Who is Sandra Chaves Balanga?
I’m an Exquisite Black Queen! I love God, and myself. I know my worth and I respect who I am as a woman and as a mother (It wasn’t always like this). I’ve got beauty on the inside and that makes me empowered and powerful. I came from a fearless Queen and I gave birth to one. I am comfortable in my own skin. I’ve got flaws, but I’m still confident in who I am and who’s I am! I am an industrial chemistry engineer; I am determined, and passionate about empowering women through teaching and community service. I am a firm believer of leading by example.
Background story and Inspiration to Founding ” Angolanamente Natural”
Angolanamente Natural was my Facebook hustle before it turned into a full-blown company. I created a Facebook page to share my newfound love for natural hair and the products that I was using it. Because there was a new wave of interest of women back in Angola, I started receiving requests to buy those same products that weren’t readily available in our market for them. I have done that for a few years until I returned home with my then 18 month old daughter and without a job because the company that paid for my studies was going through a restructuring and did not have a placement for me at that time. Which meant no money at the end of the month until I was called. I needed to continue to provide for my daughter and that hustle turned into a legal business.
Through natural hair shows and social media interactions I have been blessed to meet some of the most sought for hair Products Company’s CEO for women of color in the USA. I used my knowing some of these women to become retailers of their products in my country. To my surprise they all agreed to give me the opportunity to work with them and share the products that I loved for my hair with my growing community of naturalistas.
It is a humbling experience to be a bridge for these brands to enter our market. But it is a rewarding one. It is humbling because, you have to push yourself to the limits until there is no more pushing to do.
Our banking systems have been the thorn in my side. Because, they are not the timely nor reliable when it comes to making international payments and there are no roadmaps for entrepreneurs on how to navigate the first two or 3 years in order to become stable. You learn as you go. You fall and you regroup and get right back up to keep on pushing and break the ceiling glass.
Now I believe we are in a better position to say that we withstood the tests, gain the respect of our peers and created a solid brand that people trust.
With Covid-19 and the country being on lockdown since end of March we have had to adjust. We are now only doing deliveries and phone hair consultations so that we can still have some cash flow.
We are now the bridge for brands like:
Curls, The mane choice, TGIN anturals, Obia Naturals, Kurlee Belle, Mielle organics, Onie Organics, Alikay Naturals, Hairfinity, Naturalicious Beauty,
Camille Rose naturals
What has been the Highlight for you since you founded your businesses and what do you do at Angola Natural?
So far the highlight has been the difference that we have made in many women’s lives. So many hairlines restored, healthy hair that I see in the women in my community and how proud my 6-year-old daughter is of wearing her curls. Women walk and talk with confidence while wearing their natural hair. Whether, locks, headbands, bold, or wearing a fro. It is considered beautiful and it is getting more widely accepted at workplaces. I am still amazed at the way we walk and talk with confidence and extra sugar now that we are learning to love our natural kinks and curls. It feels like we are rearranging our crowns and walking taller.
How do you handle running your business successfully in this social clime and what Is your mission?
Prayer. It has been my strategy from the beginning. That’s how I have managed to maintain the company through this socially uncertain climate.
Our mission is to be a leader in the natural hair community by educating, empowering, and providing women and men with the best natural and organic hair products available in the market.
How do you stay innovative?
I am a student of my craft. I am always learning, growing, and connecting. And I keep reminding myself that if it’s for me, I won’t have to chase it. But I may need to grow towards it. And I am always willing to grow.
Your Plans for “Angolanamente Natural” In Five Years?
In 5 year, I plan on being financially stable and provide an Angolanamente Natural beauty supply store and hair spa to at least two more provinces so that more women can experience the best organic hair products in the market.
I plan on having established the Angolanamente Natural yearly festival where all of our partners come to showcase their products.
I plan on having quarterly “Natural Hair class sessions” throughout the provinces to teach women how to care for their natural tresses and how to achieve healthy hair.
I plan on being the lead bridge for natural hair care companies around the world to enter our community. My goal is if they need to expand into the Portuguese speaking market, they think Angolanamente natural as a reliable partner.
Challenges on your journey and Lessons…
The major challenge was to get the company set up without a lot of money. Then, to have a business, that depends a 100% on foreign currency and the ups, and downs of the exchange rates. No support from the banks. We had (and might still not have) no incentives for people who are starting a business. You had to figure it out as you go. And coming back from a country (USA) were help and incentives for new business owners was readily available it frustrated me more times than I care to remember to the point of giving up. But I had a 18-month-old baby that need providing to.
I cried more times than I thought I could handle. But that wasn’t the root of what was blocking my sight. It was because I was still not fully committed to my brand. My hustle mentality kept me from establishing my brand earlier and I found my self-playing catch up. But this was also a learning experience for me and other women who might use my past as a road map for things to do and not to do.
I learned the hard way that you cannot set new boundaries by old definitions.
Upcoming projects and what you hope to achieve
This year we will be doing learning brunch events throughout the cities of our country. Education is key for great results on your hair. We will be partnering with some of the brands that we represent.
Tips on how you handle when the going gets tough?
I have received a gift from a friend before I founded my company and the words engraved said, “When things get too hard for you to stand…kneel” and I have been doing just that ever since. Because, things get extremely hard.
When the going gets though I press on and keep going.
Don’t give up, if you must stop and regroup, do those. But, do not give up. Use a different strategy but don’t give up.
Care to share the secret/(s) to a healthy natural hair?
Sure, here are 4 dos and don’ts for a healthy natural hair
Do shampoo your hair:
When people struggle with their hair sometimes is because, their hair is not properly clean. As a chemist I know the need to clean your scalp if you want healthy hair. We put so much in our hair that it can cause breakage. Use clarifying shampoo once a month to wash away the residues left but all the products that we use daily.
Do deep condition/ condition your hair
Do apply a leave-in to your hair.
And if you are a swimmer before going into the pool please use a leave-in to saturate your hair strands.
Do protect your hair.
Use protective styles so that you are not tempted to over manipulate your hair and cause breakage in the process. Our hair loves to be left alone. But, refrain from tight braids, or ponytails that pull on your hairline and may cause it to have Traction alopecia.
Don’t co-wash only
It will not get your scalp clean, if you workout use co-wash but on the third week clarify your hair in order to remove the build up)
Don’t use excessive heat or color.
Flatiron constantly, and not giving time in between colors can damage your hair by getting your curls to go into stress. Try to use heat once a year for a length check.
Don’t use cheap products.
Companies have to make a profit. If your products are too cheap chances are their ingredients are equally cheap (ingredients that suffocate your hair). Sometimes you might wonder why does your hair feels dry always, it might be due to the fillers that companies use. Don’t sacrifice the health of your hair. You are better off doing DIY; at least you know what is going into your hair.
Don’t give up.
Especially if you are new to this natural hair journey, you may feel like this is team too much. If you are discouraged, go back to your why. Be around people that encourage you in your journey and do not compare your journey nor your hair texture with anyone. We are all unique.
Final words to women in our community
Be proud of who you are, the scars, the love handles, the knowledge and your kinks. You were built for such a time as this. Stay resilient. Stay passionate. Stay consistent. It’s ok to get distracted but only for a second. Your future self is counting on you.
The Lady Boss Series is a weekly interview series that highlights the achievements and entrepreneurial journeys of African female entrepreneurs. The idea is to showcase the Leading Ladies who are transforming Africa and the African narrative through enterprise and business.
It is an off shoot of Leading Ladies Africa, a non-profit that promotes leadership, inclusion and diversity for women of African descent.
If you know any kick-ass women of African Descent doing phenomenal things in enterprise, email firstname.lastname@example.org, and she could possibly be featured.