As South African celebs collect their goodie bags at the SAMA awards this weekend, Lebo Mphela, a 24-year-old from Pretoria, will be smiling from ear to ear. This is because, just four months after she started her own nail polish business named Malia, she has managed to get it included as one of the gifts that guests at the SAMAs will be receiving in their goodie bags.
So when I visit Lebo, I expect to be greeted by the strong smell of nail polish, splatters of varnish all over the place, and a team of people moving around and mixing stuff. Instead, the place is spotless, and only a few Malia Nail polish bottles on the table betray the fact that this house is where she makes her products.
From politics and PR, to making beauty products
Lebo studied politics and international relations, and worked at a PR agency soon after. While she was there, she thought of starting her own nail polish range. “I didn’t even know how to get started,” she says. “I eventually realised that I wanted to do what I really love. I think I’m an entrepreneur at heart because even though I had a good job in Joburg, I took the risk of quitting my job and moving back home so that I could start this business.”
It took a while to get the right mixture
While doing her research, Lebo found that it was nearly impossible to find the ingredients she needed to make her product, as most of the suppliers were based overseas. But she persisted. “After a whole year of doing research,” she says, “I found a lady online who owns a factory that supplies the ingredients I needed. I knew I wanted to be involved with every aspect of the creation of the nail polish, and the factory I found allowed me to do that.” Lebo says she tried many different methods, including mixing baby oil and hair conditioner, before she finally had a product she was satisfied with.
On the future
As she paints my nails with one of the pre-made bottles, she tells me about her future plans, and how she would like Malia to launch a few more products. “I would eventually like to have my own studio where people can come in and create their own nail polish colours.” Lebo admits that her experience in the PR industry, and having access to a large pool of influential contacts has been a major factor in the growth of Malia.
To find out more information about Malia, and to place your orders, visit the Malia Nail Care Facebook page.
Images by Tumelo Mabuza