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BY Abu Mubarik, 2:00pm April 22, 2022,

Meet Portia Mngomezulu, IT engineer who launched a cosmetics brand with only $14

Photo: Portia M Skin Product Distributors Zambia

Portia Mngomezulu is a South African entrepreneur and IT professional. She owns the skincare brand Portia M Skin Solutions. Mngomezulu got the inspiration to start her business from her mother-in-law. She had just become a fresh mother in 2010 and had multiple stretch marks.

Her mother-in-law told her about marula oil and asked her to try it on her stretch marks because it has healing properties. She started sourcing the oil from local women in her hometown of Phalaborwa, Limpopo. It worked so well on her skin and she mulled about helping others with her skin condition with the oil. That was how she gave birth to Portia M Skin Solutions, a commercial skincare company she started around 2011 with only $14. Also, she was inspired to start her business because there were few products in the retail space specifically made for African skin.

She used her house as a factory to manufacture her skincare products. She had a two-plate stove and mixed ingredients with cake-mixing tools. In need of cash to expand production, the South African businesswoman began pitching her enterprise to potential backers. In 2015, she received financial assistance from Innovation Hub, a body that promotes local businesses. Through the hub, she was also assisted with a 40-square-meter space to kick-start her factory.

Today, her company, based in Centurion with an annual turnover of almost R50 million ($3,000), works with retailers such as Shoprite, Game, Edgars, Spar, Checkers, Clicks, Pick n Pay, and Ackermans.

Mngomezulu comes from a family of matriarchs who were self-employed. They constantly taught her she could be her own boss and build something for herself. As a teen, she made decorative cushions from scraps of material left over from her seamstress mother’s creations. She also plaited people’s hair.

“I started earning money quite early because I’m creative and good with my hands,” she told True Love.

Mngomezulu is the eldest of the three children of her parents. A qualified systems engineer, she obtained her training at the Tshwane University of Technology.

“I loved technology and completed my diploma in 2002. At the time,  I was convinced that I wanted to excel as a programmer. I also completed a certificate in Project Management through Unisa and did an internship at Siemens — where I worked for nine years,” she shared.

Recently, her company, which uses mostly indigenous African oils, was announced as the recipient of the Top Entrepreneur in Agro-processing Award and the Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2018, at the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Entrepreneur Awards.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: April 22, 2022


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