In 2016, South African-born and London-based Nomshado Baca saw a gap in the market for high-quality beauty and wellness solutions targeted exclusively at meeting the needs of women of colour.
Driven by a desire to build a company that championed sustainability and celebrated her African heritage, Nomshado created A Complexion Company, a bespoke collection of thoughtfully designed skincare essentials that function with people and the planet in mind. Though it only officially launched only two weeks after lockdown, A Complexion Company has quickly caught the attention of leaders in the beauty world.
Here Nomshado unveils the vision behind her brand and gives us an insight into her desire to drive change in beauty and wellness from the inside out.
Tell us a bit about your background and what you did before starting your business.
I spent many years in luxury fashion. When I got the opportunity to work at Ralph Lauren, that was a really big break for my career - and it was everything you could imagine. After two years, I started working with high-net-worth private clients to give myself a broader view of the industry as a whole.
When I decided that I wanted to start my own company, I spent a few years on the ground, working part-time in stores to get to grips with how the retail world works. As an entrepreneur, you have to lead from the top; it's important to understand all the different functions of your business.
How have these experiences shaped you as an entrepreneur?
I have a good knowledge across the supply chain, from the consumer to sourcing materials and the sustainable practices that are involved in that. This has given me the ability to build a company in a holistic way. If I had only focused on marketing, we would have had excellent marketing, but we would have also had weaknesses in other areas. Exposing myself to different aspects of the business means that every detail of my company is considered and I have been able to integrate the company values across every element of the business.
Why was it important for you to integrate sustainable practices into your business from the beginning?
Unfortunately, beauty is one of the most wasteful industries. While I was aware of that from the consumer perspective, understanding it from the business side allowed me to understand the challenges in more detail. I'm also a big reader on consumer behaviour and I wanted to maintain the buying experience without compromising it for the sake of sustainability.
My upbringing also gave me a different perspective on the industry's response to sustainability. Sustainable practices are implemented in everyday life across Africa - the lifecycle of one item goes as far as your imagination can extend. In the formative years of my life, I would see something as seemingly as insignificant as a bottlecap repurposed to decorate the wire cars that young boys in my community would play with. When I noticed that sustainability was something that the UK consumer was interested in, I knew it could be done because I had seen it achieved in Africa with fewer resources.
What is the biggest barrier to living sustainably?
Time. When I think about the lifestyle in the UK, everybody is always so busy and in such a rush. The process of thinking and developing these habits is really difficult, which is why the companies who have been able to encourage sustainability from the consumer side are the ones who have made it easy for them. The consumer is just so time-starved that the impact one person can make is often minimal in comparison to the impact one company can have.
Your brand focuses on the skincare needs of women of colour. Why?
We have never been served exclusively, especially at the level at which I want to position my products. I felt that we needed to be recognised as influential buyers because we spend more in this category than any other demographic, and developing my brand was a way I could provide women with a safe solution.
They don't have to pick my products, but they should at least have the choice. I'm big on female empowerment. At the moment our choices are very limited and we have to work harder to make our products work. The thing that made it a turning point for me was realising that Black women carry the burden of beauty-related toxins, and that's when I knew it was a systematic thing that not only affects me, but all Black women and the generations to come.
How would you define clean beauty?
I would define it as simple. Not simple in terms of isolated ingredients, but simplicity that doesn't need anything to be removed. When there is nothing else to remove, then you have created an effective product that is safe for the person using it, the plant used and the environment as a whole.
How does travel inspire your creativity?
I'm the first in my entire bloodline to travel as much as I have, and I haven't travelled that much. I've lived in Australia, Switzerland and the US, and it has given me an insight that no one in my family has ever had. It has allowed me to be reflective and have a duality where I carry my heritage with me everywhere I go, and I'm able to see its influence in those spaces and how I'm influenced by those spaces as well. Travel is where I get an understanding of how the global African nation is going to develop and grow, and it's where I get the source of my creativity.