Strong Voice Interview #33: Jen Martens
The hair care market is demanding, especially for curls. However, out of necessity, the visionary founder of ŌMAKA, Jen Martens, embarked on a journey. In the following Strong Voice interview, she provides insights into her path, from homemade products to filling a market gap. Learn more about her highs, lows, and tips for female empowerment in the workplace.
"Believe in yourself and your abilities! Whether you are an employee or an entrepreneur: you are your most important resource."
Photo: Steve Thomas Photography
The hair care market is fiercely competitive, with limited products catering to individuals with curls. What prompted you to start your own venture?
I never had the thought of starting my own business and the very first time I only thought of it because a friend asked me about the homemade products that I had given her to try.
At the time, I had mixed my own hair care products because I wasn't happy with the products on the market. Mixing my own reminded me of my time in Ghana with my grandma. She brought me closer to nature and showed me plants, that could help me if I got injured or didn't have a toothbrush to hand. It was through her that I first learned how nature cares for us.
When I became pregnant, the idea of founding came back to me. Because I asked myself how I wanted to care for my child's hair and what values I wanted to pass on. There were still no sustainable products for curls and afro hair on the market, that I wanted to use on my children's hair.
I had a growing desire to close this gap. So I founded my own ŌMAKA Naturkosmetik and launched the first solid shampoo for curls and afro hair on the German-speaking market. I wanted to develop a care product for all curl types that is readily available for everyone at the nearest drugstore.
What has been your most memorable and challenging moment since founding ŌMAKA, and how did you navigate those moments?
My best moment came during the process of finding a name for my business. I was desperately looking for a name and when I found it, I revealed it to my two-and-a-half-year-old son: One morning before daycare, I told him that mummy's store would be called ŌMAKA.
I wanted to see if he could remember the name. When I picked him up in the afternoon I asked him directly. And he still knew that my online store would be called ŌMAKA should be called. That was such a nice confirmation for me that the name was set.
The biggest challenge in setting up my business was finding the balance between my role as a mother and building the business. The needs of my children and of ŌMAKA was sometimes difficult to reconcile.
I founded ŌMAKA in 2019 from my parental leave, heavily pregnant and with a two-and-a-half-year-old child. I first had to grow into the new situation; learn to use my time time effectively and to ask for help from time to time.
As someone recently recognized as a LinkedIn Top Voice, a business owner, and a mother of two, how do you consciously make time for yourself?
That works! But you also have to actively take the time - like a massage or pedicure appointment once a month. These are my little island moments all to myself.
I also make time for myself when I'm booked as a speaker and am on the road. I usually travel straight home the next day after these speaker gigs. I always try to book my train connection a little later so that I don't have to rush. I then treat myself to some rest to recharge my batteries, read a book or stroll through the city I'm in.
Female Empowerment is widely discussed, but how do you practically live it?
Female empowerment is about battles as big as equal opportunities or against female discrimination. The basis for this is the breaking of prejudices and gender images. Unfortunately, however, not "only" legal framework conditions are sufficient for this, but our society must change through our everyday actions.
For me, female empowerment is more than just a buzzword, it is a daily commitment. We live it by overcoming boundaries and supporting each other every day. This can look very different for each of us:
- Taking care of yourself & being at peace/satisfied with yourself.
- Examining & breaking through our own prejudices & gender norms.
- Support, see & recommend each other.
- Talk about female sexuality & diversity.
We women are not in competition with each other! We don't have to be jealous or look askance at a successful woman. Let's rather celebrate each other, support each other and form a support network of solidarity.
What is your personal top tip? What personal advice can you give women to be successful in the world of work and achieve their personal goals?
Believe in yourself and your abilities! Whether you are an employee or an entrepreneur: you are your most important resource. So trust in yourself, your vision and pursue your goals. Self-doubt and insecurities will crop up from time to time, but don't let them discourage you.
My bonus tip: Build a strong network and make contacts with other women in your area or industry. Exchange experiences, learn from each other and support each other. It's simply worth being open to new encounters and investing time in building long-term relationships - it will take us all a long way!
We are naturally super curious, and we have a burning question for you: Which AMELI product is your favorite, and why?
I was browsing the store once and one of the smaller bags immediately caught my eye: HELVETIA in red! It's super pretty and I love that you can wear it as a shoulder or crossbody bag. It would be perfect for me when I'm traveling as a speaker. I bet you can fit everything you need in there.
Photo: Steve Thomas Photography
Jen Martens, the founder of ŌMAKA Naturkosmetik, embarked on her entrepreneurial journey out of personal necessity. Her path from crafting her own hair care products to founding ŌMAKA in 2019 reflects her dedication to sustainable care for curls and Afro hair. Juggling motherhood with entrepreneurship for two children, she adeptly manages the balance. Her contributions to Female Empowerment and top tips for professional success make her a captivating personality.