Natural hair movement: meet the woman closing the gap in haircare

Posted by for Life

Work/Life is Stylist’s regular column about the professional routines of successful women. Here, Afrocenchix founder Joycelyn Mate takes us through her one-day diary, from morning latte to lights-out. 

Joycelyn Mate, 29, is the co-founder of the natural haircare brand Afrocenchix. She lives in east London with her husband.     

MY ALARM GOES OFF…

At 7am, but I always hit snooze. Before I get out of bed, I go through my emails to see if there are any messages from staff. Then I read some of my devotional book and Bible. I’ve been Christian for eight years so it’s a habit I’ve had for a long time. Once I get up, I’m ready and out the door in half an hour. Most days, I’m in jeans, a T-shirt and trainers. 

I’M RESPONSIBLE FOR…

Running the natural haircare brand Afrocenchix. This involves everything from negotiating contracts to managing staff, creating strategies and growing the business.

I GOT THE JOB…

By solving my alopecia. I was at university and was losing my hair through bad styling – I started researching how to tackle it and made a hair oil for myself using natural ingredients. I gave the extra to my friend – now my co-founder – Rachael Twumasi-Corson. She was the only other black girl in my halls. She was shocked her skin didn’t react as it was normally so sensitive. She said I should turn it into a business and offered to help. Lots of afro hair products contain toxic ingredients like endocrine disrupters that interfere with your hormones, and we felt something needed to be done. We launched Afrocenchix in 2010 and grew 300% last year alone. 

Jocelyn is currently formulating the business's growth strategy.

MY TYPICAL DAY…

Starts with answering 
emails: requests to speak at events, meeting invitations,
staff members requesting spending approval, and
queries from suppliers. I sit
next to Rachael, so we catch up in the morning. Then I’ll start one of my projects; right now I’m looking after the growth strategy, deciding if we want to expand into bodycare products or make another range of hair products for a different market, such as men or children.

I stop for lunch around 2pm. Usually it’s something like rice and chicken I’ve brought from home. In the afternoon, I schedule calls and one-to-ones with my staff – three people report to me. Every couple of months I’m in our lab in the white coat and hairnet, literally mixing our products with my hands. I leave work at 6.30pm.

The products are all handmade in the lab.

MY MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT…

Was Afrocenchix winning at the WeWork Creator Awards. We pitched on a stage in front of more than 3,500 people, less than 1% of whom had afro hair themselves. Ashton Kutcher was one of the judges. It felt incredible because we had just been ploughing away in the background for so long.

THE WORST PART OF MY JOB…


Is pitching to retailers that say they don’t have a market for our products. We hear it often and it isn’t true. 

THE BEST PART OF MY JOB…

Is speaking to customers at events and hearing how our products have changed how they feel about their hair.

AFTER WORK…

I go home and cook – usually quinoa, plantain, sweet potato
and chicken. Before bed, I might watch something on TV like Ready To Love – it’s an African-American dating show where everyone is over 35. I’ll also check our brand’s social media because we get a lot of messages. It’s mostly people telling us about their hair issues and asking us to solve their problems. I enjoy doing it. Then, I’ll look at what other brands in
our market are doing and what influencers are talking about –
I take screenshots and send them to my co-founder. I guess it’s called ‘social listening’. I’m asleep by 12am. 

YARA SAYS:

I love learning about women who are doing amazing things in the world of business and shaking up their respective industries. 

Joycelyn Mate, founder of Afrocenchix, won Entrepreneur of the Year at the recent Precious Awards – the UK’s leading business awards for women of colour.

Photography: Holly McGlynn

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Hannah Keegan

Hannah Keegan is the features writer at Stylist magazine.

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