For many Black girls, our hair journey has certainly had its ups and downs.
From rocking braids accompanied by an array of colourful hair bobbles and beads, chemically processing our hair for years in a bid to ‘fit in’ to embracing our natural hair in all it’s glory or protecting it with a selection of wigs – the relationship we share with our hair is often filled with many peaks and troughs.
For Kent University student and British-Ghanian business owner Nadia Ewura Esi-Simpson, her hair journey was exactly the same.
“When I was younger I didn’t know what natural hair was – I was always relaxed,” she admits.
“I tried to do hairstyles that my classmates with straighter hair had because I thought it was the norm. I’ve gone from relaxed to unconsciously natural to texturised to being fully natural.”
Nadia says that one day, a relative talked to her about going natural and what that truly meant.
“My cousin told me going natural meant I am supposed to have curly or coily hair, without chemically treating it. This is when I started to really get into natural hair and natural hair remedies.”
For the east Londoner, this revelation turned into a journey of exploration, as she ventured into the natural hair world to discover the various products and methods that would allow her to care for her hair.
But one particular incident really pushed Nadia to seek out the knowledge she needed to get her hair to optimum health.
“In 2017 I did very tight braids on my holiday in Ghana, which resulted in traction alopecia. They were extremely tight cornrows that completely destroyed my natural hairline – so badly that at the time I wanted a hair transplant,” she recalls.
“Fortunately, before I left Ghana I bought an array of oils that I later used to save my damaged hair.
“I began to research oils and ingredients that could restore and condition my hair and help enhance growth. I visited farms where oils were made and I found the perfect non-toxic formula.”
While studying at university, Nadia began to test her hair treatments on friends – with much success.
“My friends loved it and I loved it, so I thought why not share this with the world and spread some love about natural hair and beauty.”
In 2019, Nadia launched her own brand of natural hair products – Nadia Esi Naturals.
“I found a biochemist to help me test the products and then I began selling them, first at student events, then in local salons, now online on my website.”
Since launching Nadia Esi Naturals, the 21-year-old entrepreneur has won funding from Santander Bank, was recently featured in the Telegraph, and manages to run her brand while still studying at university – but that hasn’t come without its challenges.
“It has been very difficult but I love the opportunities by doing both at the same time,” she says.
“I cannot do everything that I have planned while studying because it’s important that I manage my time well – but I’m glad I took the leap and started when I did.”
While starting her own haircare business began as a result of her own personal experience, Nadia is passionate about helping other Black girls embrace their natural coils and care for their hair in the best way possible.
“I have now embraced my natural hair and I’m passionate about showing other young Black women ways to love their natural hair too – and also to show that it’s never too early to start on the entrepreneurial path!”
Nadia continues to push herself and the brand forward and has taken the time during the pandemic to enhance her own efforts.
“I guess we all have a lot more time with ourselves and that means we want to learn more and understand more,” she says.
“So I have taken time out to educate and inspire my community about the beauty of natural hair and our culture. This means trying to create a lot more content that my community wants to see and speaking and helping others more. It’s been busy but I love the new connections i’m making.”
One of the changes the brand has made in recent months is the decision to embrace sustainability – something which Nadia is passionate about.
“I care about my community and the planet is part of this community. It gives me wonderful ingredients to use in my products so the least I could do is move to more sustainable approaches in my business.
“Even as a small business I still believe I have a responsibility to do better and be the change I would like to see.”
Nadia says since late 2020, the company has managed to “reduce the carbon footprint of Nadia Esi Naturals by 40%”.
“I did this by switching to recyclable premium glass, sourcing parts of our packaging and labels from the UK and using high quality British essential oils,” she reveals.
Action is a key part of Nadia’s brand – from enhancing the company’s sustainability efforts to her Ghana School Initiative, which gives a percentage of profits from Nadia Esi Naturals to a local Ghanian school.
“A proportion of all sales are donated to a school in Ghana called Blessed Little Angels. This school does not charge fees as the children attending the school are either orphans or come from poorer economic backgrounds,” she says.
“I have always worked closely with this school since primary school, raising money for them at events. Now I have my own business I thought it would be great to use my own profits to give back to my community. The school is based in a town in Central Region where my parents are from.
“Whenever I am in Ghana I always go to visit, I love the kids. They are always so happy and I love seeing that.”
To find out more about the brand, visit: www.nadiaesi.co.uk