Meet The PE Class Of 2018: Muhga Eltigani, Founder and CEO of NaturAll Club
The 2018 PE Intensive, taking place April 13 & 14, brings together the the top 200 female founders from the PE Venture Competition for hands-on workshops and mentorship in New York City. Among the 200 are 10 finalists who have been given the additional opportunity to participate in the pitch competition on Saturday, April 14 for a chance to receive a $10,000 grant and a spot in a five-week accelerator program hosted at Rent the Runway’s headquarters.
In the week leading up to #PEIntensive18, we’re featuring the 10 pre-selected finalists (two additional wildcard companies to be chosen during the Intensive will also present at the live pitch competition) and introducing them and their companies to our PE Community. Visit our 2018 PE Intensive website to meet the entire #PEClassOf2018, join our mailing list for Intensive updates, and follow Intensive highlights and behind-the-scenes with hashtag #PEIntensive18.
Muhga Eltigani is Founder and CEO of NaturAll Club, a subscription service for food grade hair products using food preservation technology. Muhga’s innovative company earned her a spot on the 2017 Forbes 30 Under 30 List in the category Retail and E-Commerce, and she’s won several pitch competitions, including first place in Harvard Business Clubs Pitch Competition. We caught up with Muhga to learn more about the company she started in her college dorm room, the experiences that led her to create NaturAll Club, and what she’s most looking forward to at #PEIntensive18.
What inspired you to start your business?
I’ve spent my life searching for products that would make my hair strong, soft, and healthy, and that would celebrate my curls and their natural beauty. All I could ever find on the market were products that left my hair dry and brittle. Eventually, enough was enough. Inspired by my mom, who transitioned from being a stay at home mom to going back to school and becoming a radiologist, I realized I could dream big too. I decided to make a new line for people like me, using fresh and natural ingredients that would treat our hair with the love it deserves.
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
When NaturAll Club acquired our very first customers, I carefully selected the perfect packaging for our products and tested it in the mail. Of course, it worked fine until we started shipping to customers. A few product caps came off in the mail and we heard from customers who had received packages covered in spilled product.
I was so discouraged, and I started listening to this little voice in my head telling me, ‘This is too hard. You can’t do this! This will never work!’ The mental challenge of talking back to that little voice has been more difficult than dealing with angry customers or spilled avocados. I constantly need to remind myself that this is hard, but it is also worth it. Instead of getting discouraged, I took action to fix what went wrong so it wouldn’t happen again.
What’s been the greatest reward?
Once, just after I’d finished a pitch at a business competition, a woman I’d never seen before ran up to me and gave me a hug. She turned out to be a long-time NaturAll Club customer and had seen on social media that I would be pitching in her city. She had rushed to the venue after her shift at the hospital, still in her scrubs, hoping she wasn’t too late. All she wanted was to thank me for the products that had made such a big difference for her. I still treasure that incredible reminder of the difference I’ve been able to make in women’s lives. I still keep in touch with this customer (she invited me to her wedding!) and I take every chance I get to speak with other customers one-on-one. Their experiences are my reward.
What changes would you most like to see in your industry, and how are you working to make those changes happen?
Our team is committed to writing helpful content and hair tips for our community, and this involves investigating the common ingredients used in hair products. The widespread use of toxic ingredients in beauty products never ceases to shock me. The simple and disappointing truth is that most products are doing more harm than good for your hair. The beauty industry needs to wake up and start formulating products with the best interests of their clients in mind. This is why I started NaturAll Club; I couldn’t find any hair products that were made for me and by people like me. NaturAll Club exists for our customers: we listen to them, we get to know them, we pester them for feedback, and our mission is to create products with integrity for them.
Who or what motivates you to keep going, even when things get tough?
I’ve learned a lot as a business owner, but these three lessons in particular help motivate me when the going gets tough:
- There are no adults. Another CEO told me this and I didn’t get it at the time. But after two year of trials and triumphs I’ve realized that no matter how put together a person may seem, we are all still trying to figure it out.
- The harder you work, the luckier you become. My father taught me this one. When it comes down to it, you need to stop making excuses, put your head down, and work. The more you outwork the others around you, the more opportunities come your way. Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.
- Be relentless—this advice is straightforward. No one can sell your product better than you can. Believe in yourself and go after what you want.
What about #PEIntensive18 are you looking forward to most?
I am looking forward to meeting so many incredible female founders. There are unique challenges for women founders and founders of color, especially when it comes to funding—97 percent of venture capital goes to white men! Conferences like Project Entrepreneur empower founders that are usually overlooked in the investment game, giving them the tools to move their businesses to the next level. I look forward to being impressed, inspired, and encouraged by the people I meet.