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 Launching an ethical product from scratch

Ahoua Eve Bakayoko, founder of MissBak since 2019

What are your values?

First, transparency. When I realised what was behind the products we put on our skin, I realised that there were many lies. There was a hidden side to cosmetics which is hardly known to people. So, transparency above all. Respect for the work of others, the value of work as well. Hence the social and solidarity side. And then, quality. Natural, simple and quality products.

First steps

On a blog, I came across an article which mentioned the House of Entrepreneurship. I thought, ‘Maybe it’s not a coincidence!’. I am in the process of thinking about a professional reconversion.
So this is the first place I went to. I took part in different workshops, I made various contacts from different organisations to which I could turn. And to achieve my project, I did my own research, I did training. I realised that to get into cosmetics, with time, of course, you didn’t necessarily have to be a chemist. So it was completely demystified. But you can’t do whatever you want! So I trained. I’m still training.

Approach the cooperatives

For the cooperatives I work with in Ivory Coast, I went on site. So it took a while! It didn’t happen overnight. While being there, I first did some research on the organisations that could exist locally. Geographically speaking, it is my grandparents’ town. So it wasn’t a problem! Then I wondered: ‘Who to contact?’, ‘Where to go?’. I got some information and I went into the field several times. I started by going to the Rural Development Agency. And then I identified a grouping of cooperatives that was more or less advanced, more or less well organized, with whom I could start working. It was not difficult to convince them. Knowing that they are not ignorant either, there are lots of people who come to them, who make promises and never come back. Since I am a local girl, it was not difficult, we made contact very easily. And then I kept my promises, I came back. This is how we started to build trust.

The most difficult step

The most difficult step, is going to be the financing. I’m not going to lie. For the financing, it was difficult, there were many unforeseen events. I make calculations, I plan things but not everything happens the way you want it to, it is always the case. In hindsight, with all that has happened since the pandemic, I’m glad that I didn’t get a loan! In the end, it wasn’t so bad. This is how I learnt to manage the unexpected.

Getting yourself known

Luxembourg is a small country so networking is very important here! To make yourself known, you have to reach out to people but I guess that is the case everywhere. To be seen, you have to make yourself known. There’s the digital but not everyone has access to the Internet. So you shouldn’t neglect classic communication such as the media or events. There have been very few of them lately, but it helped me a lot.

The best way to convert

What works best, in general, is honesty. As far as I am concerned, I would say honesty and authenticity. There are plenty of people who do cosmetics, who make natural cosmetics. But we stand out for our value, by what we bring to the products, by what we do differently from the other companies but also by our personality. People decide to buy because it’s you.

Different lifestyle?

Yes, completely! I often say that I don’t have the big sedan anymore! I don’t have it anymore, but I manage to have breakfast in the morning and that is priceless! I spend considerably less than I used to, so the simplest things are much more valuable to me.

Maintain your values

Patience is also very important. You don’t get success right away or you are not necessarily profitable immediately, so don’t be fooled by all the videos you see on YouTube. Being rich in six months is impossible! And never lose sight of your values, the reason why you are doing what you are doing. Try to remember often the reason why you are doing this project. And, of course, the aim is to make a living out of it. This is also important. The idea is to be able to make a living out of it and keep your values.