With no education in cosmetology, somatology, or cosmetic formulations, Shantelle Booysen used her love for pedicures to formulate products that are now being exported to 34 destinations and on top of that, this inspiring entrepreneur directly employs about 2 500 people in the country.
Her multimillion-rand company was one of the first South African companies to successfully register its skincare range with the United States of America Food and Drug Administration Agency, the Ministry of Health in India, and the European Union (EU).
Using active ingredients in the Elim Spa Products for hands, feet, and body, Booysen has designed and formulated innovative systems that guarantee results.
“I developed a new system for pedicures. At the time and still today we have been copied nine times in South Africa, which is a good thing because when people copy you it means you are doing something right. When people pick up my product, I want them to know the product works and can be trusted,” says the founder and CEO of Elim Spa Products”.
Elim Spa Products was established in 2004 when Booysen wanted to solve a problem she experienced after getting a pedicure.
“I loved a pedicure; the thing that irritated me was my feet were slippery in my shoes afterward. I didn’t like that so I went to a cosmetic formulator and I asked them to create a heel cream that would stop my feet from being slippery,” she says.
Working with the cosmetic formulator, they produced a heel cream that guaranteed no-slip after a pedicure, had a pleasant scent and softened the heels.
Seeing the amazing results from using the product, the entrepreneur sold it to a company, which at the time had 27 spas in the country. It did not take long for the company to introduce the product to its branches on the continent.
In the early days of her business, Booysen was assisted by the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA) with the development of her website and marketing material. She also received financial training.
Later on, through the agency’s Technology Transfer Fund, the business was able to purchase a sophisticated machine that could package individual sachets of the products.
Finding its footing
In addition, SEDA assisted the company with access and the support to export freely to Europe particularly Germany, as well as Greece, Spain, and Holland.
The regulatory process that the Western Cape-based company underwent in order to export to Europe was a costly exercise, as the company was required to change its formula to adjust to EU regulations, appoint a responsible person to act as a representative for the company, and pay for toxicology tests.
“For instance, they did label reviews and if there was an ingredient in one of the products they didn’t ‘approve, you had to change your formula and dump 10 000 boxes [and] reprint those boxes with the correct ingredients on them.
“SEDA came in with a massive financial investment. It is an extremely expensive export to Europe. There was no way I could afford to do that in the beginning without their assistance,” Booysen says.
With the many obstacles that entrepreneurs face when establishing a business, the government has committed to supporting small, medium, and micro-enterprises (SMMEs) and cooperatives through funding initiatives, business development, and support services.
The government continues to demonstrate its support to SMMEs and cooperatives through entities such as SEDA, Industrial Development Corporation, Small Enterprise Finance Agency (SEFA), National Empowerment Fund (NEF) as well as Finfind.
This forms part of the government’s effort to create jobs and an inclusive economy in a country that has a challenge with unemployment.
When starting her business, Booysen was a former journalist, employed by the International Colleges Group doing circulation and course development.
During the first three years of the business, she worked part-time on the business with the assistance of her family and friends.
“When I started my business, I started small; I packed my own boxes; I did my own deliveries and I saw the clients myself. It was a challenge in the beginning. My husband had to sell his car twice; we took out a loan and had to scale down on our cost of living to make this business work,” she recalls.
Booysen credits the growth of her business to word of mouth and staying connected with her clients.
She also believes that there is a solution for every problem. This mentality has helped her to save her company during the most uncertain times in the history of the business.
When the world was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic last year, South Africa went into a nationwide lockdown on 26 March in an effort to curb the spread of the virus and save lives.
At the time, salons had to close their doors, and sectors that were identified as essential services were the only ones allowed to operate.
To make up for the money the business was losing while salons were closed, Booysen focused on earning foreign currency to pay service providers, ensure the company’s supply chain and salaries.
“Everyone came together because they wanted to have a job after the pandemic. We have an overcomer mentality in the organization and we always make a plan. My team worked from home and we sold to countries that were open,” Booysen says.
As an incentive, the company has a profit-sharing scheme and the employees work on a 10% growth bonus.
Prior to the pandemic, Booysen had taken up a role as a public speaker where she talks about her journey.
Her accolades include being awarded the Western Cape Entrepreneur of the month award in 2015. In the same year, she also won the National Gazelle Award, which is an award for the 40 most promising, high-potential entrepreneurs in South Africa.
Elim Spa products are also part of the National Gazelles programme, receiving constant mentoring and interventions from SEDA.