Lolita Sanders began her career working in the corporate world of Central London. After some drasticpersonal changes she decided to create her own restorative hair care product range. This is how Umthi Beauty was born. Umthi won numerous awards in its first year of trading including best product of 2021/22 with Marie Clare. Umthi products are natural, organic, cruelty free with recyclable packaging.
Thank you for interviewing with us today, can you introduce yourself to us?
Hello it is a pleasure to be here, my name is Lolita Sanders, the founder and owner of Umthi Beauty, a London-based natural hair and skin product range.
Can you take us through your journey to where you are now?
Wow, do we have the time and column inches haha! It’s been a wild ride, you can find the documentary on new releases on Netflix that will be quicker. All jokes aside, it has been a journey.
I had medication-related hair loss, my hair was getting extremely dry and brittle. I tried a range of different products to hydrate my hair but it was getting progressively worse, my hair starting falling out in clumps on the bathroom floor and was thinning at an alarming rate. The hair got thinner and thinner until there was hardly any left, which meant having a ‘comb over’ and wearing my hair up in a low ponytail became the only option I had.
Through covid, I found escapism in experimenting with ingredients and creating formulations to help my hair grow and regain its health. I spent many hours in the kitchen while homeschooling my sons, experimenting with an array of natural products from avocado’s and banana’s to essential oils.
Luckily I had completed a cosmetics making course the year before lockdown, so I knew the basics in order to make natural products to treat her hair. To cut a long story short, I saved my hair, started Umthi, won a bunch of awards and now I’m on the way to saving the world like a Marvel superhero ha!
Since starting, have you made any changes to your business model?
We’ve not made huge changes, we’ve brought in some help here and there, we are investing a lot more in our awareness, online presence, partner brand collaborations, physical pop-ups, appearances at trade fairs and festivals. We want to make the next few steps up and are looking at various strategies and avenues to fulfill that.
Have you ever had a mentor? If so how has this benefitted you either personally or professionally?
I have had a number of mentors both here and in South Africa that have helped in varied ways. Firstly in gaining valuable business knowledge and expertise, lessons that would have taken years of mistakes to learn from.
Secondly, helping me to set clear goals and objectives, create action plans, and track progress towards achieving those goals. Receiving constructive feedback, identifying areas for improvement, and suggesting strategies for overcoming obstacles or setbacks. I’ve often got on the phone at ungodly hours to essentially use one mentor as a sounding board, providing a safe and confidential space for me to discuss ideas, fears, concerns, judgment-free aspirations and be there for support and sometimes warning.
Finally, I’ve expanded my network from introductions and collaborations and from this I can receive different perspectives, have my assumptions challenged, and encourage me to think critically and creatively outside of my limiting belief systems.
What outlets do you use for marketing?
Prowly, Trade shows, pop ups, festivals, fares, we will be doing some physical and television advertising soon as well.
What or Who has inspired you most recently?
Name drop alert. I am personal friends with Miss Kenya and she is so elegant and classy with everything. How she dresses, how she speaks, how she moves her body, she is always gracious and polite and needless to say stunning. The effort she puts into even random people that confront her, the time and gentleness she approaches each interaction, attentively listening, smiling authentically at exactly the right moments. It’s a blessing to be in her presence and very inspiring.
What is the best piece of business advice you have received to date?
Know your limits, then exceed them.
How do you create an evenly balanced work and personal life?
The number one thing I would say is to prioritize and set boundaries. It is crucial to establish clear boundaries between work and personal life, ensuring that work does not encroach on personal time and vice versa. Fun time in the kitchen with my boys is just that. It’s not hard, it just takes discipline. Setting specific working hours, creating a dedicated workspace, and avoiding the temptation to constantly check work-related emails or messages outside of those hours. I prioritize spending time with my loved ones when it’s that time no matter how simple or elaborate. I’d rather be there than not and just show up with gifts.
Presence not presents.
Name a seminal point in your career so far?
Losing my hair, it was the pivot point for everything as tragic and painful as it was at the time.
What gives you ultimate career satisfaction?
Seeing the company grow, seeing the community grow, the feedback I get when people claim that our products have transformed their relationship with their hair and their mental state. It’s extremely fulfilling and a source of healthy pride. I’ve heard a ton of stories and now I am in the position to help both in terms of verbal support as well as having created a physical solution that actually works.
Are there any leading entrepreneurs or SME leaders that you admire and if so, why?
Am I allowed to say Samanah? Am I now the teacher’s pet? Haha, No seriously I think she is great and I love the ethos behind the Beyourown project, providing a platform for entrepreneurs like me to have a voice and be heard. It’s a necessary entity and I am really grateful and honored to be able to be part of it in some small way.
How do you define your own success?
Success of course is subjective. For me it is achievement and fulfillment in various aspects of my life, my children, my marriage, my career, relationships, personal growth, and happiness. I am not chalking off a bucket list every day and getting upset that I’ve not scaled the Himalayas yet. I find fullness in things that are meaningful to me as an individual and yes that could be something as simple and silly as combing my son’s hair. I think people should seek joy on a daily basis and even if the things they do are basic, if you can find joy in them, you can have a joyous life.
Finally, what can we expect from you next?
World domination of course, why would it be anything less?