Zeze Oriaikhi-Sao founded Malée Natural Science (www.Maléeonline.com) over 7 years ago. Malée is a luxury fragrance, bath and body care range from South Africa.  Inspired by ancient Africa and it’s people’s rich connection to nature and their land, Malée has won several awards and been featured on CNN.

Based on the success of her brand, Zeze has been asked to speak on the topic of entrepreneurship on several platforms including the South African Luxury Association Wealth Summit and the Business of Design. The Atlanta Post named Zeze one of the 7 African entrepreneurs that inspire innovation.


4 Practical Lessons We Can Learn From Zeze

Amazing Things Can Be Done In A Recession

According to Zeze; “Malee Natural Science was inspired by my relocation back to Africa after having lived in the UK for about twelve years at the time. I was stuck between a rock and a hard place at the time, if I am to be completely honest. I had just moved to South Africa at what was the beginning of a recession in 2009, and no-one was really hiring at the time, and I needed something to do. I had always had a passion for lotions and potions, combined with a love of fragrances, and I felt like there was nothing in the African space that had a soul, that told a story, and that got people connecting with the continent in an interesting way through such products. So I thought there was a good opportunity to put the two things I love together into a natural, premium skin, bath and bodycare business.”

In the middle of a recession, instead of complaining and basking in the anguish of unemployment Zeze created something absolutely beautiful. It’s no secret that we are currently in a recession so here’s your opportunity to create something beautiful too, what is it going to be?


The Challenges Make You Stronger

According to Zeze “In terms of challenges faced by Malée as a startup business, there have been a few along the journey to get us to where we are today, but I have appreciated all those challenges because I think they have helped me to become a stronger businessperson. I guess to speak on one challenge that is more universal is really learning to give your craft, your skill, your business, the time that it needs to grow and develop. You are not going to start out and immediately be perfect, as much as you might try. Often, the trick is learning that it is okay to say no, recognising that you do not have to leap into every opportunity that presents itself. In the early days, you need to raise money, you are trying to start a business, you are working so hard to create something that you want everybody to love when you launch, and as a result, in the early days you are tempted to jump at every opportunity with the hope of growing. It is not always the best way to go. “

Enjoy the challenges because someday you’re going to speak about them in retrospect and it’ll all make sense.

Do Your Home Work

According to Zeze, she knew there was a market for her product because “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.”

Maybe you’re failing because as bright as your idea or career choice may seem, there simply is no market for it? Don’t chase shadows, do your research before you leap.

Zeze Oriakhi-Sao

There Are Pearls In Your Culture

Zeze said in an interview recently “I believe there are hidden gems in tradition. Unlocking those with the scientific knowledge we have now and giving a voice to cultures and traditions that otherwise don’t have one in the global market place is a passion. Africa is full of beauty and I deeply motivated to share that.”

We Africans need to start looking within to find our voice through businesses and careers. We’ve tried the western way, it’s gotten us so far, it’s time to start infusing the scientific methods with our own rich heritage.

At an interview Zeze was asked “If you could give yourself any advice back then, what are your top 5 wisdoms?” Here was her response:

“* This will not be easy.

  • You will need to be patient.

  • You may believe in your idea but that doesn’t mean everyone else will.

  • You will need to be persistent.

  • Be ready to adapt.”

Some of Zeze’s Honors & Awards include:

  • 7 African Entrepreneurs who inspire innovation – The Innovator, Atlanta Post (June 2011)
  • South African Luxury Association Wealth Summit Speaker – Harnessing Africa South African Luxury Association (March 2012)
  • Business of Design 2014 Speaker – Keys to success in a Start Up Business, Business of Design (October 2014)


Zeze is a graduate from the University of Teesside and Grenoble Graduate School of Business. No doubt this is one woman riding on her passion to create something both beautiful and impactful.

I would love to hear from you, what was your most striking lesson? And lesson learnt outside this? Please share it in the comment box below. As usual don’t forget to pay it forward by sharing with someone else.

Your Friend,

Sinmisola NY.








This post was culled from the Thresh woman WCW Column. The ThreshWoman WCW is a column I manage with the goal to celebrate and encourage the successes of women all around the world while inspiring other women to chase their dreams fiercely.    



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