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Health & Beauty Interview South Africa

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#YouthMonth: Golden Hour Skincare founders, Bonolo Matjila and Patience Kunene

The beauty landscape is ever-evolving and becoming more competitive as conversations around skincare take centre stage, but for best friends Bonolo Matjila (25) and Patience Kunene (24), this hasn't deterred their mission for their skincare company, Golden Hour Skincare.
Patience Kunene and Bonolo Matjila, founders of Golden Hour Skincare. Image supplied
Patience Kunene and Bonolo Matjila, founders of Golden Hour Skincare. Image supplied

As the founders of Golden Hour Skincare, the dynamic duo are on a mission to disrupt the beauty industry with their environmentally sustainable, gender-inclusive skincare kits designed to holistically address targeted skincare concerns.

Getting started

Founded in 2021, the two friends ventured into the skincare space after they identified a gap in the market.

As the brains behind the inclusive brand, Matjila and Kunene complement each other perfectly. As a law graduate, Matjila leads the strategic and operational development of the venture while Kunene holds a Masters in Tax Law, and oversees tax, finances, inventory management, strategic growth and development as well as company compliance.

Matjila completed her LLB degree at the University of the Western Cape in 2020. However, her participation in the Allan Gray Fellowship in 2017 rekindled her passion for problem-solving and value-creation through entrepreneurship, propelling her to co-found Golden Hour Skincare in 2021.

Alongside her co-founder and development team, Matjila spent two years leading the formulation of the company's first four products, developing the business infrastructure, and raising initial capital.

During this time, she engaged in several entrepreneurial development programmes and incubators.

These included the Entrepreneurial Academy by the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation, The Academy for Women Entrepreneurs by AWIEF and the US Embassy SA, Startup School by Investec, and currently the Pathways Programme by E Squared Investments.

Under this umbrella, she has raised R3.5m in startup funding and continues to build and grow the business.

Says Matjila, "My motivation for starting Golden Hour was to solve a problem that I was struggling with personally at the time, which was acne. I’ve been a skincare consumer for years and have battled finding products that effectively solved this problem for me, in a simple, effective and financially sustainable way."

Kunene’s true passion lies in her role as the co-founder and director of Golden Hour Skincare. This venture reflects her entrepreneurial spirit, creativity, and deep commitment to skincare. Golden Hour Skincare is a growing brand known for its high-quality ingredients and natural skincare products.

With a focus on innovation and sustainability, Kunene has successfully navigated the complexities of product development, marketing strategies, and sales, positioning Golden Hour Skincare as a trusted and sought-after brand in the industry.

"I chose the skincare industry for its growth potential, innovation, and the chance to create self-care products. The science behind skincare and its impact on people's confidence and happiness truly fascinated me," notes Kunene.

Patience Kunene and Bonolo Matjila. Image supplied
Patience Kunene and Bonolo Matjila. Image supplied

The most significant challenge for Golden Hour Skincare, and many startups alike, is raising capital.

"There aren’t many sources of pre-seed funding in South Africa, so it took us a while to raise funds. We bootstrapped through the first year of development, including the formulation phase of our business. Once our products were formulated, we did not have sufficient funds to get them formally tested, to secure all the raw materials and packaging to manufacture on a large scale or finance the operation of the business.

In other words, we had four great products, with no resources to get them in the hands of customers. We overcame this by participating in development programmes with financial incentives - cash prize, stipend, etc. and used those funds to develop the brand until the point of where they were ready for investment," they say.

Standing out

Golden Hour Skincare has prioritised gender inclusivity, firstly, because their philosophy is that selecting products for your skin should be motivated by the skin concern that you’re targeting (i.e., acne, blemishing, eczema, etc.) and finding high-quality formulations that target those concerns, rather than selecting products on the basis of gender.

Secondly, many brands differentiate their product offering by gender on the branding, scent and colouring of the products, but have little differentiation in the formulation of the product,

And thirdly, in our current social climate and the progression of gender identity, the pair thought it a bit outdated to create “for men” and “for women” ranges.

Image supplied
Image supplied

Golden Hour Skincare was clear about its brand values ahead of the formulation process, and that guided the ingredient selection process.

"We communicated to our formulation team that we wanted high-quality ingredients with proven efficacies, meaning that the suppliers for these ingredients needed to have conducted tests to prove that they are effective. Secondly, these suppliers needed to have certified that they too, have prioritised certain values in sourcing or making the ingredients. There are a few industry bodies that conduct these certifications. Once suppliers were able to furnish us with these certificates (eg. vegan, GMO free, etc), we were confident in including their ingredients in our formulations."

The team says that their primary consideration throughout selecting the packaging has been considering how much of that packaging is actually essential or serves a function, other than beautifying the product.

"Sure, packaging should be aesthetically appealing and has become a major consideration for companies in the age of the 'unboxing' craze. However, companies, more than consumers, need to be accountable for the amount of waste we produce through selling a product or rendering a service that can’t go anywhere other than a landfill.

"Our consideration when implementing packaging is “What is the function of this component?” and if that component is serving an essential function, our second consideration is, “Is this the most sustainable material we can use to maintain its function?”. We try to action this as best as we can, within our means."

Image supplied
Image supplied

Future plans

With a focus on sustainability, the two share their vision for the near future.

"There’s only so much we can do at our current stage, but we plan to iteratively make more measurable changes within our brand. In the short term, we’re changing our packaging for our full range - our goal is that all our products will be housed in 100% recyclable and refillable packaging. By October, 50% of our range will fulfil that mandate.

"As we grow our retail presence over the next few months, we plan to shed a couple of layers of packaging that are essential when the product is being shipped cross-country, that doesn’t serve as great a function when you’re buying it in-store.

"Beyond that, we’re hoping at some stage to ultimately produce our packaging using post-consumer recycled plastics. That would mean that we’d not only minimize the amount of plastic that ends up in a landfill, but that we’d be reducing the amount of plastic that’s already there."

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