AS a budding cosmetic chemist, Sandra Mwiihangele has carved herself a niche in the competitive cosmetic industry having founded Kiyomisandz – a beauty products manufacturing company. Her passion for everything cosmetic was triggered when at the age of 11 she and a friend won a gold medal at the Namibian National Expo for Young Scientists for creating a matte lipstick using natural resources. Her continued innovative ideas recently earned her the DBN Good Business & Innovation award. In an interview with Confidente, Sandra talks about her journey in the field, competing with international cosmetic brands and her love for hiking as a way to unwind.
Give us a snapshot of who you are?
I’m a 28-year-old Namibian female who simply loves making cosmetic products.
Briefly tell us about your upbringing?
I grew up with my mother in Wi n d h o e k and have spent most of my life in Windhoek. My childhood and upbringing has definitely played a role in my career choice. My mother loves plants and flowers and she always made sure our home was filled with them in and out of the house because of that I was inspired by the beautiful Japanese botanical gardens to create my current Summer Rain Collection of products. My mother always enjoys DIY crafts and creating new ways of making tasteful food recipes, etc. I have watched her be innovative, I have now grown to become an innovator who loves being innovative in the cosmetic science field.
What triggered your interest in cosmetic chemistry?
My best friend and I at the tender age of 11 won a gold medal at the Namibian National Expo for Young Scientists competition for creating a high performance matte lipstick using natural resources from our surroundings. That whole experience awoke a passion inside me for cosmetic science which has now turned into a profession. My expertise lies in the art to skillfully formulate a cosmetic product from start to finish, while being able to conduct tests and quality control on products.
In layman’s terms, what is a cosmetic chemist?
A cosmetic chemist is a professional that conducts research and product development on cosmetic and personal care products, creating new innovative ways to solve topical skin, hair and hygiene related issues. This profession allows chemists to be creative when developing new product concepts, new formulations and new ways to solve manufacturing problems.
Tell us about the establishment of Kiyomisandz, what is its nature?
Kiyomisandz was established in February 2015 with the purpose of offering cosmetic and toiletry manufacturing services to potential clients in the hospitality and tourism industry, for entrepreneurs and pharmacies. These services include Research & Product Development, Stability Testing, Quality Control, Manufacturing and Packaging.
How has the local market received your services?
The Summer Rain Collection, which is a brand of products that my company produces, has been well received over the past year and a half. These products are now available at Medicine World pharmacies. With regards to the manufacturing services, we have received queries over the months, and we are currently working with clients on developing new Namibian innovative products that are rare on the market and can compete with the current international brands. The challenges that I have faced before winning the 2016 DBN Innovation Award was not having enough funds to market my company services and products to the country.
Do you think Namibians prefer home grown products or international brands?
I believe that in the past Namibians only supported international brands but now they are ready to support and prefer to choose buying locally manufactured products. With regards to my experience thus far with my products, I think it’s because the quality, packaging, and creativity of my products speaks for itself. My products deliver and perform well when it comes to delivering active ingredients, moisture and hydration to the skin and people see the positive outcome and improvement in the health of their skin and hygiene.
What do you enjoy most and least about your career?
I enjoy and love creating something out of nothing. I enjoy experimenting and finding the solutions to a problem. Cosmetic formulations are mixture of art and science. I have a creative soul and scientific mind therefore this career is perfectly suited for me. Perhaps what I don’t enjoy most about this profession is dealing with anything else that does not contribute to the overall growth of my business.
What advice would you give a youngster aspiring to join the field?
You have to be a creative individual who loves science. You have to adopt skills such as discipline, patience and perseverance which form a part of your personality. You have to have a chemistry background and most importantly gain the working experience needed to become a successful cosmetic chemist.
Just what do you do for a little fun?
I enjoy hiking in the hills around Windhoek with close friends while practicing on my landscape photography skills. I love reading mentally stimulating books and I enjoy watching Nat-Geo TV, the Food Network channel and watching documentary series.
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