Founders Series: UZIMA & Leona Dondi

Brand strategy insights

UZIMA Leona Dondi Founder Series

The Yotpo Retention Xcelerator Program and Flywheel Strategy Founders Series: UZIMA brand highlight


The Yotpo Flywheel Strategy brand highlight focused on founders and their brands participating in the YRX program. This program provides up and coming businesses with tools, resources, and support to turn first-time shoppers into a repeat customer and brand advocates. Each leader in this year’s program inspires and leads in new and innovative areas for ecommerce. Our monthly Founder’s Series shines a light on the passion, strategies and insights guiding their businesses path to growth. Introducing the UZIMA brand highlight, led by Leona Dondi, Founder and CEO of UZIMA.

UZIMA is a biotech-led, scalp first, and texture obsessed hair care company. UZIMA products are designed especially for the needs of women with tightly textured hair. Founder Leona Dondi, who is both CEO and Chief Innovation Officer, has 15 years of cosmetic formulation experience. Leona also works in tech as product researcher at Netflix


Q: Can you share a little bit about your background? 

A: I’m a social psychologist by training and actually wanted to become a professor. I studied implicit anti-Black bias in graduate school, but left after my masters to pursue a career in industry. I’ve worked in all sorts of fields from transportation, sustainability, tech for social good, as well as CPG tech. I started formulating cosmetics out of a struggle of my own to solve my dry skin problem when I was in graduate school. As a Kenyan immigrant, where there is sunshine for over 300 days of the year, moving to Seattle where there’s no sunshine for most of the year was hard on my skin, when I discovered I could make my own products, and successfully solved my dry skin problem, I was hooked and I grew from there, teaching myself by reading cosmetics chemistry text books, forums, patents etc.

Q: What inspired you to launch UZIMA

A: Another struggle, this time with my scalp. I found no clinically effective cosmetics products that could help me reduce or completely eliminate my scalp inflammation, which was leading to hair loss. I also noticed that whenever I would talk to women with hair like mine, there was constant frustration, moving from product to product with no results, despite lots of promises. I knew we needed better, and I also wanted to see more of us in marketing for products created for us. We rarely see tightly textured hair celebrated at all, and I wanted UZIMA to be that brand that celebrates us and elevates our care routines. 

Q: What makes UZIMA unique?

A: UZIMA is really focused on the scalp and addressing the problems that lead to discomfort and hair loss with clinically proven products. We also heavily lean on biotechnology for our innovations because it offers us a way to harness nature sustainably and also provides ingredients that are biologically for the skin. We’re focused on bringing bespoke never-before-seen formulas that elevate hair care for our audience, but also respect and protect their environment. Conscious luxury. 

Q: What has been the most challenging part of bringing UZIMA to life so far?

A: Working full time and wearing all the business hats has been very challenging. I knew it would be, but you don’t really know until you know. It’s harder than hard to start and run a business, not to mention on your own. It can also be lonely because few people truly understand this life. 

Q: What is the most fulfilling part of bringing UZIMA to life?

A: When I hear from women who’ve been struggling with their scalp or hair, who are seeing a difference from our products, it fills me with immense joy, because really, that’s who I do it for.

Q: Best advice you’ve ever received or advice you would like to share with aspiring founders and entrepreneurs?

A: Network, network, network. And when you’re done, network so more. Apply to all. The. grants and pitch competitions, the experience of writing about your brand over and over again helps refine your approach and gets you closer to that yes. Also test things. We’re not going to know what works, so test, learn, and pivot as early as you can. 

Q: Can you share a little about any exciting launches coming up for UZIMA?

A: We had a pretty sad setback after the holiday with our holiday surprise, so after turning lemons into lemonade, we have an exciting promotion coming up for our birthday month, February. We just wrapped our first clinical study and are looking forward to sharing what we’ve learned. We’re also diligently working behind the scenes on our essentials set that will bring you an elevated Wash Day routine to our community. The goal with UZIMA is to keep our lineup minimal but offer maximal benefits. 

Q: What trends are on your radar in the ecommerce space, to help drive UZIMA’s growth?

A: At UZIMA, we don’t follow trends, rather we are more purposeful on what we create and we make sure that it solves an existing problem for our community. We are a scalp care brand, not because it’s an emerging trend, but rather because we recognize that scalp issues are the root (pun intended) of many challenges that Black women face with their hair. I’m excited to continue building on our momentum in this space. We’re also looking to expand our retail partnerships and we have some exciting prospects in that area as well. 

Q: Where can consumers learn more about you and UZIMA

A: You can find us on our website and on Instagram

Seeing an opportunity to be part of UZIMA’s growth and success? Send us an email to partner with the UZIMA and Yotpo team and the Yotpo Flywheel Strategy brand highlight.

January 31, 2024



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