Brains and boldness in beauty business

Sonto Pooe is truly an inspiring young woman. At the age of 30 she is the founder and owner of Phytospa, a company that manufactures and supplies body care spa products.

Sonto Pooe is truly an inspiring young woman. At the age of 30 she is the founder and owner of Phytospa, a company that manufactures and supplies body care spa products.

A qualified cosmetic scientist and a member of the executive council for the Society of Cosmetic Chemists of South Africa, Pooe launched her company last year and is already making her presence felt in beauty circles with her wide range of products.

Sowetan'sKhanyisile Nkosi had a one-on-one with Pooe to found out more about her:

Q: What did you do before you started the business?

A: I studied quantity surveying after I got a bursary. I realised that what I had chosen was far from who I am but I continued with my studies and worked in the field for four years, after which I quit to follow my heart. My passion has always been hair and beauty. I love the concept of looking and feeling your best. I used the money I saved while working to study cosmetic science.

Q: What does your business entail?

A: Phytospa manufactures products such as bath and shower gel, body lotion, conditioning shampoo, home spa products and gift packages for individuals, corporate companies and the hospitality industry.

Q: Why this line of business?

A: It is what makes my heart sing. It is what makes me excited to wake up every morning. It also has lots of room for growth.

Q: What makes Phytospa distinct?

A: We use organic essential oils which contribute to the body's healing by helping it relax and rejuvenate itself. We've also introduced bath accessories to enhance the experience.

Q: How did you finance it?

A: It was through a combination of things. Personal savings, Gauteng Enterprise Propeller, who did my marketing material and website, and a grant from South African Breweries.

Q: What challenges did you encounter when you started?

A: Finance. This challenge was almost crippling because I don't come from a wealthy family. Sourcing packaging and raw materials at reasonable prices was, and still is, a challenge to a certain extent. If you don't have the financial muscle to buy in bulk, the end product will not be competitively priced. But, through networking over time, this problem can be overcome.

I overcame rental overheads by working from home.

Q: Who are your clients?

A: Anyone who wants to pamper herself or himself or others by enjoying a spa experience from the privacy of their home. Hotels, guest houses, bed and breakfasts, and companies are also my clients.

Q: Is it easy to get clients?

A: It's not easy to convince people to try something new. But, the response has been great and most of the business I get is through word of mouth.

Q: What keeps you going?

A: The fire within me and living as an example that anything you set your mind to can be done.

Q: Was there a time when you felt like giving up?

A: There were definitely times when it felt like I'm not going anywhere but I did not give up.

Q: What does one need to get into this business?

A: First and foremost, education. You must have the know-how to make it. When I did the Cosmetic Science Diploma I learnt about various aspects of manufacturing, the importance of safety when manufacturing products for skin and also the laws that govern manufacturing.

Secondly, you must have passion for this type of business.