Nadia Ewura-Esi Simpson, a hair & skin products entrepreneur and creator of Nadia Esi Hair Products found time in her busy schedule to speak to me about why she created her products and how her brand focuses on empowering black women:
An early entrepreneurs journey
Tell us about your background – did you always want to start a business & create your own products?
My name is Nadia, I am 21 and I am currently studying at university; and this is where I started my business. I have always wanted to start my own business from a young age. From selling my own homemade juice outside of my house to selling sweets to my family members
What led you to create your products and start your business?
In 2017, I had a bad salon experience when I went on holiday to Ghana. I had my hair braided into a style called Ghana Braids, which were trendy and are still trendy today.
These braids were so tight that they ripped out my baby hairs causing traction alopecia. I was distraught and I was considering a hair transplant at the age of 17! Although, the transplant sounded like a quick fix, I was on a mission to find something natural to help grow out my front hairs, so I decided to create something for myself! I did not stop experimenting with various natural ingredients until I found the mix that give me quick noticeable results.
Were you always making your own hair & beauty products?
When I first went natural it was not intentional. I was just starting secondary school, and I had no idea what natural meant at this stage. So, I would use any product that would be in the bathroom. At the age of 17, after my bad experience this is when I started trying to make my own products.
These braids were so tight that they ripped out my baby hairs causing traction alopecia. I was distraught and I was considering a hair transplant at the age of 17!Nadia Esi
Finding hair products in the UK
What’s been your experience of finding and buying hair products in the UK?
Buying hair products has always been a lovely experience for me, I love going into the hair shop and being spoiled with choice. However, as I have started to get older and make more conscious buying decisions, I have realised how difficult it is to find Black-British Owned products in our “own” hair shops, and then how rare it is to find Black Owned hair shops!
Were you at the kitchen table with product ingredients and your laptop?
I was in Ghana when I first started making my products. On a visit to the family farm, I took an applicator bottle and a few key ingredients that I did some research on, then I would add ingredients to the bottle. Some from the farm and some a shop in Ghana called Shop Right (it is like Asda). When I got back to England, I tried different formulations with the natural ingredients I took from Ghana and some from England. I would make these mixtures in my university Halls because I was in my first year of University.
Getting the business set-up
When you needed to find suppliers, has it been difficult to build relationships with them? Did you have a mentor or seek advice from others?
I think its quite difficult to build relationships with suppliers now that everything is done online, and the transactions can be made so quickly. But I’ve found ways to get around this, because by simply phoning up and asking a question rather than emailing and waiting so long for a reply can be an easy way to build relationships.
I have realised how difficult it is to find Black-British Owned products in our “own” hair shops, and then how rare it is to find Black Owned hair shops!Nadia Esi
You also offer products for beauty – did you also do this because you couldn’t find these products in the shops?
I did this because I found a formula that works rapidly, smells great and has transformed my hair. There are lots of products that say they do many things but when you use them for months your hair has not changed for the better one bit! Most of my friends and family have been looking for products that does what it says and I’m glad to say that I have made a product that does that exactly.
What can your customers expect to find in your products?
They can expect to find 100% natural ingredients, that are rich in different antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that nourish strengthen the hair.
Also, the African Black soap I sell contains ingredients that come from the family farm in Ghana such as Cocoa Ash. This gives us a raw organic soap full of ingredients that help to illuminate the skin and treat conditions like acne and oily skin.
A Black Woman’s hair care journey
Did you try your products on your family?
Yes, my family were my guinea pigs through out my product development stages and I am grateful for that.
Who are the black women who’s hairstyles you admire? Or you’d like to style with your products?
I Love Belua’s hairstyles and tutorials (@thecreamycrackrehab), SZA, Ari Lennox, Yaa Yaa on YouTube and there are so many more beautiful women I’d love to try my products.
I found a formula that works rapidly, smells great and has transformed my hair. My friends and family have been looking for products that does what it says and I’m glad to say that I have made a product that does that exactly.Nadia Esi
Thinking about how ‘a black woman’s hair is a big part of her identity and her beauty’ – what’s your opinion on our hair trends in the past and present? Are you influenced by any trends of the past?
I love the past hair trends especially back in the 70s with the afro’s and Soul Train. I think this was a time were afro hair textures could be free with our hair, only regular trims not extreme styling needed.
I love the details and different designs of African threading that were done in the past.
I am not the biggest fan of some of the present hair trend such as frontal wigs, I’m a bit of a lazy hair person. I do not like putting much effort into hair that is not my own. When I choose to wear wigs, they tend to be simple and not as “laid” or colourful as some of these frontals. I love seeing women in them because they do look pretty, However I think this new trend has set a standard on how black women should look. Especially in an environment like University, most women of colour choose to wear these wigs, so when people deviate from it, it is not seen as the norm.
Loving afro hair in a white world
How can we manage our hairstyles under the gaze of living in a white society – when the people at work stare or strangers touch our hair without asking permission. What’s your advice for dealing with these situations?
I would advise to try to stay calm in the situation, though it can be very frustrating and even feel a little dehumanising. When you are calm, educate the person on why you do not think its appropriate for them to touch your hair without permission, Let them know how long it probably took you to achieve such a beautiful look and just because your hair seems different to them/the majority it does not give them a free pass to touch your hair.
On dealing with white people touching your hair: Educate the person on why you do not think its appropriate for them to touch your hair without permission…just because your hair seems different to them/the majority it does not give them a free pass to touch your hair.Nadia Esi
I think educating these people is the best way to go about these situations because they are curious and sometimes just want to understand.
Empowering black women and self-care
From a self-care point of view, how are your products supporting us to look and feel good?
My products act as a gateway to self-care because they require you to spend time with your hair and with your skin. Caring for these parts of ourselves proves to our minds that we have “me” time, where we can just think for a while and this leads to loving yourself. I always say to my customers to take 10 minutes out of there day and massage their scalp using the Hair Growth Elixir that contains lavender that helps to relax the body while keeping the hair follicles active and healthy on the scalp to stimulate hair growth.
This is like mindfulness but with your hair and skin. You become aware with how your feel about yourself and you can transform the way you feel about yourself by spending more time with you. For a long time, I did not like my natural hair, and I realised it was because I never saw it enough, I never properly spent time with it. When I started doing scalp massages, having hair goals, and seeing my hair more, there was a shift in the way I felt about my natural hair. I loved it more and then I started loving me more because of this.
What’s the message of your products (e.g. to empower, to give black women styling opportunities?)
My products are to empower black women, especially young women because I feel that there is a lot of pressure on looking a certain way. I want my nieces to grow up loving their natural hair and not thinking that it must be “done”, and with the right healthy non-toxic products I believe this can be done. Black women can grow beautiful healthy hair and have glowing radiant skin along with it.
For a long time, I did not like my natural hair, and I realised it was because I never saw it enough, I never properly spent time with it. When I started doing scalp massages, having hair goals, and seeing my hair more, there was a shift… I loved it more and then I started loving me more because of this.Nadia Esi
My products also emphasise that natural is the way forward. We can have amazing hair and skin without the troubles of using man made toxic ingredients, that do more harm than good.
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Nadia Esi Hair Products in the future
Finally, what can we expect to see/hear about the brand in future?
As we are on lockdown most events, I was looking forward to have been cancelled. However, one thing to look forward to are the new video’s up on my YouTube channel and social media posts on @nadia.esi Instagram.
Learn more about Nadia and her products at: Nadia Esi