Entrepreneur profile by IOL business: Interview

Interview questions for Lushinka Louw

1.       Is Le Riche Naturals your first business you've started-up?

No, I've tried a few things, but this was the first enterprise that had a life of it's own. The feedback I received from my formulations was so great, that I simply had to sell it to people or they would get angry at me. I even received a call at 9pm at night requesting emergency products, because a customer simply couldn't go on holiday without it. It felt to me like I had finally caught a wave and I'm still surfing.

2.       What gave you the business idea?

Like most things, it was born out of a crisis. My little girl was 18 months old at the time and suffering with terrible eczema which she inherited from me. I wanted her to stay off cortisone creams as long as possible, because I had my own struggle to get my eczema under control, and I knew it would only be a temporary solution. I cleaned up her diet, I washed her clothes with soap nuts, which helped, but her skin was still very dry and scaly. I then decided to make her some cream that would suit her skin. It was important to me that the cream builds up her skin, replenishes her natural moisturises and keeps it nourished for a long time without forming a sticky layer on the skin. The Rich Hand and Body Ganache was born. It's nice, because you need to use less and less as your skin is replenished. I then realised that I could make myself some face care products too. Something I could use to keep the wrinkles at bay, that wouldn't burn my skin like many commercial products. The bug bit me. I enjoyed formulating so much. I still sometimes get breathless with excitement when I discover an exciting new ingredient. Life is so wonderful when you can follow your passion. It's not easy, but it's wonderful.

3.       How is the business doing?

When I started up in South Africa, my dad was a great encouragement (and a great customer). He said that if I do the right thing in business people will always support me. It might not be an overnight success, but it will have longevity. I've found his words to be very true. The personal care market is extremely competitive, so making inroads is an upward climb no matter how great your product is. The big brands spend billions on marketing and shaping people's opinions. It takes some explaining to pitch a new product, especially one so different. My customers are the ones that give me the encouragement and tenacity to push through the barriers I encounter. I find once a person tries and loves the range they are spoilt for ever going back to commercial products. They tell me so in lovely emails. I call it my customer love letters. It really makes my day when I receive one. I love all customer feedback on the range and I've actually had some of the best suggestions to improve the products from customers. It's like my customers are my advisers too. I think we make a great team. So, basically, the business is growing steadily. We are building our customer base through hard work, but the most important thing is that we are keeping customers over the long term.  It's like my Dad said, it's not an overnight success, but it has longevity. It's a steady upward curve.

4.       Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?

Yes. Always. It's super exciting. It's a way to engage with the world and make it a better place. I serve my customers by providing a product that improves their lives and they support my work so I can do more of the same. 

5.       What made you choose this career path?

I think this career path chose me, but I wouldn't have been able to ever explore it without the support of my husband. I'm very grateful for his belief in me. I don't I always deserve it. I mostly think he's completely over-exaggerating and that he needs to get a serious reality check, but I can't resist forever and some of it has rubbed off on me. His love and belief has given me the courage to put myself and my products out there. Crazy man.  

6.       What's next on your list to achieve?

My list is about improving customer experience with the brand. This has lead to us developing some more products. The first new products launched will be a natural, hand poured perfume range. It's so luxurious, so natural and during testing the ladies absolutely raved about the fragrances. A great thing is that it's not only the "health nuts" (like me) who love it, but it's popular across the board. We have pre-orders already. I'm very excited about the range. I think it will change how people view perfumes.   

7.       What would you say to someone who wants to be an entrepreneur?

Being an entrepreneur should be like being a mountain biker. It's seriously hard work and dangerous. You need to conquer mountains! It doesn't really make sense to many people, but have you ever seen the face of a mountain biker after a race? It's muddy, sweaty, often blood is dripping somewhere, but they are smiling. They've conquered the mountain. They are exhilarated and they are going back for more. That's how you should feel about your business. I'd say then you are in the right place. Remember that success happens where preparation meets opportunity. Other than that, I'd say find what you love, do it with all your heart, always listen to your customers, commit to learning from every experience, never sell yourself short, structuring your marketing is much more important than you think and get a great accountant. 

8.       Please explain what your start-up does?

I'd say Le Riche Naturals does innovation. It's about taking natural products to the next level. We are very much driven by innovation and combining exciting new technologies and international trends to deliver a superior customer experience. At the moment, we have a gorgeous skin care range for face and body, with innovative salon treatments available at hand-picked salons. We also have a very strong online platform for internet shopping, with a 28 day no-quibble returns policy on all sales, which gives customers confidence to purchase online. It also allows us to be more in touch with our customers' needs and enables us to deliver a fresher product.

9.       Would you say you need a degree to get started?

If you look at Richard Branson, then the answer is no, but I think it's all about application. A degree has certainly helped me. It taught me about discipline, meeting deadlines, working in a team and being thorough. My degree didn't teach me much about creativity. It's about how you apply what you have learnt which makes the investment in higher education worthwhile. I think to be fulfilled and successful in the long run you need the special skill where you are able to apply what you have learnt in a variety of situations. You also need to be able to look back at your life and learn from your path, consolidate all your skills and plan your path ahead. Sometimes, life is trying to tell you something. Get quiet and listen. I was barking up the wrong tree long enough to respect the value of becoming quiet and listening. If you are willing to learn, I think life can be your best teacher. 

Lastly, I'd say, have faith, be ready for your wave and surf it when it comes.