Tsakani Mashaba is the founder of Michael Mikiala, a skincare range aimed specifically at African men. We chat to her about her business journey
Tsakani Mashaba (35) is a creative entrepreneur, and is the founder of lifestyle business Hamethop that houses a men’s skincare brand as well as a handbag and accessory line.
Her skincare range for men, Michael Mikiala Men, has revolutionised the grooming industry, catering to the specific needs of African skin. For a long time, black men have had to adapt to and accept international brands that were widely available – the problem is that many of them weren’t developed with black skin types and pigmentation in mind.
Mashaba tells us how it all started.
“When I started the brand, I’d just quit my job in advertising and was tired of selling international brands to Africans,” she explains. “I didn’t really know what to do, but I was at the salon one day and realised that a lot of guys were using methylated spirits, and that was the foundation of my intrigue to go a little bit deeper to see why guys use this and if there were other alternatives.”
Further research revealed to Mashaba that the only alternatives weren’t necessarily great nor relevant to African skin, and were inefficient in treating bumps, oily skin or pigmentation.
Nobody wanted to speak skin differentiation because it might come across as racism, but this was not the case
“All the other brands were multinational brands that at the time weren’t formulated in Africa or South Africa,” she says. “I realised there was a gap and an opportunity in the market to launch a brand that would be targeted at African men.”
She adds that she believes we shouldn’t be waiting for other people to come up with things that will be beneficial to us, that we should start coming up with these ideas ourselves.
“[Our brand] became a thought leader in a space where it was very uniform. Nobody wanted to speak skin differentiation because it might come across as racism, but this was not the case. All we were saying is that our skins are different and therefore they should be catered for differently.”
Mashaba spent two years formulating and testing the products before launching the brand in 2010. She spent most her time in the lab, researching the ingredients, checking the viscosity of the products, and planning what would make them unique.
After the products were launched, Mashaba and her team distributed them to salons and kept track of customer responses – which were positive. Over time they realised that if they wanted to grow the business, it had to be exposed to a retail market which would increase access to the brand.
At this point, the brand partnered with Edgars and started distributing in their stores.