreneurs is to know that the road is different for everyone. “It’s a bit of being prepared and it’s a bit of luck,” she says. Okiki was running for four years before they experienced their trajectory of growth during lockdown.
“If you believe in your idea and people are buying into it, keep on working on it.”
Discover more of their West-African inspired cruelty free, handmade natural skincare and homeware over at https://okikiskincare.co.uk