(Photo by Wafai Dias)
Muhga Eltigani’s parents practically had a mid-life crisis when she told them she was going to work on her startup, NaturAll Club, full-time after finishing college.
They figured she would spend some time on it, then come back to her senses and enroll in law school since she had followed a pre-law track at the University of Pennsylvania. That’s the natural career path they expected her to take. As the first born daughter of Sudanese immigrants, the pressure for her to succeed was on.
But as Eltigani’s product drew in customers, her parents started to accept their daughter’s decision.
NaturAll Club is a monthly subscription startup that ships deep conditioners for dull, dry or damaged hair. The products are geared toward women of color, though anyone can use them.
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Eltigani, 25, sources the ingredients from places like Ghana and Malaysia and makes the deep conditioners by hand, though she plans to find a way to scale up production as demand grows. In order to keep the natural ingredients of the product fresh, NaturAll Club sends the packages frozen.
The business stems from Eltigani’s own experience.
Dissatisfied with the hair products available on shelves that she believes damaged her hair, Eltigani decided to cut off her hair three years ago and use only natural products that she made herself. After this, Eltigani started a YouTube channel about her emotional transformation with the natural hair products and she challenged viewers to do the same and report back to her. The channel grew to nearly 40,000 subscribers and her viewers began asking her how to make the hair products she was using. So she decided to sell them.
In March 2015, Eltigani raised more than $9,000 through an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to launch her business. She then worked with a chemical engineer who tested the different ingredients she planned on using for her products. After this six-month research and development process, she began working on NaturAll part-time while keeping her full-time job at a startup in Cleveland through the Venture for America program, where she learned the ins and outs of manufacturing.
But when that became too exhausting, Eltigani decided to work on her business full-time. She later moved back to Philly for the Venture for America accelerator, which incubates startups founded by Venture for America fellows.
Eltigani grew up in the Castor Gardens part of the Northeast and now lives in West Philly. She works out of First Round Capital’s University City office, which hosted Venture for America’s startup accelerator last summer. Will she stay in her hometown?
“I love Philly,” she said. “We will definitely be here for the next couple of months. If we make enough sales, we’ll stay. It just depends on the ecosystem here.”
Eltigani runs the company with fellow Venture for America fellow Sam Roberts and counts 1DocWay CEO Samir Malik, a Penn grad who got his MBA from Wharton, as an advisor.
Eltigani says she always seeks the advice of other entrepreneurs, mentors and old professors, though she hasn’t met many entrepreneurs who look like her.
“For me,” she said, “not seeing a lot of women who look like me doing this makes me want to do it even more.”