Determined and passionate, Ahoua Bakayoko, Founder of Missbak, has centered her vegan and organic skin care brand on making a positive impact.
Hi Ahoua, can you tell us about yourself and your company Missbak?
Missbak came to life when my son started to develop allergies. At first, I felt like a detective, researching contents with strange letters and numbers in creams. It was then that I discovered how many products contain ingredients which have bad affects on our skin and the environment. So it’s no surprise that we hear about cosmetic scandals every year…
Originally, I’m from the Ivory Coast and for us, skin care is based on natural remedies, and mainly shea butter. No one suffers from skin allergies, and shea butter is a basic skin care product that everyone has access.
Seeing no improvement in my son’s skin reactions, I started treating him with shea butter, which made all the difference. Suddenly everything fell into place, and I thought of how I could help people with skin problems, while supporting women in the Ivory Coast, who are the ones producing shea butter.
At Missbak, we offer natural skin care products, which give back to our community. Our project aims to improve women’s working conditions, by providing them with health care, training, a safe work place, and remunerating them correctly.
Were you always in the cosmetics field?
I was in finance until I started Missbak. After graduating, I was an auditor for 10 years. I wanted a work-life balance, so I could spend more time with my son and pursue something more meaningful with an impact. After some time, I resigned and founded Missbak. The goal is to dedicate time to a project, which is ethical, and improving the world we live in.
What products does Missbak currently offer?
We offer Shea butter, cacao oil and coconut oil, which are ingredients that can be incorporated in homemade cosmetics, and applied on your body and hair, all year around.
Where does the name ‘Missbak’ come from?
It took me a while to come up with my company’s name. Then one day, my best friend said, “Why don’t you call it ‘Missbak’?” It made perfect sense because it’s my childhood nickname, and everyone back home knows me as ‘Missbak’. The funny thing is that the name was just right there, the whole time.
What are the Missbak’s values?
We’re very dedicated to female empowerment, ethical and sustainable practices, as well as transparency on how and who makes your products. We want to have a positive impact on our community.
I believe, my clientele is concerned about environment issues, and being ethical awareness is deeply rooted in my philosophy. The point is to care for our planet. We live here and the best way to be thankful is to preserve it.
How would you describe a typical day working on your project?
There is no such thing as a typical day! However, before getting to The Office, I plan my schedule the day and week ahead. I do calls, research and organize meetings. Currently, we’re running a crowd funding initiative and hope it will attract future customers, while raising our funds. When you donate, you get a pre-order item.
What are the biggest challenges of being an entrepreneur?
I would say getting finances. I know why I do what I do, and where I’m going. I believe in my project, and I have control over that, but money is the one thing that is tougher to tackle. Let’s face it money, facilitates a lot of things. While there is a lot promotion for entrepreneurship, finances are not as readily available for entrepreneurs of all sectors. Providers have a narrow selection process, and mainly support Regtech or Fintech startups. This doesn’t leave you with many options, other than maybe crowd funding. Let’s face it, people don’t easily give money to crowd funding either….So you have to be very transparent with the community and share, in hopes they too will spread the word of Missbak.
Where can we find your crowdfunding initiative?
As a co-worker, what are the 3 words that come to your mind when you hear, The Office?
Peaceful, friendly and cozy.
Why did you choose The Office?
It was the flexibility! The Office allows me to come and go when I want, offers larger spaces if I need it in the future, and I have exactly what I need to get my work done. Other spaces require you to commit to stay a minimum of 6 months or even a year, even though the road of a startup is known to be unpredictable.
If you could give aspiring entrepreneurs or freelancers, any advice, what would it be?
It depends where you are in in your project. However, if you’re just starting out, it’ s good to start with validating your idea. From day one up until now, I have adapted my project based on feedback I’ve received. The important thing to remember is that you are selling to others and not yourself. It is crucial to find out what others want and need, and to be on the same page.
For startups and entrepreneurs who are a bit further along, believe in what you’re doing! Stay realistic, face challenges, and try to understand what works and what doesn’t. Be open to feedback while keeping your feet on the ground.