Natural hair expo offers sales platform for SMEs

15 September 2017
The third annual Natural Hair and Beauty Expo (NHBE), which took place at the International University of Management in Dorado Park last Saturday, attracted about 200 visitors, many of whom bought natural products on display, and enjoyed various forms of entertainment.
Expo organisers Zodidi Jewel Gaseb and Sharon Emvula were beautifully dressed in African theme clothing and were bubbling with excitement over the event. 
“The theme this year is African roots.  We encouraged all vendors and those coming to the expo to wear African clothing and arrange their displays with an African flavour,” Gaseb said.
The event was set to start at 10:00 and end at 16h00; however, things only slowly began around 12 noon due to a nearly empty house and temporary logistical setbacks. 
The entertaining and inspiring programme gained momentum at around 13h00, though the event still wound down at the scheduled time.
According to several people who attended the event, the hefty entrance fee of N$100 was a deterrent to many who would have otherwise loved to attend the event.
On top of the entry fee, a nice plate of delicious traditional food cost N$60 (depending on what you ate), and a boutique beer or cider was as much as N$25 per bottle. If you purchased anything from the vendors, then costs soared even higher.
A jar of hair oil was N$60 while most body butters and organic hair washing creams started at N$180 per container.  An African printed head scarf or pair of Malaysian style cotton pants were N$200-N$250.
One person could have easily dropped N$500 if they were to enjoy what was on offer at least minimally.  This was quite a significant entertainment price tag.
Emvula defended the entry fee, arguing that it was cheaper compared to what they had charged last year.
“We lowered the entry fee.  Last year, we asked N$150 per person and this year we asked only N$100. We polled various groups before we set this fee and that survey indicated that N$100 was acceptable. The fact is that we have to use those funds to cover the costs of the event, pay the venue, the performers and provide at least minimal stipends for those who worked during the programme.
“At the expo, we encourage our vendors to sell at a special expo price.  We want the public to come and try on the products and see the value for themselves.  Compared to the prices in the stores and with the longer term positive benefits, these SME-made natural products, are a better value by far.” 
Each vendor had to pay N$600 for their tables and several tables were labelled, but the vendors did not pitch up. 
There were 32 vendors present, including many selling identical products like Shea Butter or essential oils blended in various ways. 
The expo featured on-stage demonstrations of styling dread locks and afros that were interesting and well-received by the audience. 
The organisers noted the comments made and are committed to improving the event every year.
“We made more improvements over what we did in the previous two Natural Hair Expos.  The space was bigger and centralised and our PR campaign was better. We also had more sponsors (such as Wahl and the Fashion Institute) and we have more bloggers and more media coverage. 
“The vendors were inside a sheltered space this year and not outside in the sun as in previous years. Our point at NHBE is to continuously improve what we offer our vendors and the public.  We take into consideration all the feedback and incorporate them into all our events were possible.”
In spite of the small glitches, both organisers agreed that the aim of the expo is to showcase local hair and beauty entrepreneurs since a lot of SMEs that are coming up don’t have a platform to showcase their products.
 “Natural Hair and Beauty Expo is inclusive.  It is a celebration of who we are.  We don’t advocate for or against weaves and so forth; we advocate for self-love and a celebration of who we are,” Gaseb said.
Taryn Gill, a South African vendor, praised the expo and used the valuable platform it provided to reach the market segment for her products from The Perfect Hair.
“We do ranges for all hair types, especially for women with kinky, coily African hair in African climates.  We’ve used about nine different Afro-botanicals across the range and we will be selling the full range in Edgars, Maerua Mall as of 28 September.
“This kind of on-the-ground marketing is exactly what young brands need when they move into a very competitive space like hair care products. This expo facilitates my product introduction work.”
The expo also featured a facial hair care product line for men.
Brother’s Beard owner, Takura Chimbura from Zimbabwe, said he used the expo to get more brand recognition. 
“My products are for guys to take care of their beards which can be itchy, dry or rough.  I use essential oils for their various soothing purposes, grape seed oil for its anti-oxidizing effects, vitamin E for softening the beard, and lavender which strengthens hair,” Chimbura said.
The organisers plan to hold another NBHE next year. 


The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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