Meet Hennapreneur Shirley Jayaseelan
What would you do if you were a natural henna artist in a community where chemical pastes were not only accepted but preferred by clients? How would you tackle the challenge of educating your market about the dangers of chemical pastes, the benefits of natural henna, and how to distinguish between the two? Would you know how to connect with your market and teach them about natural henna without offending? Hennapreneur Shirley Jayaseelan of Shirley’z Henna Artwork in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia faced these exact challenges - and built a thriving business in the process.
“I was pretty scared because most of my client base wanted instant henna, and I knew it would be difficult to penetrate natural henna market into an area where instant henna is actually leading,” she shares. “For a time, I actually offered both - to the extent that I even told the brides, ‘You can actually have a free trial. You can try both instant henna and natural henna and you can choose what you want for your actual day.’ And surprisingly, most of them did choose natural henna at the end. They liked the way that natural henna turned out.”
After some time, she decided to move toward the use of natural henna exclusively, a decision for which she says she has no regrets.
Today, not only does Shirley serve her own bridal clients, she also has become a well known supplier of henna products in Malaysia. Through her business, she provides a collection of handmade henna products, to include henna sealants, henna oils, henna balms, and her coveted natural henna cones.
“At the moment, most of [my clients] are henna artists themselves. They are including my aftercare products with their package. So their clients get my aftercare products together with their service,” she says. “I also do have brides who buy the whole set from me prior to their weddings.”
As an expert in natural henna, Shirley has been acknowledged as a leader in the natural henna movement in Malaysia, earning her invitations to teach on henna preparation and safety at local henna conferences. The artist maintains that the largest challenge for her business is the continued education of her market, but has high hopes that natural henna is catching on.
Without a doubt, her efforts in educating other artists and the community at large will be an invaluable resource for the rise of natural henna in Malaysia.
Watch the Full Interview Here
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