As I walk into the Enviri Za Nacho shop on Kisakye mall in Ntinda, my sight is treated to a strikingly-pleasant quintessential black and white contrast of the shop’s spotless walls.
Inside, the merchandise daintily sits on glass shelves on either sides of the shop’s black soft woollen wall carpeting. At the back is a table full of tester samples of hair products which clients can try out before choosing what to buy. Behind all this is Anna Bella Nakato, the founder and CEO of Enviri za Nacho.
‘Enviri za Nacho’ is a Luganda expression for natural unrelaxed African hair. Just like her brand name suggests, Nakato is an African-hair advocate seeking to help African women embrace their natural hair without altering it with chemicals in a process known as retouch or relax.
“Our African hair is not meant to be thin and sleek. It is thick and curly,” Nakato says, explaining that wearing our hair just the way it is without attempting to soften it is much a lot easier and healthier than loading it with chemicals.
She adds that natural hair has evolved and it is no longer about a painful blow-dry or holding the same boring puff every day. According to her, natural hair can be styled in so many ways depending on one’s preference. On the day of the interview, Nakato has cornrows, which she explains is part of the African hair culture.
“It is a protective style. So, plaiting it or covering it with a head scarf every once in a while is advisable,” she says, clarifying that the sun rays and other impurities in the atmosphere can potentially damage the hair if it is overly exposed. “There are so many styles out there. But in the past, African women hated keeping their hair natural because it was too hard to comb and style.”
As she notes, today there is a wide range of products made specifically for natural African hair – to soften and moisturise it without altering its natural form.
Although most of these products are imported, Nakato sells only natural hair products made locally by some of her groupmates.
From her advocacy, women can be able to not only enjoy their natural hair, but also make some money in a process. It is a chain supporting people right from the farmers who provide the raw materials such as ghee, avocado and shea butter, among others.
Born in Kampala 28 years ago to Vincent Bazaare, a lawyer, and Angeline Bazaare Beigaruraho, a university lecturer, Nakato draws her inspiration from her mother who is passionate about African women entrepreneurship. Nakato attended Kampala Parents School and Nakasero primary school before joining Trinity College Nabbingo and the London College of St Lawrence Citizens’ School for her O-and A-levels.
Having pursued a diploma in interior design from Kyambogo University, she volunteered with AIESEC for six years in various countries including Indonesia, Oman and Sweden. She majorly worked in events management and public relations. AISEC is an international organisation that connects young graduates to internship opportunities across the globe.
While working as a public relations person in Sweden, a life-turning thought got to her mind.
“If we Africans are here pushing for Swedish products, who is pushing for our own products back home?” Nakato recalls thinking to herself.
Inspired by the African hair revolution which was championed by African-American women in the United States, Nakato returned home in 2013 with a dream to not only help African women embrace their natural African hair, but to also empower them financially.
“A few people were already talking about and growing natural hair. That was great because I knew I had where to start [from],” says Nakato, who successfully mobilised and held the first natural hair workshop; the challenges notwithstanding.
Driven by the zeal to fully own their African hair story, Nakato encouraged her fellow ‘naturalistas’, as they refer to themselves to come up with organic Ugandan products. Today, Enviri Za Nacho boasts of sixteen brands, with six more in the pipeline.
“Our products are 100 per cent organic and are p.h-balanced,” she says, adding that every production procedure is overseen by a professional chemist to ensure safety standards.
DEALING WITH CRITICISM
Like many businesses dealing in locally-made products, Nakato encountered a lot of criticism and mistrust from clients who doubted the products. However, some of the clients who have willingly tried out her products have consequently recommended them to other people. Today, the shop that opened in April boasts of a huge ever-growing clientele.
“Our products are good for both natural and relaxed hair. There are some people who want chemical-free hair products and we gladly recommend and sell to them our products,” Nakato says.
Currently, plans are underway to export the products to the rest of Africa and beyond. In her free time, Nakato enjoys cooking, researching for fun and engaging in do-it-yourself projects. She also works out five times a week.