When Zenab Ali signed up for the NFTE course, she didn’t realize at first that it was the same class her older sister had taken several years ago. Zenab decided not to tell her parents unless she, like her sister, won the business plan competition. Zenab won with Natural Hues, an organic, henna-based hair color for men and women, and when her family found out, they were thrilled.
“Directly after starting on my business plan, I also started working on a science project, which was on whether you could alter the color of henna,” says Zenab. “Henna is an organic dye, so it only comes in one color. By altering the pH, I can change that color while still keeping the dye 100% organic and eco-friendly. Lemon juice will degrade the red-orange color of henna and make it blonder. Tea and coffee bean extracts make it different shades of brown.”
Zenab was surprised at the range of people who dye their hair. “It seems to be an extremely common practice, ranging from teens going for new looks, to older people covering grays, to men and women who are maintaining a certain look.” Because her product is all natural, it doesn’t damage the hair and is friendly to the environment. The color lasts about a month and fades slowly and naturally with each wash.
Of being an entrepreneur, Zenab notes, “It helps me deal with chaotic situations without losing my head. It makes me see that everything has a process, and you can’t simply jump in.” She also looks at the world a bit differently now. “I viewed it as a form of puzzle, where I had to find my way. NFTE has taught me that the world is a canvas for me, to find and conquer my passion.”
Before NFTE, Zenab, who plans to be a civil engineer, never imagined that business was in her future. Even when others suggested that she might follow in her sister’s footsteps, she thought “probably not.” Now she’s focusing on getting her website up, settling on a bulk manufacturer for her packaging, and acquiring the necessary licenses. She hopes to attend San Jose State University, where she plans to take courses in chemistry and economics to help better run her business. “I feel such an amazing sense of accomplishment. After doing this, I know anything is possible with hard work and passion.”
“Your hard work will always benefit you.”