Jade Oyateru is a nutritionist and consumer goods expert who is a firm believer of holistic self-care. She is one of three female co-founders and the Chief Operating Officer at Uncover.
Jade is determined to help women understand the importance of good nutrition and gut health and its impact on skincare and overall self-care. Jade has over a decade’s experience on the African continent at Unilever/Nestle as well as e-commerce players Kasha and Jumia, and an MBA from Imperial College London. Read our Q&A with her and be inspired!
Share a little bit about your background. I am one of three female co-founders and the Chief Operating Officer at Uncover; a data-driven, digital-first women’s brand made specifically for women on the African continent. We are on a mission to revolutionize women’s health and wellness in Africa: the world’s fastest-growing but most underserved beauty personal care market. Uncover has raised two successful rounds of fundraising, most recently closing a $1M seed round to fuel our expansion.
We have started with skincare: using African botanicals with global best technology from Korea ‘the Paris of skincare’ to formulate safe, nourishing, and effective products specifically made for women in Africa. We empower women with skin-care knowledge through our content platform, personalized skin quiz, and tele skin consultations to build an engaged and empowered community of women.
I am Nigerian, born and raised. I have a very supportive husband and we have two beautiful young boys who we raise in our home in Nairobi, Kenya. I studied Nutrition at the University of Surrey, UK. As a nutritionist and consumer goods expert who firmly believes in holistic self-care, I am determined to help women understand the importance of good nutrition and gut health and its impact on skincare and overall self-care. I have over a decade’s experience on the African continent at Unilever, and Nestle as well as e-commerce players Kasha and Jumia with an MBA from Imperial College London.
You have a background in Marketing and Brand Management, when did you decide you wanted to become an entrepreneur and specifically create products for beauty solutions? I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs. My mum is someone you’d call a serial entrepreneur and my dad started his business over 40 years ago and is still standing strong.
I started my career in the FMCG world even though I knew I always wanted to start my own company. When I was younger I thought entrepreneurship meant you could live life on your own terms, wake up when you want, go in and do things at your own pace..little did I know it’s the exact opposite lol. Corporate life actually affords you a 9-5. Entrepreneurship is 24 hours round the clock. In my dreams, in the shower, on holiday I am working or at least my mind is on overdrive (I am currently on Christmas holiday with my family as I respond to these questions lol).
I’ve spent over 15 years of my career working with multinational companies building global and local brands with companies like Nestle, Unilever, and Jumia across sales, brand building, and digital marketing functions. I loved my roles and learned a lot about consumers and their buying behaviors across different markets. When I went off to do my MBA at Imperial College was when I really got exposed to the startup ecosystem. I loved everything about the ecosystem and decided to step into the unknown. Doing it Afraid (I said to myself) and so I transitioned from the corporate world I was so comfortable in after a decade to work at a few startups before joining my co-founders at Uncover.
When we started Uncover, we put out a survey that thousands of women participated in and key insights showed that the market is still nascent with huge potential to educate women about healthier behaviors which really validated our hypothesis. Key insights included the following: less than 50% of women apply sunscreen despite risks of premature aging, hyperpigmentation, and skin cancer; over 40% suffer from acne and don’t know how to solve it. Practices like harsh scrubbing and bleaching are prevalent; only 25% of women follow a simple skincare routine even though 92% believe in having one. Uncover is able to solve these through education and access to safe, desirable, effective products. So we rolled up our sleeves and got to work.
In our first 18 months of existence, we have garnered a loyal and highly engaged community of almost 80K women and have raving testimonials from women who are happy with the results and knowledge gained from using our products and interacting with our educational contents.
Tell us about ‘Uncover’ and how the vision was birthed. The Uncover journey began during the global pandemic with my two co-founders; Sneha Mehta and Catherine Lee and our strong desire to challenge the status quo and push the boundaries of what skincare should be for women in Africa and around the world. Since then, Uncover has been available in Kenya and Uganda with the release of nine skincare products, ranging from moisturizers and cleansers to no white cast sunscreen and sheet masks, as well as the first-ever pimple patch created by an African brand.
Uncover is a community-built beauty brand that unites the best of K-Beauty with the best of African botanicals. With core beliefs of patience, consistency, and self-love, we celebrate every blemish, every stretch mark, every woman, and everybody, encouraging you to wear your skin with pride. We created Uncover to show that beauty products can be formulated with Africans in mind. Really putting Africa as a priority and not an afterthought. We are a one-stop shop dedicated to advancing not only skincare but self-care.
Uncover’s healthy and effective products are formulated by experts and backed by science to effectively meet the skincare needs of each user. These skincare products, in turn, represent Uncovers ethos— wellness and positive energy, through affirmative packaging.
Collaboration remains one factor that many women struggle with and you have not one but two co-founders, how do you navigate collaborating for success? What are some of the practical tips you can share that could help anyone reading? I’ve really been blessed with my co-founders. We are three strong women who understand the value each of us brings to the table. We leverage and trust each other’s strengths knowing that we all have the same goal.
Sneha had a traumatic experience where a visit to a Nairobi dermatologist due to acne left her with burns all over her face and a low point in her confidence. She is driven to ensure no woman ever loses her confidence because of her skin. Sneha’s work experience spans a decade of scaling businesses across the African continent with firms such as Grassroots Business Fund, Helios, McKinsey, and the World Bank with a degree from the London School of Economics.
Catherine, a Korean living in Africa, inspired us to use the best global skincare technology and innovations from her home country to create the best formulas for the market. She is an economist turned filmmaker who has worked on women’s empowerment projects in 19 countries in the world, with degrees from Yale University and Harvard Kennedy School.
On Practical tips:
- The antler program provided us with a founder document where we individually put in our goals, non-negotiables, strengths, ambitions, etc This helped us to understand what we each wanted from the business and how we work together.
- Feedback sessions. We have very open, no-holdback feedback sessions that’s proven very useful for us.
- Having a solid co-founder agreement is important.
- Respect each other’s roles within the organization
- We are friends who truly respect each other
- We encourage each other to take time off when needed
- Sneha and I are mums and we love to bring our kids into work to watch NetFlix, have pizza, etc while we work (a sneaky way to balance the sometimes mummy guilt that creeps in when we have to work lol) and the kids love it.
What are the top 3 impactful things you have done/achieved in the past year concerning empowering/elevating women?
- The opportunity to provide employment for women and truly groom and mentor them is important to me. We are a full team of 16 and 94% are women. We only have 1 man in our team. Women have really stepped up and they are leading from sales, finance, marketing, operations etc. I am really excited about this. They are strong, amazing women that I’m really proud of.
- Empowering women to truly be their unapologetic selves has always been part of Uncover’s ethos. Every single testimonial received from our community is a big win for me and the rest of the team. Being able to impact our community of close to 80k women across different countries is huge.
- Uncover raised $1m seed this year and that was a very proud moment for all of us at Uncover. For a female founding team building a female focused business to raise funds in this economy is tough and despite the number of ‘no’ we received, we persevered and kept pushing. I am so excited that we are now able to expand in products and geography to reach more women on the continent and help them on their self care journey.
What is your take on “women supporting women”? WSW is important. I have had my fair share of female bosses who were not great but I’ve also had the best female direct and indirect mentors and guides.
What are some beauty tips you’d like to share with our readers?
- Number 1 tip is to love yourself. We are all beautiful and unique in our own way. We must start by loving our inner and outer selves.
- Positive affirmations have worked wonders for me and why we have positive affirmations on all our packaging. Affirm positivity to yourself every day and see how it completely changes your mindset and perspective.
- Sunscreen – Never go a day without sunscreen. Treat it as you do oxygen lol. But seriously, it is so important to protect our skin (the biggest organ on the body) from sun rays whether you are indoors, outdoors, on the beach or in the winter.
- Don’t go to bed with make up on. No matter how tired you are, you should protect your skin barrier at all costs. Wash that face sis to prevent clogged pores and breakouts.
- Real is beautiful. At Uncover, we champion real is beautiful. We want all women to uncover their healthy skin rather than a vicious cycle of covering up unhealthy skin with makeup all the time and harming our skin in the process. We all love to enhance our beauty with makeup but please ensure you aren’t covering up unhealthy skin with makeup. It’s important to have a skincare routine with the basic steps having 3 steps of cleansing with a good cleanser, using a good moisturizer to protect your skin barrier and protect your skin from harmful rays with a good SPF 30+ sunscreen. We call this: Cleanse, Moisturize and Protect.
What is one bad habit you are committed to changing? I’ve not been consistent with my dance classes. I really love dancing but my schedule can be hectic. Dancing brings me joy and I’d love to kick off the year reconnecting with this part of my life.
What would you like to be remembered for? A life well lived. I’m really not looking to save the world in a grand way to be honest. I Just want to make an impact where God has planted me; my family, my job, my friends, my community and leave a positive impact on everyone that comes in contact with me.
Time Travel or Teleportation? I really believe God is in control of my life and everything that has happened so I wouldn’t change anything through time travel. I do love to travel and I’d love to teleport whenever I need rest or a change of scenery without queuing for visas lol
For connect with Jade and the Uncover team, please visit:
YouTube- Uncover Skincare Co