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Nature inspires African women to create beauty products

From Nkepile Mabuse, CNN
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South Africa's diverse plant life provides the ingredients for skin care products.
  • Two South African women have founded popular beauty brands
  • They take advantage of Africa's plant life by sourcing natural ingredients locally
  • They use ingredients such as marula, roobois and shea butter in their skin-care lines

CNN's Marketplace Africa offers viewers a unique window into African business on and off the continent. This week it takes a look at two entrepreneurs using Africa's natural raw materials in their skin-care lines.

(CNN) -- Ten years ago Johannesburg-based beauty therapist Renchia Droganis began creating skin care products by mixing ingredients in her kitchen.

When it came to sourcing ingredients for her 100% natural products, she didn't need to look far.

"We've got it all here now," says Droganis, founder of fair-trade skin care and beauty brand Africology.

"We hold the most amazing amount of wisdom in raw materials that really works with the body, rather than against the body."

Using local active ingredients such as marula, African potato and rooibos, Droganis has created a range of skin care products that take advantage of Africa's abundant and diverse plant life.

"The ingredients that we use are absolutely of the highest quality," she says. "I can't afford to use anything cheap; I can't afford to bring chemicals in to fix the products or to maintain product integrity."

Mother nature hasn't done a bad job of putting these things here.
--Zeze Oriaikhi, founder of Malee

Droganis says she didn't start her business with the intention of turning it into a huge enterprise, but Africology has begun exporting its skin care products to countries such as the United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany, France and the United States, bringing in nearly $1 million a month, she says.

Another beauty entrepreneur making the most of South Africa's botanical riches is Zeze Oriaikhi.

After living in England for 12 years, the Nigerian-born businesswoman says she started having skin problems when she first moved to South Africa.

"There was nothing wrong with the products that I was using because they were fine when I lived in England," Oriaikhi says. "I moved here and they weren't fine, which meant actually they weren't designed for this climate."

Seeing a need for locally produced beauty products for the local market, Oriaikhi set up Malee -- a beauty brand whose products are made from local, naturally derived active ingredients, such as avocado oil, shea butter, coconut oil and tea tree extract.

"You've got shea butter everywhere you turn, coconut, almond oil everywhere you turn," Oriaikhi says. "Mother nature hasn't done a bad job of putting these things here."

For Oriaikhi, starting a business in the skin care sector -- still relatively new in Africa -- has presented certain challenges.

"The expertise of creating from the ground up, basically, so everything from packaging to even sourcing and even dealing with people in the supply chain -- all of that has been the most challenging for me," she says.

But she says the real challenge for her isn't simply making money, but creating affordable products for the masses. Oriaikhi says she has kept overheads and profit margins low so that her products can be sold at a lower price.

She says, "I'm an African brand and I would like the average African to be able to purchase Malee and keep purchasing it and be happy with the quality and the product that they get -- and if that means I'm not a millionaire in two years, so be it."