I want to change the way young people like me see the black soap. Many young Sierra Leoneans prefer imported soaps, which are mostly inorganic and sometimes pose health hazards to the skin, to our natural, organic, traditional black soap. Before modern medicine, there were traditional African herbs. We have everything at our disposal to compete with the outside world. So I want to use my entrepreneurial skills and agricultural knowledge to re-brand our traditional black soap and give it a new face that we will all accept in good faith. I am taking us back to our roots but in a different style.
Kadiatu Barrie Speaking to The African Dream
Black soap, a traditionally and locally organic soap known to have originated from West Africa, specifically the Yoruba people of Nigeria, the Temne and Mende people of Sierra Leone, is one of the oldest bathing soaps in the world. Although there may be no records of when Africans invented the black soap, history does tell us that the black soap was used by Africans, West Africans to be specific, before the inception of the Atlantic slave trade and colonization of West Africa. The soap later became popular when female Yoruba traders from Nigeria, local traders from Sierra Leone and Ghana engaged in regional trade.
Picture: Kay Natural Black Soap
The Black soap, called in Temne ‘soi mi bee’ is used by Africans for healing skin diseases and sometimes spiritual cleansing. Even though the black soap is still popular among young and old Africans, the intrusion of western scented soaps has created a different perspective about the black soap among young people in Africa. Many, in their mid-twenties, prefer to use imported medicated soaps instead of black soap. But to change this narrative and in a bid to bring us back to our roots, young African entrepreneurs like Kadiatu Barrie, a 22-year-old Sierra Leonean female entrepreneur is changing this narrative by re-branding the traditional black soap to suit the modern-day markets.
Kadiatu Barrie is currently a final year student of Njala University, Njala Campus, pursuing a B.Sc. in Agricultural Engineering. She is the founder of Kay Natural, a traditional black soap that does so many wonders on the human skin. She has transformed and re-branded the traditional black soap into a new brand. I caught up with Kadiatu Barrie at her campus in Moyamba District to tell us more about her traditional organic Kay Natural Black Soap. Here’s what she has to say:
Q. When did you start Kay Natural?
Kadiatu Barrie: The idea came about in November 2021. But I implemented it in January 2022.
Q. What inspired you to start Kay Natural?
Kadiatu Barrie: Poor farmers in my community inspired me to start my black soap business. Most of these farmers don’t have access to sell their raw materials to the markets. So I started Kay Natural to help them buy those raw materials and use them to make my black soap. So basically I am helping them and they are helping me too. Also, what inspired me is that I want to change the narrative; I want to change the way young people like me see the black soap. Many young Sierra Leoneans prefer imported soaps, which are mostly inorganic and sometimes pose health hazards to the skin, to our natural, organic, traditional black soap. Before modern medicine, there were traditional African herbs. We have everything at our disposal to compete with the outside world. So I want to use my entrepreneurial skills and agricultural knowledge to re-brand our traditional black soap and give it a new face that we will all accept in good faith. I am taking us back to our roots but in a different style.
Q. What is/are the benefit would one receive by using Kay Natural Black Soap?
Kadiatu Barrie: They are plenty. Kay Natural Black Soap relieves acne, treats dry skin, clears blemishes on the face and skin, normalizes and stabilizes oily skin, is good for sensitive skin, smooths the skin, and provides many health benefits. Also, it does not bleach your skin. What I mean is that Kay Natural Black Soap does not turn black skin to white or white to black.
Q. What else do you do apart from making black soap?
Kadiatu Barrie: I do other stuff. I work with an organization in Nigeria that advocates for women’s empowerment in Africa. I am also an advocate for women and young girls in Africa. And lastly, I am a small scale farmer.
Q. As a young female entrepreneur, what are the challenges you face with producing and selling your products and how do you manage to overcome them?
Kadiatu Barrie: There are so many challenges that I am facing, ranging from finance; networking with the market; the gathering of raw materials, and many more. Sometimes I do get requests/orders from the capital Freetown, Bo and other places. But I don’t have the logistics to send my products there. I do try to overcome some of these challenges like reaching out to my customers by using social media to advertise my business.
Q. Where do you see yourself in the next five years with Kay Natural?
Kadiatu Barrie: Kay Natural Black Soap is here to stay. I see myself and Kay Natural Black Soap in the international market in the next five years. I see Kay Natural Black Soap competing with western scented soaps.
Q. What is your advice to young entrepreneurs in Sierra Leone and the continent as a whole?
Kadiatu Barrie: My advice to them is to be resilient and stand firm to what you believe in and work towards achieving their goals.
Q. Your message to your customers and people who do not use black soap?
Kadiatu Barrie: I want to assure you, my customers, that Kay Natural Black Soap will continue doing what it does best and improve our quality. Continue the love and support. To people who don’t use black soap, Kay Natural Black Soap does not have any chemicals that would pose danger to your skin. It is natural, organic, pure and healthy to use. Kay Natural Black Soap does not have any side effects. Anyone can use my black soap.
If you want to patronize Kay Natural Black Soap, kindly contact Kadiatu Barrie via WhatsApp at +23275398551 or send her a message via Instagram @yakadaybarrieu