Exclusive beauty interview with Washindi Naturals co-founder Sandra & Emmy
Get some exclusive insights from Sandra Abongo and Emmy Belt, two women behind the success of Washindi Naturals, 100% natural body and lifestyle products.
Sandra Abongo and Emmy Belt have an inspiring story to share. Learn more about their insights and the humble beginnings of there brand in NFH exclusive interview.
Some of Washindi Naturals 100% natural body and lifestyle products.
Sandra: My name is Sandra Abongo, Program Manager for projects and programs under the CBO Washindi Victory Center ( WVC ). Washindi Naturals ( WN ) started as a project under WVC and has now become its own fully-fledged social enterprise. Along with my partner and co-founder, Emmy Belt, through WN, makes high quality 100% natural body and lifestyle products.
We are a socially and eco-conscious brand creating opportunities for sustainable income for women in Kibera and other under-served areas through enterprise and financial training.
Emmy: I’m Emmy Belt, the Program Manager of Washindi Naturals. We started a year and a half ago, working with women from underprivileged areas, like Kibera and Kawangware. Our business side is selling artisanal, environmentally friendly and holistic body and lifestyle products.
We train women in basic business skills like production, quality control, accounting, inventory maintenance, sales, etc; The Tenets of Entrepreneurship!
When and how did you get into the beauty industry?
Sandra: In May 2018, by seeing the opportunities in the industry and how it can create avenues for change for the women we work with. We at WVC are always looking for sustainable ways of bringing change.
While researching one of these avenues and the opportunities within, we saw the potential for great impact through the beauty eco-conscious industry.
Emmy: We started in May 2018, first at small markets, then at the amazing co-share store Made in Kenya, while slowly growing our brand and reach.
We are still growing, but hope to expand our market two-fold in the next coming year!
What were you doing before you decided to set up Washindi Naturals?
Sandra: Working with WVC. I still do work as program manager for WVC.
Emmy: I’ve always had a passion for Eco-conscious and sustainable business and living, so when I wasn’t doing marketing and social media for our founder company, WVC, I had side projects that ranged from looking at the sustainability of using discarded corn cobs as fuel to recycling and re-purposing waste plastic in my neighborhood.
What was the catalyst in the journey of your natural product?
Sandra: Seeing the impact it made on the women we engage, as well as the significance and change that using natural, organic products has on mine and our clients’ skin and lifestyle.
Emmy: Apart from assisting women in empowering themselves keeping our products low impact, both on the planet and the body, is very important to me. It became a perfect mesh between my hopes for the world, and what I invest my time in!
How would you describe your signature look?
Sandra: African with a splash of new age!
Emmy: Natural, comfortable and inspired!
Why is it important for skincare products to be organic?
Sandra: The amount of synthetic and lower quality ingredients in commercial products can not only be ineffective, but even harmful. Organic products are free of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and additives, meaning clients can be assured that they are getting an authentic experience in using said products.
This gives them peace of mind that what they are using is not industrial, but taps into nature’s goodness and thus is more beneficial, both to them and the planet.
Emmy: Not only are they demonstrably and resoundingly better for your body, but the production and use of them has a significant impact on our footprint on the planet! Let’s make change wherever we are able.
How important are the ingredients in skincare products?
Sandra: People should always look at what they are putting onto their skin. It is the largest organ in the body and thus is immensely crucial to the whole network of our body.
Therefore my advice is always to look at the ingredients to see what you’re introducing to this network. Stay away from parabens and heavy metals, as they (indicated by tons of research) have detrimental effects, especially as carcinogens.
Emmy: Just as what you eat affects you from within, beauty products affect you from without. There are many ingredients, both synthetic and natural, that can be damaging to you.
I recommend you take a look at the ingredients lists in your bathroom and do a quick search! It pays to know what exactly you’re introducing to your body, as the effects can be long-lasting or irreversible, to detrimental or beneficial effect.
What’s a skincare secret that you wish more people knew?
Sandra: Moisturise! Your skin needs TLC and the best form, in my opinion, is a little moisture, especially during harsh weather such as extreme cold or heat. Like here in Nairobi, it gets super hot and dry in the daytime, and cold at night! Moisturizing helps retain elasticity so, younger skin, protects from the elements, and keeps the skin from drying out:
Making our skin look healthier and smoother with a nice glow!
Emmy: Let your skin breathe! Don’t overburden it with treatments and products. Limit yourself to a scrub a week, minimal makeup, wash your face with only water. Let your skin find its own balance before starting treatments.
How important do you think it is for people to have a regular skin care regimen?
Sandra: Very important! As I said, it is our largest organ, so if we take care of it then we are already playing a huge part in taking care of our bodies as a whole.
Emmy: Extremely! Don’t get me wrong, a skincare regime doesn’t have to be drawn out to qualify as a regime.
Wash your face with water every morning and evening, use natural oils and butters where your skin needs an extra boost. Repeated and deliberate love and care is very important!
Why should anyone use your service or product?
Sandra: Our products are local, African, 100% natural, eco-conscious and are made with organic ingredients. Every purchase helps us grow and furthers our mission to empower women. I say “made with organic” following a conversation I had with one of our clients. Most of our ingredients are organic, with the exception of the saponifying agent (lye) which in most, if not all soaps, cannot be 100% organic.
This is a common misconception, which makes some people question “are you really organic?” So I always try to dispel their doubts or fears by explaining this factor. We also have something for all skin types, and they smell great, too!
Emmy: Our long term vision is to assist women with limited resources to become independent, to create sustainable and scalable livelihoods. In order to get there, we need to build our brand, and it’s important for us to model eco-consciousness and body positivity while we do that.
More Washindi Natural products collections available at selected store in Nairobi
You started working in the beauty industry several years ago, how has the industry changed since you began?
Sandra: We are just a year old, but I would say there is more awareness and absorption of natural and socially conscious products these days.
Emmy: People are getting more and more interested in products that do service to the planet and their bodies.
The last couple of years we’ve really seen this grow in Nairobi, giving our vision a market to move into and within. We’re excited to see more businesses go in this direction, and more customers choose natural!
Any plans to come up with new products line?
Sandra: Sure, we are always learning and diversifying. Washindi Naturals keeps evolving by trying to stay above the fray. Stay looped in by following us on Instagram @washindinaturals !
Emmy: Definitely! We are taking a holistic approach to natural body and soul care, adding more skin, beauty and lifestyle products. But we are taking the climb slowly and surely, taking care of our base customers and the women we work with, by keeping our main focus on our core product line.
What is your brand philosophy?
Empowering through Enterprise! We do this by creating avenues and opportunities for sustainable
livelihoods, while also championing for eco-consciousness.
What are 5 most popular beauty products you use?
Sandra: I use our whole product range, but if I had to choose: Coffee+Vanilla, Tea+Masala, and Charcoal+Pine soaps. The hair and body oils I use are Vanilla, and Lavender+Mint (these are great for massages, too, by the way!), and the Vanilla body scrub.
Emmy: That is a tough question to answer! I love citrusy and fresh scents, so if I have to choose I’d say the Coconut+Lemongrass and Chia+Eucalyptus Soaps, but then I also adore the relaxing combo of our Turmeric+Lavender+Rosemary Soap.
I also use the Lemongrass Body Scrub in the shower and the Lavender+Mint Hair and Body Oil for massages and to moisturize my locs.
How long have you been natural?
Sandra: As long as I remember!
Emmy: It started as a teenager when I began to realize that all these different products we were using were pretty much all the same, and to make it worse, damaging! The soaps were too harsh, whilst the conditioner and lotion faked moisture. It’s been a journey, but I’m much happier, having let the concept of natural and eco-friendly spread to other parts of my life, as well.
Which element of your job do you most enjoy?
Sandra: Working with the women. It’s a large reason I do what I do, because when I see the impact on their lives and how it has upgraded their living standards, in whichever way then I know I am accomplishing something great. I also love the production process. Whenever we make products, there’s a swirl of amazing smells.
I love it!
Emmy: Right now I wear many hats since Washindi Naturals we’re still sprouting, so to speak. I’m learning so much! It’s enrapturing, infuriating, rewarding, draining, and oh so worth it!
What is beauty for you?
Sandra: Inside and out. It’s character, it’s personality, it’s a je ne sais quoi!
Emmy: Beauty is confidence. The most attractive people I’ve met shone from the inside, and nobody could resist falling a little bit in love with them.
What are your 5 beauty do’s and don’ts?
Sandra: Do: wear sunscreen, moisturise, exfoliate, and tone. Those are my basics, I don’t do much more.
Don’t: Not use sunscreen or moisturiser!
Emmy: DO: Be Yourself, You Are Beautiful! DON’T: Worry Yourself, You Are Beautiful!
Does everyone look better with beauty products?
Sandra: Everyone is beautiful! We just want to help them stay healthy as well!
Emmy: Everyone looks better if they feel better! We hope to help with that.
If you turn up at a show/shoot and the model has terrible skin, what do you do?
Sandra: I guess the best quick fixes are make-up, which is not my forte I hardly wear any make-up.
If it’s not up to me to do a quick fix by make-up, I’d recommend one of our products depending on what is affecting her/his skin. I’d definitely always start with a good scrub the day before a big event, leaving your skin fresh and glowing!
Emmy: Wouldn’t it be great if that term didn’t exist? If blemishes and breakouts were normalized and also seen as natural? I’d work to help make that happen!
What inspires you today?
Sandra: A lot, but I’d say, first and foremost, my mother.
Emmy: There are so many amazing entrepreneurial and world improving women out there, and so many in Nairobi!
When I see the amazing company I find myself in, I hope I can measure up and work my hardest to someday be on equal footing with them. I’m currently very inspired by the ladies behind the Made in Kenya Store, who in addition to the store also have their own businesses!
Beauty Instagram profiles have become a major influence on the beauty industry, but you keep yours quite personal, how important are social platforms for you?
Sandra: As a marketing tool, they are vital in this day and age. Handled well, they can be pivotal to a business’ growth and have been to ours.
Emmy: We want to share with our customers our realness, zaniness, zest for life and zeal for the planet, and social media platforms are excellent to connect with our people!
Do you have any tips or advice for aspiring entrepreneur seeking to venture in organics products?
Sandra: Do your best. Dedication and tenacity are essential during the pivotal first years of growth.
There will be a lot of strife, manifested through obstacles and detractors, as you grow your business. An almost feverish focus will be required to manoeuvre these challenges.
And it always helps to have a substantive anchor, whether through family, a good team or personal hobbies. I’ve personally always garnered strength and respite through my faith.
Find something that keeps you whole, whatever that may be.
Emmy: Do your research, stay true to yourself, and stick it through. Starting a business is the toughest, but most rewarding thing you can do. It will beat you down time after time, but if you’ve chosen with your heart it will all be worth it.
Share with us 3 random facts about you that very few people know!
Sandra: I like dark TV shows “ they help me better understand the world in a strange new perspective” , I make amazing chocolate potatoes “ thanks to my dear friend Elena” and I often make up random words “ my friend Sofi and I are notorious butchers of the English/Portuguese language! ” .
Emmy: I went to circus school for a year when I was 19, I have a fear of depths “ nope, not heights ” and I like attention but I really don’t want to become famous.
What’s the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
Sandra: Press towards the mark. Don’t let challenges or doubts dissuade you.
Emmy: It’s hard to know when or if to quit, but know that there is no such thing as failure.
Not succeeding is the best learning experience!
Where our readers can find you and keep in touch with you? ( Provide your Instagram, website, Facebook page if any please)
Adopt a simple routine, clean your skin gently, and don’t abuse of the sun (stay away from it potentially!). Drink a lot of water, don’t smoke and laugh without limitation!
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Content courtesy of Washindi Naturals & Nairobi fashion hub