It is with great pleasure to feature Liah Okunniwa and Abi Oyepitan of LIHA beauty in this latest installment of my ‘Mind Your Own Business‘ series!
I first came across the brand on via the fabulous brownbeautytalk Instagram page and I immediately contacted the lovely lasses. I loved the branding, fusing Hackney and Cheltenham – two parts of the country that couldn’t be more different – thus demonstrating how the nation is changing into a beautiful melting pot of cultures and experiences! Abi sent me their Idan Oil and Wildcrafted Pure Shea Butter to test…
…and I loved the products so much that the oil was selected as one of my 2015 ‘summer must haves‘!
I was keen to get to know the entrepreneurs a little bit more…and here is what I found out!
BPL: What was the main inspiration for you starting your business?
ABI: The inspiration was not being able to find genuine natural cosmetics products that worked for us. Liha and I have known each other since university – for over 15 years. We were always talking hair and skincare and comparing over new cosmetics discoveries from our travels.
Being an Olympic athlete I travelled a lot and picked up quite different products and brands, but I always reverted back to making my own concoctions. Liha was always cooking up her own recipes and it was something that was always a part our conversations.
We had been messing around with our Idan oil for a long time, trying to get it perfect; at this point we hadn’t even conceived of LIHA beauty, it was just for our own personal use. We wanted a multi-purpose, super moisturising product that was subtle yet that had a powerful essence, as neither of us are big perfume wearers.
Anyway, we gave the Idan oil to family and friends and they were always bugging us to produce more and that’s really how LIHA Beauty started.
BPL: What is it like to work as a partnership? How do you work through disputes? What are the positives?
ABI: To be honest, we haven’t had any real disputes – we are mostly always on the same page as we have the same vision for our business. If one of us feels strongly about something we usually just come to a compromise…I do hope that this will always be the case as our friendship is much more important. In the past, if we did really disagree on anything we would usually get Liha’s partner Simon to settle – he’s very impartial!
The positives are definitely that we have the same passion for what we are doing, and sharing an incredible journey with one of my best friends is so rewarding. We’ve had so many amazing moments in a short period of time and to reminisce with Liha about how far we have come is always very inspirational.
BPL: How did you develop the branding?
ABI: We had a very clear vision of how we wanted our brand to look – our reference point was always ‘Afro-Scandi’ – a concept we invented after looking through old photos of Liha’s dad hitchhiking through Europe in the 60’s. We wanted our brand to look simple and elegant but to also to stand out by being different.
We worked with two amazing young graphic designers, who helped us bring our vision to life. It was also important that all our packaging was easy to reuse and recycle, which is why we went with the glass.
BPL: What are the future aspirations for the brand?
ABI: We want grow our product range, continuing to fuse natural African and English ingredients and aesthetics. We are passionate about wanting to help our African suppliers to grow their own business as well to be able to empower their own communities. Of course, we envision Liha Beauty growing in the UK and eventually expanding internationally.
For now, we are carefully expanding our range, taking the time to make sure each product we add is perfect and is something that we or our family and friends have a need for! The latest addition will be our black African soap, Ose Gidi (Yoruba meaning: Real Soap) launching very soon.
The brand is stocked in a number of independent boutiques and in the Anthropologie store on Regent Street in London.
Follow the brand on Twitter and Instagram to keep up with the latest LIHA Beauty news!!