An Afro haircare company set up with just £100 of ingredients is now worth millions and makes £500,000 a year.

The company, Afrocenchix, was set up by Rachael Corson and her friend Joycelyn Mate to find gentler hair treatments for very curly locks.

Corson, 31, said she often had burns on her head and neck from harsh chemicals used for hair straightening, according to an interview with the Sun.

“In the Nineties and Noughties it was quite normal for black British people to use really dangerous chemical straighteners on our hair," Corson said.

Some of these contained sodium hydroxide, a chemical used in oven cleaning products.

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“I had a very dysfunctional home life," she added. "I grew up very poor and thought it was normal to wear my older brothers’ hand-me-downs.

“I knew what it was like to go to bed hungry. I also had eczema and I was called a reptile at school.

“I used to scratch myself a lot and my skin would bleed.

When she went to the University of Birmingham to study law, Corson met Mate, who was reading sociology. Mate also has Afro hair, as well as alopecia.

Corson said: “One day, Mate said, ‘It’s not normal for your scalp to look like this — to have all these scabs, burns and scars’.

“So I thought, ‘I’m not doing this any more’. We started talking about how so many products weren’t suitable if you had eczema and weren’t great for our hair type.

“We both had hair loss from these chemical products we were using and we weren’t very confident about our hair because we didn’t know how to look after it.”

So they decided to make their own, spending just £100. The pair read up on cosmetic science and made a blend of natural oils in the kitchen of their halls of residence.

Eventually they got the right formula and found they had no head or neck irritation.

They now sell six hair products, including Soothe - the hair oil they first made in university.

Some of the products in the Afrocenchix range (


New York Times / Redux / eyevine)

It contains natural oils including lavender and sweet almond oil, which relieves scalp itches.

They also sell products including shampoos, conditioners and moisturising sprays. All are vegan and suitable for people with allergies.

The company was ten years old last July and now turns over £500,000 a year and employs 11 staff.

Corson said: “In the mainstream you never see the beauty of Afro hair. So many people are insecure and hate how they look because they never see anyone who looks like them.

“At Afrocenchix we believe all hair types are beautiful.”

Her advice for those getting into running their own business is to be aware of the relevant laws and regulations, check out your competition and don't stop researching.

Corson said: "Be kind, treat people well and they’ll remember. If others treat you well, pay it forward."

"Nobody wants to buy from a copycat, so pinpoint what unique value only you can offer."

You can find out more about Afrocenchix on its website, here.