MAFEI JAMES SHARES ON CREATING CREATIVE SPACES FOR WOMEN AND GIRLS
March 8, 2022
Sierra Leone is a country in West Africa, mostly known for its beautiful beaches and countless other stories of hard work, courage, talent and hope. Contrary to what google search may tell you, Sierra Leonean women and girls over the centuries are raised with a unique penchant for craft, skill work and trade. Popular opinion ranks white collared jobs as the prerequisite for sustainable income and prestige, however it’s skills that spin money to finance our girls and women to raise families and lead communities. Consequently, these same skills ensure that lost culture and heritage is preserved for generations yet unborn. On this International Women’s Day, we meet with a young leader and entrepreneur who describes herself as a spunky and quirky hair enthusiast that loves hard and enjoys getting things done.
Mafei James believes that for a sustainable future, young women must be encouraged into livelihoods that guarantee them a solid financial framework. She believes in talent identification and management, maybe because her main hobby made its way into becoming an income generating machine.
Hair has always been something that she is good at, and passionate about. She learnt the craft, as a kid, initially to save her mom money on what she would pay for Mafei to get her hair done. Over the years it evolved from doing her friends’ hair to growing a large clientele.
She describes hair braiding as fun and creative. ‘It’s artistic and makes people feel good about themselves. I love the connection I make with my clients/customers. I especially love being able to assist in their personal beautifying process’.
The Formation of Femafric
It was only a few years ago, when crochet braids started making a comeback, it became the most requested style for her clients. Mafei thought the crochet install was way too simple to do. So simple that she thought her customers won’t need her to install for them. This is when she got curious about selling hair products instead of just installing.
What at first started as a way to make extra cash quickly became its own business. At the time, she didn’t envision that the brand would turn into a full-on business — she was simply trying to find an extra stream of income to pay bills.
She wanted to make something unique instead of just offering her clients the same products that you can find from the beauty supply store. After doing research, experimenting with a few clients, and receiving positive feedback, Femafric was born.
Femafric is an e-commerce hair brand that manufactures handmade crochet hair extensions and hair care products sold primarily in the United States. Femafric is a 100% woman owned and operated and we focus on protective styling.
Most of the time if you want a really good quality braided wigs and crochet braids from the continent, you have to wait sometimes it will take up to two months to receive your hair in the mail or you might find that you are paying way too much on shipping. Through research, Ms. James saw that she wasn’t alone in the wait and displeasure. That was when it started looking like an opportunity to service customers that didn’t want to wait too long to get their hair.
Like a flash of lightning, she knew what she needed to do, with some of the money she had saved, she purchased some business cards, a plane ticket, a few bundles of hair and an LLC. It was also a little dose of ambition that pushed her to take the trip to Sierra Leone so that she could train and begin production of hair herself.
Combining her love for braiding hair and always wanting to address societal issue for women in Africa, Mafei created a platform where our beauticians braiding skills are now expanded to a global marketplace.
Fast forward to today, Femafric now employs 10 professional beauticians to bring colorful and unique designs to life with intense attention to detail and quality. They are known for our Mini-Fro Cee Twists, a tiny spring twists.
The Hills and The Valleys reecho our Cries
The journey has not been without highlights and low points; Mafei tells us that ‘for so many reasons, it’s always great when we get recognized in publications. Its great to be recognized, it brings necessary exposure. However, with that exposure, it creates a demand that can be overwhelming when it happens unexpectedly. Learning about inventory forecast and customer management — I had no clue about these things, so I had to figure them out and build a system that worked for me and my team. It was huge hurdle to build that foundation but now that it’s in place, we make tweaks as needed.
People respond positively to our products. Most customers are happy with the product being lightweight on the hair’. Check out Femafric and shop: www.femafric.com
Mafei launched her wigs and hair bands, In the near future she plans to expand the brand to other hair products and open a salon. Long term, she will continue to build Femafric up, as a leading, trusted beauty brands, and eventually sell it.
When we asked her about one behavior or trait that she has seen derail people in the fashion and or lifestyle industries, Mafei looking exasperated said trying to do/be everything for our customers at once.
She believes that we must get good at doing one thing really really well first. It’s overwhelming for you first of all and also overwhelming for the audience you intend to serve. You really need to niche down to give your self a chance at success.
Are you about to launch a new venture? Then you must take a word of advice that Mafei got from someone: “Passion’ don’t pay the bills”. While passion plays a role in how dedicated we are to our work, tangible results distinguish a hobby from a business. As much as passion can be the driving force behind a specific task or project, it doesn’t make up for lack of productivity and time management skills.
Mentoring a Forgotten Skill
When we learn from peers, people who are making it and others who are unafraid and unashamed to share from their mistakes we get the needed rails to trailblaze. Every girl and woman must position themselves to learn from people especially other women who are breaking the bias in their communities and industries. Ms. James has two women entrepreneurs that inspire her and she has taken time to learn lessons from their work:
Julian Rado– Adwoa Beauty: her transparency and enthusiasm is so inspiring.
Vivian Kaye – KinkyCurlyYaki: I love that she is unapologetically herself and managed to find success in her own way on her own terms.
Social media is a creative space/ a tool to break the bias against women and girls?
Mafei James has built a thriving business that uses e- commerce as a channel, she believes that social media is a powerful platform where people can be exposed to diverse set of role models. Because many of us spend a sizeable amount of time on social media. Online campaigns have been effective in raising awareness to combat many oppressive biases.
The opportunities intrinsic to social media are plentiful. It’s a fast, inexpensive, and effective way to reach almost half the world’s population. This includes collaboration and connectivity to like-minded people in your field, access to information from a number of different sources, and, most importantly, the ability to disseminate valuable information. For those that want to use the social media tool for disseminating information, there are ample opportunities that this can lead to, including: sponsorship, partnership, brand ambassadorship, product sales, sell a service, etc.
Social media is a creative space; very useful tool in creating opportunities for women, and in 2022, it is no longer optional component.