Malée: Zeze Oriaikhi-Sao

The female founder tells us why managing cashflow in a start-up is a "fine art" and how her entrepreneurial mother inspired her to launch a business

Name:  Zeze Oriaikhi-Sao
Company name: Malée
Date launched: 01/11/15 
Location: Greater London

Tell us what your business does:

Malée (pronounced Mah-lay) is a unique and indulgent range of premium fragrance, bath and body care products. Inspired by ancient Africa and it’s people’s rich connection to nature and their land.

Our products’ unique scents evoke the wonders of the African continent and landscape, taking its user on an aromatherapeutic journey through unspoiled Africa.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

I spotted a gap in the market as I couldn’t find a products brand that spoke of a unique luxury experience, capturing the spirit of Africa.

How did you know there was a market for it?

I researched the market. I was lucky enough to have just finished business school at Grenoble graduate business school and market analysis was something I had done as part of a marketing project with Africa and the beauty industry.

What were you doing before starting up?

I was studying for a Masters in International Business at Grenoble graduate business school (Grenoble Ecole de management) and launched a product business in Africa.

Have you always wanted to run your own business?

For as long as I could remember, my mum was a serial entrepreneur so I guess I was inspired by her.

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How did you raise the money?

Through friends and family.

Describe your business model and how you make money:

Initially funding came from my business in Africa. Since then the business has funded itself, we have established B2B clients; supplying hotels, restaurants, corporates and retailers with our products, as well as a B2C business where we retail directly to the customer.

What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?

We are still in the start-up phase so managing cashflow is a fine art.

I believe all of our challenges have helped us grow as a business and make sure the focus is on what matters: the product and customer satisfaction.

What was your first big breakthrough?

A CNN marketplace interview, it really put Malée and my story on the map.

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?

Just do it.

Where do you want to be in five years’ time?

Global expansion; I want to see Malée readily available in at least 10 countries.


(will not be published)