Neiman Marcus has picked up products made by local entrepreneur Sipho Gumbo. Her company, Yangu Beauty, uses many of the Southern African herbs and oils Gumbo grew up with. The products are designed to address common skincare complaints made by women of color specifically.
Gumbo was born and raised in Zimbabwe, where her grandmother taught her how local foliage could treat acne and other skin conditions. For example, she recalls collecting small marula seeds the size of pine nuts while walking home from school. When she got home, her grandmother suggested she use that oil for her face.
“When you are growing up in the village, you are typically going to a communal bathroom, and that’s where we were sharing all sorts of things—the oils—and making our hairstyles, and stuff like that. I have a lot of memories from that period,” Gumbo said.
The entrepreneur moved to Ohio at age 24 and lived there for seven years before moving to New York with her husband. A stay-at-home mom, she also started a nonprofit organization, Munhu Inc., which helps provide educational support to children orphaned by AIDS in her home country.
Gumbo eventually moved to Dallas, and when her children began having the same sensitive skin issues that Gumbo had growing up, she began looking for answers. “I got to a point where I just didn’t know what else to do, what to use in terms of products,” she says.
She convinced cousins in Zimbabwe to send her the oils her grandmother had once shown her, and, noting their positive impact on her and her children’s skin, thought other people could benefit from the approach.
Gumbo soon met with a cosmetic chemist. Together with her husband, a pharmacologist, she created the Yangu Beauty product line, including cleansers, serums, and moi. She also built a supply chain that gives back to women in Zimbabwe through co-ops that supply one of the chemists from whom she purchases herbs and plants.
“The first thing I did was actually travel the country,” Gumbo said. Moving state to state, Gumbo interviewed many women of color, inquiring about the skin issues they faced. She wanted to build out her budding line to provide solutions to these issues. “I didn’t want to build just another line because it is a saturated market anyway,” she said.
In addition to common complaints of oily and acne-prone or dry skin, Gumbo found many women of color struggled to find a product that healed blemishes without skin lightening. They also wanted to find a way to reduce the darkness and puffiness under their eyes. “So, those were the four areas we targeted,” she said.
Gumbo took her product on the road, showcasing her line at trade shows across the country, experiencing 10–15 percent growth from 2016 to the start of 2020. After winning awards at an exposition in New York, Gumbo brought Yangu Beauty to Los Angeles. There, she met a buyer from Neiman Marcus.
“We give them the products, and during that period of testing, that’s when COVID hit,” Gumbo said. Convinced Neiman’s would no longer be accepting new brands after the retailer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in May, she thought her opportunity had passed. Then, she got the call—her products would be sold online.
The line launched with the store in November. “We are just hoping that Neiman’s is one of the first, and hopefully [we will] grow into other retailers,” Gumbo said. She’s also continuing to expand her product line. “We have quite a few products lined up that are coming,” she said.