There are many life experiences that inspire entrepreneurs to come up with great ideas but for these SUGA Sisters Kourtni Leofa, 22 and Xanetia Currier 16, it was the fact that they were bullied at school that partly drove them to create their skincare business Manaia Skin Body Beauty range.
The sisters say that growing up as afakasi’s (half-caste) meant that it was often diffcult for them to fit in.
“During high school, it was hard being half-Samoan and half-Australian because we weren’t one or the other. The high school we attended was very clicky,” explains Kourtni.
“We found it hard from both sides of our culture and we were teased a lot. We had Caucasians telling us ‘haha brown poo, just like you.’” The girls laugh as they reflect back.
“Then we had Polynesians telling us ‘you can’t speak the language so you can’t sit with us.’ So it was hard to find ourselves.”
The girls, whose father Ray Tufuga is from the village of Tua’efu Samoa, say they grew up in a family of entrepreneurs. So it was inevitable that they would eventually get into business as well. Their mother Kristine owns a natural healthcare clinic and sells natural health supplements and cosmetics through party planning.
Kourtni, married, is a qualified beauty therapist and hairdresser and also has a diploma in film and television. Xanetia is in her last year of high school where she will soon graduate from photography and business. Considering the family’s combined skills and knowledge, it’s no surprise that the girls have what it takes to enter the competitive beauty industry.
Like any other business starting out, they too had to find a gap in the market and define what made them unique and relatable to other people.
“What we wanted to accomplish with starting our business was to represent both sides of our culture. That’s why we got into skincare. Who else has a story like ours and who else out there is able to support Australia and the South Pacific?” says Xanetia.
“So what we want to represent with Manaia is to promote that sense of belonging – to celebrate and promote being of a mixed race.”
Once the girls started to research and formulate their skincare product, they realised how many chemicals were used in other products.
“We were diagnosed as celiac’s so it was important that we researched what was in our food. So we started thinking, ‘what about the stuff that we put on our skin?’ That’s why it’s important that our products are organic and we do use certified organic ingredients,” says Kourtni.
They also wanted to add an ‘enjoyable experience’ to their product’s point of difference. Their heavenly pineapple mango day cream is a SUGA magazine team favourite.
“It was important for us to create an ‘experience.’ For example when you come home from a stressful day at work, all you want to do is just chill out.
“So we wanted to create this idea of opening up a jar of our products and closing your eyes and imagine you are on that holiday,” smiles Kourtni.
“So scent for us was a big deal and something we wanted to focus on, not just for a fun way to cleanse but more so that you’re getting that ‘escape’ even if it’s for a little while.”
Their formula appears to be working. The ambitious SUGA’s have enjoyed positive reviews from customers with many customers tagging them on social media whilst taking ‘shower selfies.’
“It’s really heart-warming and we love and appreciate all the feedback.”
And they have big hearts with those big dreams. The girls try to find time to give back to their people in Samoa whenever they can. In 2009 they organised a Christmas appeal for the children affected by the tsunami. The sisters flew to Samoa to give gifts to excited children. “We hope to do some volunteer work for the Samoa Victim Support sometime soon too.”
They are excited for a big year ahead of them in 2015 where they are booked for countless expos and trade shows including the reputable mind, body and soul expo and the prestigious Hilton high tea parties.
A new product, the Manaia facial mask is on the agenda too. “It contains a hibiscus extract which is a natural botux. Great for anti-ageing and bags under eyes so we’re excited about that.”
And their entrepreneurial energy doesn’t stop there. They eventually want to expand Manaia into fashion, swimwear and broaden the existing cosmetics range. Kourtni is also currently writing a book on Polynesian mythology and even models part-time.
Their advice to other SUGA’s thinking of starting their own business?
“Definitely find your gap. Find what makes you different – that’s your main selling point. Ask yourself why would someone choose your product over another? It’s also great if you have a story that people can relate to.
“It’s amazing how people from other cultures, not just ours, can relate to our stories of bullying. It’s universal. It’s so touching when they come up to us at expos and say they understand where we’re coming from so they immediately build that connection with your product.”
Visit www.manaia.com.au to purchase your Manaia skincare products!