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Green and Orange Health and Wellness Blo

The Future is local.

As a former small business owner myself, I'm acquainted with the hardships faced by entrepreneurs with a limited budget in Mauritius. Ever since, I have found it crucial to help educate others about the challenges faced by SB owners, local products, sustainability and more.  I, initially started this project on Instagram. I have since then, been observing a steady growth of following. This platform will hopefully serve as a mediator between aspiring entrepreneurs and SB owners in Mauritius and anywhere else! One of the goals of this blog is to increase the visibility of local businesses and their products.  Curious to learn more? Check out our SB stories of some budding entrepreneurs.

Green and Orange Health and Wellness Blo
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Maison Vernissage is not only an online publication that discusses fashion trends, icons, random facts and music, but it's also a brand specialising in Hand-painted Denim Jackets. It is only a few pages long, yet it conveys the vital. A single piece from Maison V is enough for an individual to stand out in a crowd. To learn more about Vernissage, read their online issues and check out their exclusive collections here:

1.So, tell us a bit about yourselves and your business.

What inspired you to start Vernissage?

Abdur: Maison Vernissage was created to address the lack of interest in art and fashion in Mauritius. Everything seems pretty much the same, and it is tough to find originality when it comes to local brands. We wanted to create a fusion of art and fashion. We work closely with artists who can express their uniqueness through the quality of our creations. Maison Vernissage is not only a brand; it is a Proclamation, a statement. Wearing a Maison Vernissage piece shows one's interest in quality, fashion, the arts in general.

Diksha: I'm Diksha, and I'm originally from South Africa; and I moved to Mauritius about 2 years ago. I have a solid background in Media as i have previously worked in Radio and Television. I have always had an interest in fashion; my mother made sure I kept up with the trends. Fashion, or rather a Personal Style, is how they expressed themselves during the apartheid era. Fashion played a massive role in my upbringing, and I always knew I would gravitate towards it in one way or another. Our business had a ridiculous start (laughs) as I'm a big fan of all things ART-related; I had this splendid idea to incorporate Art and Fashion. "Why buy a painting and only hang it in your home when you can show it off to the world" and this is how Maison Vernissage started!

Coming from a highly expressive country, it was sad to see that people here didn't express themselves. I mean, they would complain about everything behind closed doors, but that's where it stayed. I then realized some of the most significant statements can be through ART, so why not create fashion statements.

2. What were your understandings of starting a small business before you launched it?

Abdur: I've grown up among entrepreneurs. I was aware of various aspects of the industry from a young age. I already knew the know-how of entrepreneurship. I dropped my University studies to invest myself fully in my projects, one of which was Maison Vernissage.

Diksha: As Mandela would say, "It always seems impossible until it's done.'' Fortunately, I have a background in business and was aware of the many hurdles that would come my way, but I was ready to overcome them. I have a wild imagination and a mouth that could sell ice to an Eskimo, so I was halfway there. I knew it would be challenging as it would be something completely new in Mauritius. I was not even sure if it was going to work, but what is entrepreneurship without risks?

Some might call me crazy, but I went with my gut. I knew the right type of clients would eventually gravitate towards the brand. I also had a fantastic business partner who believed in me from the very start. My friends and family were supporting me, and that's all I needed. A can-do attitude and a great support system.

3.It's a bold initiative to start a magazine and a fashion brand together! Did you consider it to be risky, or was it part of the bigger picture?

Abdur: We launched the Magazine almost a year after the setting up of Maison Vernissage.

Everything was planned from the beginning; however, we waited for a positive response towards Maison Vernissage before going any further. Diksha possessed the required knowledge as a journalist who has worked in South Africa. In contrast, I possessed graphic design skills, notably for creating editorials. It seemed apparent that it would work. The aim is to produce our own media content to acquire a platform along with our brand. We wanted to somehow influence the fashion/art industry.

Diksha: It was part of a bigger picture from the start. I wanted to educate people. Working in media, I realized that the press always depicts Africa as a 'poverty-stricken" country. Numerous stereotypes are associated with Africa. Meanwhile, back here in Africa, we doing the most! I saw the breach and thought I have the knowledge and ability to remind us as Africans that before we were branded as slaves, we were POETS, MUSICIANS, SCIENTISTs, DOCTORS, QUEENS and KINGS, and we have a rich history. The perception of Africans is usually limited to slavery, and my aim was to remind people of our roots. I didn't want us to forget that. Since my brand is proudly African, I knew it would tie nicely with the Magazine's philosophy - to educate and remind.

4.Was revenue an essential factor when you started off or did you have relatively low, or should I say realistic expectations initially?

Abdur: Money has undoubtedly been a significant factor. Nothing is done for free. However, given our pieces and the Mauritian market, we were aware that we would not be a hit at the beginning. The goal was to distinguish our brand from what was already being done and be unique.

Diksha: I honestly think that money was not an issue as I was focused on making statements. However, we started with minimal capital just to test the waters. I was very realistic as I knew people aren't precisely "fashion-forward" in Mauritius, but I had a gut feeling that the right type of client would gravitate towards us.

5. What were some challenges you encountered when starting you didn't anticipate?

Abdur: There are so many of them. But what touched me the most at the very beginning was the disinterest of some institutions, which I won't be naming, that prefer investing their time in brands that lacked originality and give up on smaller brands that have so much more potential. Unfortunately, in Mauritius, everything is related to notoriety or reputation. You can create something crappy yet supported if you are known; they will throw themselves at your feet. The absence of media coverage of brands like ours was also a reason to create the Magazine to empower young entrepreneurs.

Diksha: People not understanding the significance of the product. I have a great product at a great price, but I was not getting through. I knew there was a broken link somewhere and quickly realized people aren't educated enough on art. Here you have a product made LOCALLY and painted on by a LOCAL artist; you literally own a piece of ART. Art is an asset, and you are still not interested - that's when we took it upon ourselves to educate people about art and its value.

6.What are the insights that you acquired or learned when you started your business?

Abdur: I already was familiar with Fashion and Art. I had previously worked with a few brands before founding Maison Vernissage. I was also in art resale, so I was in my element. However, what I discovered through Maison Vernissage is media's power, mainly thanks to our Magazine. It's extraordinary to see the impact of a medium and the value it can bring to young entrepreneurs.

Diksha: To be patient and make rational decisions. The plan is not to create a commercial brand but rather a union of fearless go-getters. When someone wears my brand, I want them to feel powerful. To bring that message across, I had to take my time and do thorough research. After-all a house necessitates time to become a home, which perfectly illustrates the brand name "Maison Vernissage."

7. Do you consider the help or suggestions of others when it comes to how you run Vernissage?

Abdur: To teach us how to run Maison Vernissage, mmm.. not exactly. But I'm very open to constructive criticism on my creations and magazines. It enables us to better ourselves and to offer higher quality at all times.

Diksha: Definitely! To grow, you need to learn and observe. I have always been open to learning and can avoid mistakes if I listen and learn from people. And it's always good to have a fresh pair of eyes in the business.

8.To what extent is the marketing strategy of your brand different from other brands?

Abdur: As I said earlier, we always try to be innovative and distinctive, and it shows in our posts on social platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram. However, I believe that it is the media aspect that really makes us stand out when it comes to marketing. We approach our clients and fans through our Magazine, and always interacting with them is crucial. Magazines, interviews and our articles allow us to continually be in touch with potential buyers. By marketing continuously ( even if we're short on stock, which was the case during the pandemic), people will perpetually hear about us. As soon as we don't talk about something anymore, we forget about it, and being forgotten is the worst thing that can happen to a brand.

9. Being an entrepreneur can be scary and lonely as a career since nothing is guaranteed. How do you overcome such feelings?

Abdur: An entrepreneur has to do all that is in his power to succeed and provide himself with all the means to do so. We have one edge; it's that there are two of us. But even if you are alone, the goal is to succeed. Being afraid or feeling alone is an obstacle to success. I have personally never experienced any of these feelings.

Diksha: Lonely for whom? I have a great support system that genuinely believes in me, and that makes a massive difference. Nothing will ever be handed to you on the real, so just do it YOURSELF with what you HAVE. The rest will figure itself out.

10. What is the biggest challenge of setting up a magazine?

Abdur: The biggest challenge is to regularly find exciting topics. We try always to nurture and bring to light young talents or uncommon issues. Again, originality is our motto.

Diksha: Personally, we didn't have many challenges as we have the combined skills to pull it off. However, finding quality content can be a nightmare.

You need to keep your readers engaged, and with this fast-paced life, we hardly have time on our hands. If you have a brand like ours, where the main focus is an upcoming or underground artist, you have to know people who know people - you feel me?

11. What are the unexpected benefits of being entrepreneurs?

Abdur: I would say notoriety; we're so concerned about our company that we don't quite recognize the notoriety we're gaining. We tend to notice it when people come up to us and talk to us about our brand directly or when they recognize us in connection with Maison Vernissage. As was the case with the invitation to Las Vegas for the Agenda Show in August, there are also the most unexpected projects.

There are also the encounters; through our Magazine and our interviews, I had the opportunity to meet extraordinary people and one of many legends: Menwar.

Diksha: Just how rewarding it feels. I mean, ANYTHING can lift your mood from 1 new follower, buyer or a simple retweet. It just reminds you, its a slow process, but it's still a process worth doing.

12. What are the current projects of Vernissage?

Abdur: This year will be the busiest for Maison Vernissage. Our two collections, Denim and Nippon, sold out very quickly at the start of the year. We plan to release 3 new collections this year, including an exceptional one. You will find out more in a few weeks. Several of our projects have been affected by the pandemic, in particular our fashion shows. For instance, one in Paris has been cancelled, and the one in Las Vegas, which is scheduled for August but is on hold for the moment. As for the Magazine, we are delighted with the feedback. We will continue to offer the very best subjects, articles and artists to our readers. The objective this year is to acquire a stature in the industry.

13. Anything you would like to say to our readers?

Diksha: Sanitize your hands and Wear your mask! Also, try to surround yourself with people that genuinely want to see you flourish; I mean like really, really want to see you make it in life. And if you don't find them, be your own biggest supporter!

Thank you for sharing your business insight with us!

Updated: Mar 5, 2021

Aphrodite Boutik is all about organic beauty. Launched in August 2020, Aphrodite Boutik, an organic beauty brand based in Mauritius, is growing at a steady pace with around 1625 followers and a subsequent amount of loyal customers. Marie-Kelly admits that it took her almost 3years to finally step out of her comfort zone and set up her small business. The young woman handles every aspect of her company independently, from marketing to the administrative stuff. Marie-Kelly says to have always been passionate about natural alternatives when it came to cosmetics or skincare, and one night, she realised she should launch her own product line. However, she did not start anything until 2019, when the young entrepreneur acquired training in beauty therapy to find a job; she realised that she could use her knowledge to create her own brand.

1. How would you describe your brand, Aphrodite Boutik, to someone who has never heard of it before?

Aphrodite is a natural cosmetic and skincare line. We produce solid shampoos, soaps, masks and even scalp exfoliators from locally sourced raw materials. The brand aims at showing that there is always an alternative and that it is possible to take care of our bodies without going broke or using chemicals. It can be done through the use of natural options. Opting for a realistic option can primarily benefit our planet. I would also like to add that benevolence is a key- ideology of my brand. This is why I thought it necessary to set up a group on Facebook, where women could share their DIYs and routines to help each other find better solutions to their skin issues. To help one another while transitioning to a more natural way of life is primordial as this is how our bodies can rid of toxins or endocrine disruptors, which can interfere with our hormones. Toxins and endocrine disruptors can cause imbalance, and this is precisely when our level of self-confidence gets affected. Aphrodite Boutik also emphasises the well-being and the environment.

2. Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you ended up being an entrepreneur?

I think it all started when I turned 18. I had the opportunity to study in France, where I lived for six years, and it is during this period that my love for natural skincare alternatives and nature itself began. I recognised that it was high time for us humans to change our way of living and consume more responsibly and thoughtfully. In 2019, I acquired training as a beauty therapist and this knowledge that I gained enabled me to set up my brand later on. Since my return to Mauritius, every single experience, whether good or bad, has shaped the person I am today and has prepared me for possible hardships as an entrepreneur.

3. When did you realise that you could trust your entrepreneurial self and not give up on your project?

Actually, my partner was the trigger. He has perpetually been supporting me through his motto, ''Your life should be metamorphosed''. He inspires and motivates me each day. He had much faith in me, and he convinced me that I could live my dreams.

4.What is your biggest platform?

Instagram! As it enables me to develop a rapport with my followers, whereas other platforms do not allow such engagement.

5. Do you think social media platforms have somehow contributed to the success of small enterprises?

Certainly! The internet offers countless opportunities for small businesses. It is not always apparent to own physical space. It comes with many responsibilities, whereas on Instagram or Facebook, we can start from scratch and slowly grow into something bigger.

6. Do you need to boost posts to increase your visibility, or do you prefer a more organic approach?

I have done both, and I have to say that my brand can touch a more significant audience by boosting my posts on Facebook or Instagram. However, this does not fundamentally translate as an increase in sales. Still, it is a potent means to sensitise people and make them aware of these natural alternatives' availability.

7. Did you have to acquire any new skill to become a better content creator on those platforms?

Indeed, it is a full-time job. Before the conceptualisation of any product, there are hours of experimentation involved. Photography becomes a vital skill since everything is substantially visual on these platforms.

Now let's talk a bit about your products!

8. Moringa seems to be an essential component in a lot of your products. What makes it so novel?

I prioritise working with ingredients such as Moringa and Green Tea when creating my products as these are locally-sourced. The sources of the ingredients matter, and this is why I manufacture my own Moringa powder or infusion to make sure that they are free from chemicals. It's the same with other ingredients such as mustard or fenugreek.

9.Can you tell us more about your 100% natural hair scrub?

The hair exfoliator is our most recent product. We tend to forget that the scalp is like any other part of our body and should be exfoliated in the very same way. It is essential to exfoliate the scalp to eliminate product buildup, toxins and dead skin cells. I recommend using the hair scrub 1 or 2 times per month.

10. Do you believe the Aphrodite Hair Scrub should be part of every girl's hair routine?

Definitely! The Hair Scrub is an ally in achieving a healthy scalp and stronger hair.

11. What is your best-selling product so far?

Our Clarifying Shampoo and our Anti-Fall Hair Mask are our bestsellers! We're big on hair products.

Thank you for sharing your journey with us!

Updated: Feb 19, 2021

Fashion is an ever-evolving industry that still lacks transparency and is still regarded as one of the vilest industries despite its incredible success. The fashion industry holds second place after the oil and gas industries when it comes to environmental damage. And this is why it is necessary to talk about sustainable fashion regularly. Sustainability is not only about how eco-friendly or how ethical are the different phases of production, but it is also about labour, wages, the supply chain, transparency and a lot more than that. The Fashion Movement "Who made my clothes?" was a wakeup call for all of us who consume blindly without understanding the harm being caused to the less fortunate. Cheap labour, child labour and unfair wages are the direct results of fast-fashion. This is why a lot of consumers are now turning to more ethical and sustainable brands. To understand some of the current challenges faced by sustainable fashion brands, we've decided to discuss the issue with Lekshailee Elliah, the founder of KALEA.

"Ethereal and sustainable"-this is what comes to one's mind when browsing through the launching collection of local Mauritian brand KALEA. Launched in August, the brand has already established its presence on social media and is on its way to conquer the hearts or, should I say, the wardrobes of slow fashion enthusiasts.

1. How would you describe KALEA to someone who has never heard of it before?

Kalea is a timeless and effortlessly chic clothing brand, which focuses on ethical and sustainable fashion. Each of our items is carefully handcrafted by local and international artisans, and we make sure that all of our products are ethically made. We are a slow-fashion brand meaning that we do not mass-produce. We produce only 10 to 15 pieces of each design. We value craftsmanship and aim to empower women via our brand and create more jobs on the market in the long run.

2.What was the impact of the pandemic on the launching of your brand?

One of the main challenges remains shipping issues. Since we have international producers, our shipments take very long to reach Mauritius due to the pandemic. However, the pandemic's positive side is that people are relying more on online shopping than physical shopping, thus creating more opportunities for online shops like ours.

3.A lot of sources show that the pandemic caused people to indulge in panic buying during the first phases of the lockdown but has gradually changed the way consumers buy. They tend to consume more consciously and think twice before purchasing an item. Do you believe that slow fashion is here to stay? Or is it just another trend like any other?

Slow fashion is not a trend but a culture. I strongly believe in slow fashion and find that people are becoming more conscious about their purchases. Sustainable lifestyle is spreading everywhere in the world; however, it is still new to Mauritians. Mauritians are very used to buying cheap clothing and mass-produced clothing. When they see more expensive sustainable items, they do not go crazy over it, and that's because they do not understand why they are more expensive. Yet, I am certain slow fashion will make its place into people's hearts, slowly but surely.

4.How can you convince consumers that less is more and better when it comes to fashion?

To inform people is crucial. People make their decisions based on what they know. "To buy or not to buy?" depends on how well-informed consumers are. This is why it is essential to create awareness. We try to create informative posts on Facebook and Instagram and inform people on why mass production is terrible for the environment? Is Linen biodegradable? Etc.

5.What are the factors that you keep in mind when creating a product?

Chic, simple and comfortable is our motto.

6.As a young sustainable brand, what are the biggest challenges you have encountered so far?

Making people understand what exactly is a sustainable brand and why it matters. Also, it is challenging when people do not understand why our items are more expensive than mass-produced items.

7.What is the main problem with the fashion market in Mauritius, according to you?

As I mentioned earlier, Mauritians overly used to buying cheap clothing. They are not aware that cheap is often equal to "bad for the environment" and usually "unethical working conditions". When people see an expensive item, they do not ask why it is costly; they do not buy it and look for a cheaper alternative.

8.What is the ideal way for you to get a respite from your computer screen and social media?

By spending time with my family and friends ☺

9.What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur?

Being an entrepreneur allows me to create jobs for people and influence people towards a better lifestyle through my brand.

Thank you for sharing your business insight with us!

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