Director Woman Magazine Issue 01

Mansa Richardson, CEO of Bareskinn

Mansa Richardson

Her smile can light up a room. Her multi-Instagram feeds? Carefully manicured, clearly a smart woman. It was the bio that gave it away. You’ll likely whisper “she’s brilliant” to yourself if you encountered her. The woman runs 4 business brands and makes it look like a dream. There’s something very gentle about Mansa (25) and it’s not just her voice, smile or online personality. It doesn’t take too much time to feel her warm and welcoming energy. We exchange a few emails about photographs themes and backgrounds before the interview finally happens.

Growing up Mansa

“I had an okay childhood,” she starts. Little Mansa, a self-confessed nerd grew up in a mostly typical middle-income family in Tema, a suburb in Accra, Ghana. She goes on to tell us about how even though it wasn’t the most exciting time of her life and she didn’t always get what she wanted, she’s filled with gratitude for the little privileges of having her basic needs met and for the little things. Like the first 6 years of her life before her parents separated. And how she remembers helping her mother, a seamstress, with some of her work. “I’ve always been very handy,” she says confidently. “I always wanted to do something. I would braid my dolls’ hair and sew cute clothes for them with my mom’s fabric,” she adds. It’s no surprise that Mansa is a Do It Yourself kind of girl. She confesses that she’d rather watch hours of YouTube tutorials than to accept that she can’t do something. “You can’t tell me no. No is not an option for me.” she adds.

Lessons from dad

For Mansa, there was a lesson to be learnt in her parents’ unfortunate separation. One that would prove life-changing for her. “I thought my dad was harder on me because I was a girl.” She doesn’t make a secret of how strict her father was on her. That coupled with his growing absence from her life as she blossomed into a young woman forced her to grow up faster than she probably would have if he had been there for her more. “In hindsight, it has made me very independent,” she says. “My father didn’t always make life easy for me.”

I can tell it’s hard for her to explain how she could feel like she didn’t experience father-daughter love like she should have, but that she’s grateful it worked out that way because it’s made her a better version of herself somehow. The lessons that she chose to learn from his parenting style aren’t a grey area. She attributes most of her drive to succeed and to be resourceful to him. The discomfort growing up and tough love she received from her father inspired her to become an entrepreneur. “My dad always said he wanted me to be self-made and to be great on my own and not to depend on anybody.”

Mansa on Business

She really is brilliant by the way – an inspiring modern day multi-passionate entrepreneur. Mansa runs 4 businesses in addition to managing her personal brand as a multi-platform content creator. “I’m a makeup artist by profession. I manage Flawless Faces by Mansa, a makeup company. I also manage Bareskinn – a skincare brand, a product photography and branding agency, and I co-founded a tshirt company called Peenkwish.” Passion drives Mansa. “With Flawless Faces especially, it’s my passion for makeup that drives me.” Mansa shares with us that she’s worked in corporate before and interned several times before accepting that entrepreneurship is what she’s “called to do.”

Inspiring Mansa

It takes a couple of seconds but a name finally comes to her. Mizwanneka (real name Nwanneka Nkumah), a highly successful hair seller based in Nigeria. Mansa tells the story of Mizwanneka as though it is her own. “She came from a small village before getting married and moving to Lagos, Nigeria. With the help of her husband, she set up a hair selling business.” The inspirational story is a reminder for her that we must start somewhere. “I have hope that one day, I too will succeed and be an inspiration to the next young girl to be a better version of herself.”

Guide to Social Media

There are many educational platforms that entrepreneurs use to market themselves and their brands and even more guides and ebooks on how to get social media right for your business. Mansa’s homeground for business is Instagram because, she explains, it allows her to market her products and services more effectively compared to other platforms. “If you really want to get it right, you must get your branding right. Branding is key.” she emphasises. She makes it especially clear that it would be a mistake not to take your social media content and brand seriously. Whether it is product photography or actual content, the primary aim should always be high quality and high impact. “If you have a brand or you’re looking to start a business, look at how you can add value to your customers experience and then tap into that and do your best to deliver [content that adds that value]. Remember, your [content/] pictures should sell your product before you do.”

The Mansa Way

Every entrepreneur has their own unwritten non-rules and principles that they follow. We’ve read my fair share of ‘it’s hard to take you seriously when you have many businesses that are all startups, you need to focus on one thing’ articles. There is also no shortage of social media ‘business experts’ that’ll tell you the same. But Mansa actually does understand that focus is vital. She encourages aspiring entrepreneurs to do just that. “Take it one day at a time and don’t try to do too many things at once.” She shares that she started Flawless Faces almost three years before founding her next business, using that time to plan well, save up and think about things thoroughly. “If you want to start an additional business, [you’ll need to] be accountable,” she adds.

Mansa also offers an important piece of advice when it comes to getting into entrepreneurship with the expectation of a quick buck. “Be careful in your approach because when it comes to entrepreneurship, not all things are as lucrative as they may seem. It’s very important to do your research before you go all in.” She believes that once you start doing it only for the money, you’ll be quick to be demotivated when things get tough, as they usually do in start-up entrepreneurship.

She is also no stranger to keeping business and pleasure separate. Keeping a diligent but separate record of all expenses and income is a concept she’s very familiar with. “Keep records of everything you do and keep your finances separate as much as you possibly can,” she says in conclusion.

Love, Mansa

The complexities of being a multi-passionate entrepreneur aren’t nearly as complex as you’d think in Mansa’s world. This young woman has found a formula that works well for her. If the world suddenly went dim and the red curtain pulled back and she found herself in the spotlight, this is what she’d want you to know –

‘Own it and believe in yourself. Just start, but don’t just do it for the money. Your business needs to be an inspiration to you – that is what will always save you on the bad days.’

About Author

Director Woman is a pan African women's career and business lifestyle digital magazine that celebrates, educates and empowers tomorrow's women, today & showcases that girls of colour are just as smart, capable and powerful.