Currently incubated in the makesense COMBO program, Awo is a determined entrepreneur who wants to make organic cosmetics inclusive through Awo Beauty.
FAIRE had the pleasure to meet and talk with her about her project.
Hello Awo, and thank you very much for granting us this interview! Could you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I came to France at a very tender age, and the transition was challenging. In Africa, we are friendly and hospitable to strangers. But when you come to France, you are shocked by the difference between what people show you about France and the way you are welcomed.
When I ask myself how I made this journey, I tell myself that I can never forget where I came from. At home, there is a ritual where before leaving, the family explains who you are and where you come from and tells you to rely on the education and values that were instilled in you to be able to integrate. Having this knowledge of yourself and your culture helps a lot in keeping an open mind and understanding how others function. Integrating myself while not forgetting where I come from has allowed me to move forward, to integrate, and even to put up with inappropriate phrases and the looks of others because I assumed that they did not know me.
I built my project around my heritage. I used the cleaning and bathing rituals that we had on weekends with my family, which I missed a lot. It was a moment of sharing where the elders taught the younger ones about self-care and also about taking ownership of their bodies and hair. In France, there is no such thing: many children with curly biracial hair, whose parents are unable to take care of them, end up in hair salons where they are advised to get their hair straightened. In the end, the child no longer knows who they are. So, I had the idea of helping these people take care of their hair and reclaim their identity.
What has been Awo Beauty’s journey , and where does it stand today?
In the beginning, I started with the idea of a beauty concept with workshops. The aim was to create a training school dedicated to the care of curly hair and African braids because there was no such school around. I had no intention of getting into the cosmetics industry, even though during my workshops, participants asked me for cosmetics under my brand in line with the advice I gave them instead of advising them on products from other product lines. I was and still am a IHS (Independent Home Seller) for a wellness product brand. Then, by chance, I met an organics laboratory, whose values I could identify with and was ready to come with me in this journey; so, I launched my cosmetic brand under the name Aconcept Beauty.
Today, I am in the middle of a mass reorganization and diversification. I've redesigned almost everything with a new name, a new website, and lots of new products and accessories. Having obtained my vocational training certificate ("CAP") in hairdressing three years ago, I braid and do artistic hairdressing. I have even been able to do some artistic hair shows. I am also in the process of expanding the cosmetic line to be able to offer an end-to-end care regimen for all hair types within the family. Parents are children's first references, and I believe it's essential that the product line is adapted to the whole family and that children learn about hair care by imitating their parents.
This is how the Awo Beauty brand was born!
Did you encounter any challenges during the development of your project? If so, what were these challenges?
Challenges abound! First of all, as an entrepreneur, secondly as a woman, and thirdly as a black woman! I had the idea of launching a training school and professionalizing my trade way back in 2012. I built my journey independently, and I pretty much started with only two products.
The biggest challenge was that no one believed in it and didn't care about my target clientele. People still have a hard time accepting the fact that we are not all the same. It was a project that was so close to my heart, and I thought: if I don't do it now, I will regret it. I was convinced that it was something that would work.
How do you envision Awo Beauty in the future?
We have started working on sales outlets to be able to reference our products in stores. However, in terms of the customer journey, not everyone has been identified in the beauty department, and the market for organic products still has some work to do to be more inclusive. I would like to be a reference brand for those aren’t represented, available in specialized stores or in supermarkets: that's what I want for myself.
How did you find out about the makesense COMBO program, and what benefits did you get from it?
I found out through a friend who also went through the program and was very satisfied. What's great about the COMBO program is the multicultural aspect: the fact that we all come from different backgrounds, with different projects, but with the same goal and the same desire to succeed. With the COMBO participants, it was about shared experiences; wondering how to develop the idea, enhance it, explain it and adapt it to the people in front of us. It's a place where we can express ourselves freely and get our ideas back on track.
If you had one piece of advice to give to a person with a migrant background who wants to become an entrepreneur, what would it be?
I would advise them to be open to others, learn to understand others, and not be intolerant when others do not understand them. If the person is convinced that their idea is good, you have to go all out to avoid regrets. You have to believe in yourself and not be discouraged.
What can we wish you for the future?
That I become the queen of organic cosmetics, Mrs. Bettencourt of organic cosmetics! To be the one who succeeded in democratizing inclusive organic cosmetics.
Discover now all its range of products on her website: https://www.awobeauty.com/