Carine Moko, the founder of Eléngé, is a passionate mother and beauty artisan, who pays homage to her Congolese heritage by using free-trade coffee sourced from Congo along with natural oils, and hand-whipped shea butter.
Produced in small batches and handmade, Eléngé is vegan and ethically sourced.
What prompted you to create your own beauty business?
Carine Moko: A few years ago my son was diagnosed with Leukaemia and it got so bad the hospital moved us into a private family room. We were living in the hospital and I was around six months pregnant with my third child. Thank God, my son got better and we could finally go home. It was such a traumatic time; I lost so much weight and my skin got really bad due to the stress. I had breakouts on my face, chest, and back and my son’s skin was extremely dry, chapped, and flaky due to all the treatments and blood transfusions.
I needed products that would heal our skin, especially his. The natural dry skin products I would buy were not working and were making his skin flare up. I did some research on the best natural ingredients for dry skin and it said shea butter.
I had used shea butter in the past, but I never liked the way the texture was so hard, the smell was off-putting and it had bits in it. I decided to whip up my own version and I made some coffee scrub too. I used both products on mine and my family’s skin every day. A few weeks later, I could see that my son’s skin was really changing and the flakiness, eczema, and dryness were disappearing.
My skin had massively improved too and when I got positive feedback from friends, and especially my mother-in-law, I knew I had something good here. They were all requesting products, but I couldn’t continue to make them for free. I thought I’d start selling my products and here we are with Eléngé!
Tell us what you were doing before Elenge?
Carine Moko: I had my own cafe cooking and serving Congolese food in an artist’s Block in Bermondsey. I also ran food projects for young people, then I went to work in schools as a teaching assistant.
We love the name, how did you come up with it?
Carine Moko: Eléngé means youth in Lingala, which is my language. Eléngé means youthful in the sense of how you take care of yourself as a person and how it shines through on the outside, which then makes you look youthful at any age. It doesn’t mean youthful in the sense of making you look younger.
How has your business journey been so far?
Carine Moko: It hasn’t been easy because I do it all by myself. I hand make each product using sustainable methods, which takes a long time. I am my own customer service, administrator, financial investor, everything. On top of that, I am a wife, a mother of three and I work part-time.
I also study in the evenings, it’s a LOT!! But I take it day by day and stay organised. I pray, fast, and meditate a lot, this is very important to me.
I have learned so much and my followers and customers are so supportive. I am proud of myself and what I have created. I can only run this business at my own pace and I believe that I can really grow it. It’s not easy doing it on my own – but I will and can do it!
Eléngé is ethically sourced; is this important to your business?
Carine Moko: Yes, as I want to keep my products as honest as possible and use ingredients that are transparent and also help others.
The shea butter is from Ghana and made by women, with proceeds going back to them to support their families. The same with my coffee beans, which are sourced from small farms in my country, Congo. Again the money is used to help the farmers back home receive education and support their families.
I use my products on myself and my children every day, so I only want to use products that are safe on our skin. This is why my products only have the ingredients that are listed on the label, that are toxic-free, tested on family and friends, and safe to use.
Can you tell us about your range and any other gorgeous products in the pipeline?
Carine Moko: I have my Shea Butter which is organic and you can customise the scent, my coffee scrub, my Multi-Purpose Oil, and my GLOW Shea Butter.
I am now a qualified facialist and I am currently creating a cleanser to use on my clients during facials. I have been using it for a while and I love how it makes my skin feel soft, cleansed, and look brighter.
Is your target audience mainly women?
Carine Moko: Yes, however, my products are uni-sex and I do have male customers who buy and use the shea butter and coffee scrub.
Your products smell divine; what is your hero product?
Carine Moko: My hero product of course is the shea butter and it’s the vanilla scented one. It’s my best seller and also the scent I use on me and my family.
Is there anyone that inspires you in the beauty business and why?
Carine Moko: Marcia Kilgore, who is a beauty entrepreneur, skincare expert Nerida Joy also inspires me and Tia Ward, a content creator. Her makeup, style, and content are always very authentic, very simple, but beautiful and effective.
What beauty advice do you give to your family and friends?
Carine Moko: None, haha, they never listen!
I just live to be an example and when they see a difference in me or my family at home they always come back and ask for the same advice I was trying to give them in the first place!
What are your plans for the future?
Carine Moko: I am working on getting my own place for Eléngé, somewhere that feels like heaven for handmade skincare and facials. Everything is made from scratch, ingredients that are ethically sourced, organic, natural, and products are made in small batches using sustainable methods. It will have recycling options and be a place to relax and hang out.
What advice do you have for aspiring beauty entrepreneurs?
Just start! Do what you can with what you have, until you’re able to do what you want.
You will learn along the way. Find someone in your industry and ask them to mentor you or give you advice. Everything you need is on the internet; don’t rush: start slowly and build organically.