After a year and a half of work, diligently scouring for high quality ingredients and effective formulas Hermellia M’Possi launched HIC&NUNK last month on July 11th for curly and coily haired people looking for a gentle and moisturising haircare line.
HIC&NUNK comes from the Latin expression “hic et nunc” which means “here and now.” M’Possi instantly fell in love with the name HIC&NUNK because it represented the urgency she felt for bringing something she felt was new and necessary to the continental European continental market, hair care for girls and women with curly or coily hair who have struggled to find that perfect product to suit their texture. She also felt that it was the perfect time to launch a brand that mirrors what’s happening in society: we live in a time when people are increasingly embracing a more natural lifestyle, sales of organic produce have gone up, products are proudly stating their lack of parabens and preservatives and more curly/coily haired-people are ditching chemical processes. “The natural hair movement is here, the moment is now,” she tells us. We ask the entrepreneur about her trials, tribulations and goals and how her company’s social responsibility initiative is helping to educate girls in Senegal.
What motivated you to start your company?
It all began when I decided to go back to natural hair – I was over the torturous process of relaxing my hair. I also consider myself environmentally conscious and try to lead a natural and healthy lifestyle like eating organic, working out etc. but I couldn’t find that healthy natural solution for my hair. Over the years I tried every product I could get my hands on, but nothing suited my needs. I wanted a high-quality natural product that smelled good and that was made from ingredients I could pronounce and trust. A brand that was dedicated to dealing with natural dry and tightly curled hair. Everything I tried either had a potent smell, left my hair feeling crunchy or was loaded with chemicals. So I began mixing things in my kitchen, using natural ingredients (and a lot of trial and error). Soon I was expanding my trials to my friends and that’s when I knew I was on to something special.
A lot of my motivation also came from a very personal place. Growing up as a black woman in Europe, it wasn’t easy finding products that catered to my skin color or hair type. Shop shelves were stacked with rows of pretty shampoo bottles featuring models with long flowing hair, while the pitiful collection of products for what many marketers considered “difficult” or “unmanageable” hair was pushed in the corner. I want girls with natural hair to be able to walk into a store and purchase high quality, nice smelling and beautifully packaged products for their hair. I wanted girls like me to feel like they deserve a luxurious product too.
What is your company’s purpose?
HIC&NUNK is all about providing natural hair care solutions for natural dry and curly hair. Through our product range we aim at providing our customers with the best natural ingredients for their hair type, without compromising on quality.
What have been some of the greatest challenges you have faced so far?
I have dedicated almost two years just on perfecting the formulas and can say the greatest challenge for me was patience. Because I was working with a formulator and a lab, the process was laborious and it took time to perfect the final formulas. Also, to receive the proper certifications, we had to adhere to strict EU regulations, there was a lot of red-tape and so yes, I had to be very very patient which is not in my nature.
Your advice to other entrepreneurs?
Take your time and don’t make rash decisions, but also don’t be afraid to take the leap… when necessary. Also, making mistakes is part of the process – each mistake is a lesson in disguise. But above all, love what you do! It makes each challenge and obstacle worth it.
What do you do to de-stress?
Jogging! It has been my number one “de-stress” activity. It is my me time, where I can come back physically tired but mentally calmer, with a new sense of clarity.
I also like to spend time with my family and friends, and especially with my nieces! Kids have this wonderful power to bring you back to REALITY! They are magic! They don’t care about your stress, your issues, they only want to play! They are the best people to hang out with if you need to get back to your peaceful self.
Do you/did you have a mentor?
I have indeed. He was a member of the jury I had to present my business project to, when I was looking for some honorary loans to build it. The jury granted me one and M. Bryon offered to be my mentor. He is the CEO of ROCHEX company, a French based company.
Where do you see yourself and your company in five years time?
In five years, I hope a lot of people will be using and loving our brand! I also have plans for the product range to grow. There has been an increase in sales of hair styling products in recent years and I am excited to tap into that market. And hopefully, in the not to distant future, we will expand distributions to many more countries with curls in distress.
What would you say is the most important trend in your industry this year?
I believe consumers are becoming more conscious of the products they use on their hair and in cosmetics in general and it’s creating a new demand for more eco friendly and sustainable options.
How do you think globalism is affecting your industry and your company in particular?
In terms of regulations it is very hard to please all the different requirements from one country to another. Europe is very strict, North America as well. Globalization has had an impact on the expectation of quality in order to cater to the global market. If you want to sell in Europe or in North America, there are certain standards that must be met and I do think this is a good thing as it helps protect the consumer.
However, I think globalism also has a damaging aspect. Although there is more awareness, in general, on what people put on their bodies, I think a lot of people still aren’t well informed and the market has ben flooded with new and exotic products that can be purchased online from countries without the same stringent regulations. For example, in my industry, you have a lot of products that claim they are organic and all natural when in fact only a percentage of the ingredients are actually natural and have been diluted. And since the regulations are not the same in every country, what brands can get away with on your labeling can vary and be very misleading.
How are you leveraging the digital to forward your business?
The digital is a big part of my business strategy. We are an e-commerce based company, so digital strategy is our main approach for the moment. Social media such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter are the main tools we are using and we love that it enables us to connect directly with our consumers. The official launch was only a month ago, so we have only now begun to shift our focus from R&D to marketing. So our next goal is building brand awareness, and becoming more visible online. We spent years perfecting the HIC&NUNK formula, now it’s time to get the product into the hands of the consumers. The best part of social media is that it has allowed me to build a relationship with our customer, which is something I really enjoy!
What do you love most about your job?
The core of my business, a natural solution for natural hair, is definitely something I am passionate about. I love my hair type, I always have. Being able to create something that is for it, is something I am proud of and enjoy every single day. Since the first time I used my home made concoctions on my hair, I was floored by the results and had a “A-ha!” moment where I thought “everyone should be using this!” So I love having this drive of loving the products and being able to bring and share something like this with other people and make them embrace and love their natural hair to.
On a business level, I love the freedom of entrepreneurship. It is a special kind of freedom – instead of working your butt off for your boss, you get to work your butt off for yourself! However, it doesn’t mean life is just a big vacation – yes you’re your own boss, but all the responsibilities that come with being an entrepreneur lie squarely on your shoulders, which means no rest, not ever. It’s like becoming a parent – you have your own kid, so you can raise it however you like, but this kid relies on you for everything, you can never go away totally, your heart and mind are always attached to it.
Can you share a bit about the humanitarian aspect of your brand?
HIC&NUNK is oriented towards eco awareness, using plant-based ingredients to reach results. Everything about creating my company came from deep personal values, one of these being the fact that my roots lie in Africa. I was born and raised in France, but a big part of my heart is still and will always be in Africa. So whenever I can, I travel to a new country on the continent. Eight months ago, I was in Dakar, Senegal visiting a friend’s family, and I just fell in love with the country. Her mother was involved in a non-profit organization where working women gather weekly to discuss and collect funds for a group of young girls they are supporting. These girls (almost 100) are from remote areas in Senegal and they are from families who don’t have enough resources to provide for their daughters’ education. The organization provides these young girls with food, clothes, medicine and school fees from the age six to 13. As an African woman, I can’t help but encourage these types of women led initiatives for young girls. The value of providing them with basic education, is priceless. So I wanted to be involved, and my company to be involved. To collect money, the women in charge of the association sell food, clothes or make other goods depending on their skills. While attending one of their meetings, we came up with the idea of selling wood combs and hand made carrier bags for the products with the HIC&NUNK logo on it. For every comb purchased, and every customer who walks out with a HIC&NUNK bag, part of those funds will go directly back to the young women who are striving to improve their community.
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*Disclaimer: HIC&NUNK is filled with wonderful plant-based products but it’s always important to check packaging for each product to ensure they don’t have any potentially dangerous preservatives. Full list of what to look out for here.