An interview with Zeze Oriaikhi, the founder of Malée Natural Science
Meet Zeze Oriaikhi, an amazing entrepreneur who created Malée (pronounced Mah-lay), a luxury brand of skin care products and fragrances. Zeze founded Malée in the middle of the global economic crisis and after launching her products in South Africa in 2010, she not only opened her own Malée store in Johannesburg, but also became a stockist for several hotels and spas in South Africa. I am so excited to tell you that Malée products are now available in the UK. In fact, in 2016 the Malée Conditioning Body Scrub was voted as the ‘Best New Body Care Product‘ by Pure Beauty Magazine!
What’s wonderful about Malée products is that they are 100% natural and suitable for all skin types. I also love the fact that Malée products are a fusion of modern science and traditional African ingredients. Zeze has successfully captured the goodness of Africa and brought it to the world – what an amazing ambassador! Read more about Zeze below and check out Malée natural science products on their website, Youtube Channel, Instagram and Twitter.
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MSA: Please tell me a bit about yourself. Where are you originally from? What did you study in university and where are you based now?
Zeze: I am the youngest of 3 girls. I am a real 3rd culture kid. I was born in Nigeria, educated mostly in England, and lived in South Africa for a while. I’m now based in the UK. I have a BSc (Hons) in Informatics and a Masters in International Business (awarded by Grenoble Graduate School of Business)
MSA: What led you to create your own fragrance and skin care range? Did you create the creams, scrubs and perfumes by yourself?
Zeze: Physically, no. I worked with 2 talented cosmetic scientists to create the products and help bring my vision to life. The quality of the products was paramount for me and the curiosity of wanting to understand the science behind nature is what sparked the birth of Malée so I sought professional help.
MSA: How did you go from the concept of Malée to launching your products? Can you summarise the steps you took?
Zeze: By following the breadcrumbs and ‘doing’. I had way too much time on my hands for procrastinating to be interesting. It was very organic; I did a lot. I think in the beginning I quite liked the idea of the image of the ‘busy business woman’ – always on the phone, emails, and just being BUSY. I started off trying to emulate what I thought real business people did and not taking it all too seriously. Funny that 7 years down the road, there isn’t much emulating now, its all go! Go! Go! Whether I like it or not.
MSA: I love your logo and the aesthetic of your products; it’s minimalist, sophisticated and I think I detect an African print? How did you come up with the design?
Zeze: I was always fascinated by tribal markings, the secrets they held, the simplicity and the geometry in African print. I explored this more and found that the symbols had meanings of great importance and value in different African tribes. I wanted Malée to be a portal to a world few people get to experience and to be able to tell stories of Africa, our tribes and our people. Wanderlust was key and these tribal markings and symbols where just that, so they became part of the brand and our packaging design. It felt organic to have our inspirations live on the products.
MSA: I understand that you originally launched Malée in Johannesburg and I was interested to know what led you to bring it to the UK?
Zeze: I always started Malée with all intentions of making it a global brand. Personally, the UK is my second home and in 2012, we participated in a trade show in the UK and Malée was picked up as a forecast example brand of where the beauty industry was going by trend bible and I was fascinated. The responses were amazing and I returned to Johannesburg understanding that Malée could be much more and bigger. I think that was the first time that the dream of Malée becoming a global brand was affirmed and clear to me.
MSA: Last year your conditioning body scrub won ‘Best New Body Care Product‘ by Pure Beauty Magazine – that must be so amazing! How do you feel about it?
Zeze: The team and I were so chuffed. We work everyday to bring a world class product that really sets the bar in terms of quality, efficacy and sustainability, and being recognised for that by peers and consumers is beyond rewarding.
MSA: I really like your YouTube channel. I watched the ‘Behind the brand’ video where the viewer gets a chance to meet you. Your beauty, poise, calm confidence and passion for your products really shines through! I was really impressed.
Zeze: Thank you. You are so kind
MSA: I’m truly being honest. I believe that a lot of women struggle with confidence and I wanted to know where your confidence comes from?
Zeze: Like all women, I struggle with confidence at times. I am lucky to have a great support system in my family, friends and my team. Entrepreneurship can be tough on your confidence especially when you are involved in every aspect of the brand.
MSA: I am curious to know what a week in your life looks like and how you ‘keep it all together’?
Zeze: That is a good question, I am not sure how I do it. I think I have stopped looking at my week and allowing myself to be overwhelmed by it all. I am really blessed to be able to wake up and do something I love and work on making something that was a dream and now a reality everyday. When it seems tough, I pinch myself!
MSA: What are the important lessons you have learned from creating Malée and running your own business?
Zeze: There is no shortcut or easy way out to making it happen, it all begins and ends with you!
MSA: That is a great lesson! Please share what has been the biggest highlight so far?
Zeze: Everyday in business is a highlight, we are in our 7th year and have beat a lot of odds to still exist in business and to be a growing brand.
MSA: What advice would you give to someone who has a product that they dream of creating and selling?
Zeze: Aim to create the best product; it has to be something you absolutely believe in. Be patient, it takes a lot more hard work and sacrifice than you think.
MSA: Finally, what’s next for Malée?
Zeze: A LOT! February will see maleeonline.com shipping internationally; we have an exciting launch with Harvey Nichols planned for March, the USA, and the rest of Europe. Also we will be sharing more of ‘behind the scenes’ and our journey on our social media channels (click on these links: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube).
MSA: Thank you so much Zeze!! I truly appreciate you taking the time to answer these questions.
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Wow! Zeze is an amazing example of what excellence, hard work and determination looks like. She has inspired me to strive for excellence in everything I do and I hope that you have also been inspired. In the middle of an economic crises she gave birth to Malée and look at where she is today! I encourage you to do some ‘dreaming’ because within all of us are amazing ideas just waiting for us to bring them to life. Take one step in the direction of your dream and keep on taking steps because consistent steps will eventually lead you to your destiny. The perfect timing may never come, so take that first step today!
“Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap.”
Ecclesiastes 11:4 (NIV)