Headquartered in East London, Robinkka manufactures hair care products and treatments.
Founder Robina Bananuka Zukowski took the leap to launch her business in 2011 after she learnt to make natural beauty products for her own needs.
The company’s first product is an essential oils hair freshener made for women who wear human and synthetic hair extensions, wigs and hair pieces. With six distinct fragrances, Robinkka offers customers the confidence of continuously fragrant and fresh hair.
Why did you decide to start your company?
The majority of black women wear hair extensions at some point of the year. They face a similar challenge of being unable to wash their daily but still wanting to keep it clean smelling and fragrant.
After I created my first hair freshener, which worked and I used every day, I knew that I had to start Robinkka to help other black women who have similar needs.
What’s the story behind your brand name?
The brand name is me, it’s one of the nicknames I have. Robinkka represents me the user and the person who has a need – a woman who regularly wears hair extensions and needs to keep my hair smelling clean and shampoo fresh in-between salon visits.
My hair freshener was created out of a common need and I knew there would be other women who required it, if they are wearing hair extensions at the time.
What was your career path prior to starting your first business?
I have worked in sales, I’ve been an estate agent, and I have also been an internal account manager for a telecommunications company.
Did you always know that you would start your own business?
Definitely. I’ve had this hair freshener idea for years. In 2002 I said to a colleague “who knows I might make my own.”
Fast forward some years, I started learning and making my own natural beauty products such as face masks and body lotions. I then had my “ah ha!” moment. I enrolled on some courses, learnt about essential oils and Robinkka hair fresheners were born.
Did you have a business mentor?
Yes, my father Fred B. Bananuka. He had a successful career in importing and exporting.
What are you working on at the moment?
The company’s second product, which is another hair care product using natural ingredients for black women wearing hair extensions. Although it sounds the same as the hair freshener it has a completely different function.
Can you describe your typical working day?
It starts with emails in the morning and generating new exposure for Robinkka such as in magazines and websites. I promote my hair freshener and my website via social media.
This is followed by contacting potential distributors or wholesalers introducing myself, Robinkka and booking appointments to try samples. I absolutely love this part.
The afternoon is spent working on fulfilling orders, working on samples, printing labels or making new batches of the hair fresheners.
What have been the highlights of running your own business?
The highlights have been launching Robinkka and introducing it to people. People respond really well to the fragrances, my website and genuinely seem to love my logo…I’m so proud!
What is the hardest part of running your own business?
Having to make final decisions on certain things I have not yet experienced.
What has been your proudest business moment so far?
I’ve been featured in a March/April hair magazine and also being featured in Twenty Ten Club. I’m a subscriber to this website and whilst I was setting up Robinkka I received regular newsletters of other black women entrepreneurs setting up their businesses. This kept me motivated.
What, or who, inspires and motivates you?
Ali Brown, Madam CJ Walker, Mary Kay, Helen Rubenstein, and Elizabeth Arden I loved how they marketed themselves in the early days. I admired Estee Lauder’s drive.
I would like to thank my father Fred B. Bananuka and my husband Piotr Zukowski for their support and education.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering starting a beauty business?
Do your research. Read books by entrepreneurs and business people in the same field as you – this keeps you on track and feeling less alone in what you are experiencing. Use training to keep up with the times, the trends and improve your knowledge.
Fast forward five years, where do you think your business will be in 2017?
Robinkka in 2017 will be global. I already have global interest, now it’s about getting known in global markets. Robinkka will be expanding its range; it’s all about hair care products using as many natural ingredients as possible.
Robina, is there anything else you’d like to share?
Robinkka Hair Fresheners are the only fresheners made from natural ingredients for black women who wear hair extensions. I look forward to producing more hair care solutions made with as much natural ingredients, so please do follow Robinkka.
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Robina Bananuka Zukowski was interviewed by Octavia Goredema, founder of the Twenty Ten Club and Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
Do you have a question for Robina? If so, please feel free to post a comment below: