Esnath Moyo is a diagnostic radiographer and mother turned CEO and Founder of Netsai Beauty. As featured in British Vogue, Netsai Beauty is a brand that believes skincare has the power to change lives, by increasing confidence that reflects in everyday life. Their products include their Zero flaws antioxidant mask which is formulated with activated bamboo charcoal and cacao which leaves the skin feeling soothed and supple.
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Intro : Yo! Welcome to the party! Hello! Makadini. Salibonani. My name is Vongai and you’re listening to ZimExcellence, a weekly celebration of Zimbabwe’s changemakers and trailblazers. So here’s the secret y’all Zimbabweans are actually DOPE AF and it’s just time that we recognize it. So grab yourself a plate of sadza, grab that Stoney ginger beer and let the party begin!
Vongai: Hello Hello and welcome to another episode of Zim excellence. Today my guest is a diagnostic radiographer turned CEO and founder of Netsai Beauty, as featured in British Vogue. Netsai beauty is a brand that believes skincare has the power to change lives by increasing confidence that reflects in everyday life. Their products include their zero flaws, antioxidant mask, which is formulated with activated bamboo, charcoal and cacao which leaves the skin feeling soothed and supple. Please welcome is Esnath Moyo.
Esnath: Thank you Thank you so much. When you say that, that sounds amazing. Like I don't feel it at all all the things that you just said.
Vongai: [chuckles] That's so interesting because like today our conversation is about all things skincare, all things self care, all things self love, and wellness. So I'm gonna say here and out. You are worthy, you are enough and you are deserving of this bio, believe it. Believe it
Esnath: Totally , thank you so much, for reminding me that. Thank you. I’m always telling other people but I forget to remind myself of the same.
Vongai: That's so interesting. I often say it feels like amnesia, like you forget who you are. And then you have those moments where you're like, Oh, I remember. And so, you know, it's up to us to have each other to remind ourselves now and again. So it is so great to have you on the show. Before we get into, you know the amazing things about your career. I always like to go back in time and talk origin story, because you're a ZimExcellence superhero. I love superhero things. It makes the most sense to my brain. And every superhero has an origin story. You were born in Zimbabwe. And now I believe you live in Manchester. Yes?
Esnath: Yes, yes, I do.
Vongai: I'd love for you to take us kind of behind the scenes or from where you started in Zimbabwe, to your journey to the UK.
Esnath: Okay, so I was born in Zim I was born to two very young parents, both my parents were 23 when they had me. Obviously in love, I assume. And we used to live in a place called Mabelreign Funny enough, I have to mention this. Both my parents were Liberation War heroes.
Vongai: Oh wow.
Esnath: Both of them at a time. Yeah, both of them at the time were. They were in the army at that time. But then my dad then left to become the managing director of Standard Chartered Bank. So good life, you know, like, middle class lifestyle good. And then halfway down the line, my parents decided to get divorced. I was 12 years old, and that just messed my whole life up, you know, like, so I would say from the time that I could remember from when I was born to about 12 my life was perfect. From 12 onwards I say I grew up in chaos. Because my parents got divorced, it really played up with me. Do you know what I mean? Like seriously, or that me? I didn't know it was coming or going. So I went through a lot of ups and downs during that time, like trying to find out who I am. And you know, you blame yourself a lot when your parents get divorced, even though they did try to inform you to say to us, no, it's not your fault and the like. I went to high school in Zimbabwe, the first year and then I was struggling so much I wouldn't even make friends because I used to think what's the purpose of making friends. If we just went to split up anyway, and I'm sure now I understand that it was rooted from my parents getting divorced. So I had attachment issues. Then I didn't realize so then I went through a chaotic, chaotic teenage life like at one point I even ran away from home. Went to the Victoria Falls with my school fees. With my best friend. We were trying to cross over to go to South Africa to start businesses. Can you believe that?
Vongai: Wait from Victoria Falls?
Esnath. Yes. We went to Victoria Falls. Why on earth we went to Victoria Falls. I don't know why. I don't know how to get to South Africa from there.
Vongai: Yeah, for the listeners who might not be familiar with geography. So Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe is next to the Zambian border. While, if you wanted to get to South Africa, you would have to go to the southern part of the country, Beitbridge, yes.
Esnath: So we get to Victoria Falls, we realize that no, actually, we have to go the other way to get to South Africa, we decide we're going to save a bit more of our. We’re going to stay in cheap hotels and stuff like that. So we get on a bus, get to Beitbridge. We get to Beitbridge. And you know what, you're always in a place for a reason there was this woman who was I think she was a trader, she was buying and selling. She was there, we were about to get into a very shifty car that was going to take us to a place where people were doing like, border jumping type thing. This woman screamed her head and said, “You're not taking this kids, that I'm prepared to lose everything around me. I’ll call the police on you if you carry these kids with you. That place you want to take them, there's no place that kids need to be they need to go home.” So everybody started refusing to carry us because this woman had really threatened them. So me and my friends, my friend decided and we just I don't know, something clicked in our heads to say maybe this is the way she spoke to it the way she told us, she told us what could happen to us. And we realize that this is a bad idea what we're trying to do. So we decided, oh, let's just go and face our fate at home, let's return home and face the rest of our mothers. So that didn't happen. It was cut halfway through and we went I'm just trying to explain the chaos that I went through.
Vongai: Mhm to the point that you were trying to leave the country not even just run away from home and go somewhere else. You were fleeing the country.
Esnath: It wasn't even necessary for me to do that. Fast forward that though. So then I went, I finished my O levels. And then straightaway, my mum said to me, You can't stay here. You're, you're too troubled to stay here. What do you want to do? That's when I came to England?
Vongai: Oh, wow. It's so interesting that you say, you know, the divorce happened at 12. I am no therapist, and I don't claim to be one. But I've been doing a lot of work, internal work to do with the subconscious mind. And the subconscious mind is formed at age seven. And that's also the same place where the ego is formed. And there's this, I guess this fact that I live by, that really changes people every seven years. So it's at age seven, that you're starting to understand how the world works. A girls confidence peaks at nine years old. So by the age of nine, as as girls and as women were navigating through this world feeling like we're the second sex or like we're othered, and all and all of that stuff. And then when we say 12. This is when we start to have so many hormonal things happening with us that like, you have all these feelings to express. But the outside world is telling you that it's wrong to express them. But it's also so confusing. So it's just so interesting that as a person you would have been going through all of the stuff of school and feelings and crushes on boys or whatever or just feeling like stressed out and anxious. And you also had your parents divorce happening at the same time. A lot.
Esnath: Before you send it I never realized that I just thought I was just too naughty. But it makes sense exactly what you're saying. Like, a lot was going on, like inside of me and then outside of me.
Vongai: I mean people yell at me for this, but I like to give people the benefit of the doubt because it's 2021 and now we're we're finally having more conversations about mental health and also behavior and where behavior stems from. I mean, from a spiritual perspective, we either act from a place of love or from a place of fear. And it sounds like you are definitely acting from a place of fear and you know, whether the mental health resources or even like, the counseling for you to then go to someone to say Yo, I'm going, my parents are going through a divorce and this is how it's affecting me. That doesn't exist in our culture.
Esnath: Oh my goodness. It's very funny you say that. Do you know what they were worried about? Whether we were having sex while we were away? That was that their main concern like Seriously, I was fortunate enough, I didn't have to be put through what my friend went through. But my friend was actually taken to a hospital to get checked. If she had been sexually active, because they knew up to then we hadn't been.
Vongai: Oh, wow. I mean, again, like I said, I like to give people the benefit of the doubt I then also have to place my shoes in to your parents shoes and the elders shoes at the time to say, you know, they were working. They were working from a place of love, you know? Yeah. And they were doing the best that they could, because there are no parenting handbooks. And it should be interesting how, how then you as a parent, because you're a mother of three, how you've also been able to navigate that and but I feel like we'll dive into that later.
Esnath: Completely. I knew exactly where they were coming from, like, we went to the person, but I still think they could have been better acknowledgement. And they could have been the person because we went for counseling, and the person who was counseling as was only worried about one thing. That was sex, she wasn't worried about mental health or state of mind or anything. So I think it could have been done better, if that makes sense.
Vongai: Yeah. And then you get to then bring that on to the next generation to say, I'm going to do this differently. Yeah, thank you for doing the best that you could. Yeah.
Esnath: It's so hard, you turn into your parents very easily, very easily. So you continuously have to be aware that Oh, my goodness, I'm being that parent that I I said I never wanted to be. You have to be conscious and intentional constantly.
Vongai: So how was life in England for you at that time? And did you encounter culture shock? Moving from Zimbabwe, to the UK?
Esnath: No. At the time coming to England wasn't that big of a culture shock? Because the economy as a bubble was relatively well, it was starting to drop a little bit, but it was not as bad. Do you know, like, 99/98. It wasn't that bad around 99 2000. So when I came here, nothing was that much of a shock. Like we had hypersupermarkets like macro and stuff like that. So and nothing was that much of a shock. I honestly think so. Yes. Maybe culturally, yes. Like, there are certain things that I thought, Oh, I can do that now. And it's okay. I can dress like this, and it's okay. Nobody's going to come and try and take my clothes off me because I'm wearing a short skirt or anything of the sort. You know what I mean? Yeah. So that was like, those were the culture shocks otherwise food wise, I think we are exposed to British food a lot in Zim. So yeah, it wasn't much of a culture shock either.
Vongai: Okay, cool. What would you say being Zimbabwean means to you?
Esnath: Being Zimbabwean is being very. To me, I feel like we are very conservative. I do not know if that comes from our colonial history. Not that I'm proud of it. I wish it would have never happened but we are where we are. But we are very conservative. And there was a point in life where I used to be embarrassed or ashamed about it. But as I've grown older, I know the benefits of it. I know that it makes us who we are. I know the importance of having a culture and an identity. So we're conservatives. we are loving. we're soft people. We are not extremely outspoken. That that doesn't mean you can walk all over us. No. We are very strong people but we are just not loud
Esnath: So being Zimbabwean to me is being cultured is being soft and yet assertive, and it's being loving and kind I think that embodies the Zimbabwean. True Zimbabwean spirit.
Vongai: Do you have any favorite memories from growing up or visiting Zimbabwe?
Esnath:Oh my god loads. The first thing that I know is you were everybody's child growing up so didn't matter whether you were in the suburbs or in the high density suburbs because I had aunts who lived in high density suburbs when we went to visit her. Believe me everyone was keeping an eye on you. The woman behind the door was watching over. So if you mis-stepped be sure she would discipline you and then tell you aunt [laughs]
Vongai: [laughs] I feel triggered I think this is why for the longest time I was hiding from the Zimbabwean community in the US because they're in comparison to South Africa and the UK there aren't as many people in the US but let's say I'm walking down the street and I hear someone speaking Shona I'm like ducking.
Esnath: Let me run, let me run now!
Vongai: I mean, I don't know these people, but these people could know someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows my mom. And I don't like feeling like I'm being spied on
Esnath: And they would discipline you right there and then and then it doesn't end there. It still gets to your parents.
Vongai: Oh wow, and that's one of your favorite memories.
Esnath: That's one of my favorite memories. And then we used to go strawberry picking. We had a place where they were like wild strawberries. Not strawberries, raspberries, we call them. They were just growing and up to school, even though we were not allowed we would go find them and would spoil our uniforms. But that was the best thing that we ever did like. Honestly
Vongai: Which school did you go to in Zimbabwe?
Esnath: Oh that was primary school, Alfred Beit School.
Vongai: Alfred Beit. Okay. So let's talk about Netsai beauty. But before we get to Netsai beauty, you have this interesting story of you quitting your 9 to 5 with no backup plan to start this company?
Esnath: Yes. Yes. Well I said there weren't much cultural differences when I came to England, but that doesn't mean I did not face racism. Does that make sense? So I feel like initially, when I was coming from Zimbabwe, I was very naive. So even if racism hit me in the face, if they hadn't used the N word, I wouldn't know it was racism because I'd never been exposed to it. But the longer you stay, the longer you're here. And the more you look around, the more you see yourself being denied opportunities and stuff like that, you start realizing something's wrong here. You start being awake more. So I think that as time went on, that’s the one thing I saw that was very prevalent in England, and the culture is very much of “Shut up, Don't talk about it,” because that's what British people do. So you have a problem with don't say anything that's Britishness, right? You You keep quiet, you deal with it. And for the longest time, I learned how to do that really well. And it got me far. But it only got me so far. If that makes sense, you know, so I had to come to a point where there was now in a career, it’s competitive, you want to move on, and stuff like that. And then I realized that my people that had trained were actually getting paid way more than I was.
Vongai:And this is as a diagnostic radiographer. Yes.
Esnath: So in the NHS, NHS, these know, everybody is on the same pay scale and you you go up a certain ladder, but if you're in the private sector, pretty much your manager can choose what to give you. So when I got in, my manager gave me a certain amount of money, which I agreed to, and then I thought she would review it. Four years down the line. I'm looking back and she hasn't reviewed it. I go to her, I ask her, are you going to help me with this? She said yes, no problem. Because most foreigners or most people who are not native British, we want to be model migrants, right? So we tend not to make a lot of noise or rock the boat. So I think she thought that I was just going to keep quiet and not say anything about it. This is four years down the line. Mind you, people have come people have been paid more than I have been offered more money than I was people who I've trained. And also, I recognize that there was a pattern in how it was being done. Because I talk a lot so I managed to talk to everyone Black, white, Asian, you name it. So I kind of had my facts. So I went back and said, something's wrong here. Why don't you look at this and then she got angry when I asked her to look into it. And then she made sure that it wasn't going to get that payrise. I fought her. I won the fight, got the pay rise and then I decided I’m not doing this. It's too much what I had to go through. The energy it took away from me. The way it drained me. I just thought to myself. What am I teaching my children? So if they can feed you, they can starve you. And if I have that in my head, like, I know I have to do something differently so that they are never able to starve me. That's how I decided I'm quitting. And then everybody just looked at me as if I was mad. But let's be very clear, even though I was. It was a very irresponsible move, I had a backup of my husband. So before anybody goes around, quitting their job. [laughs] Somebody else is putting food on the table.
Vongai: Yeah actually. Disclaimers,
Esnath: Yes, putting food on the table and making sure that the rent is covered and stuff like that before you just go ahead and quit your job. So that was the whole story behind me leaving the job. It wasn't an easy decision, like all I knew was a 9to 5, I cannot say I'm particularly entrepreneurial. So it's still a learning curve. It was a learning curve, then.
Vongai: Had you been working on that side beauty all along while you were in the 9 to 5? And what led you to having this idea to creating a beauty brand?
Esnath: Actually didn't start with a beauty brand. I had an ultrasound scanning business?
Netsai:Yes. Because the company that I was working for was a private company. And it also had an ultra sound scanning side of it, even though that was not the big part of it. MRI was the big part of it. They for whatever reason, they tried to make a big issue of us having an ultrasound scanning business, which made us take a huge hit and have to take a little bit of a step back. But we didn't stop, we fought it again, and we want and we went ahead. We were in a partnership. And then partnerships in business. Oh my goodness, that's a whole new episode on its own when you're teaching business 101 the partnership didn't work out but I think the partnership broke down because we went through much stress trying to fight what the company was trying to do to us. So that then broke down and then I just said to myself, I'm not going to stop doing business but what can I do so that when things like that this happen , I won't fall apart and want to give up. And then I thought let me go to my default skincare. I've been doing this since 2013.
Vongai: Oh, wow.
Esnath: And that's how I decided that I was going to start a skincare line.
Vongai:Nice. So when you say you've been doing skincare since 2013? How did that come about? And what made you fall in love with skincare and all things beauty.
Esnath: You know, everyone was into makeup, right? Like at that time, like it was way earlier than 2013 but I really started getting a little bit serious with it on social media 2013 I started receiving free free goodies from PR and stuff like that. Everybody was doing makeup, I wasn't very good into my own makeup to start with.
Vongai:I was in I was in the hair world. So makeup was always like.
Esnath: Oh really
Vongai:Yes, yeah, for a bit.
Esnath: How was it?
Vongai: Um, it was okay. But then it got to a degree where I just start seeing all these hair bloggers were just making videos just to sell products rather than saying, Oh, this product might be right for you. If you know x y Zed, it was like this product is right for everyone. And if it doesn't work for you, it's because you're using it incorrectly. If you have this type of hair, do a braid out if you have this type of hair, you can use it for a wash and go if you have this and I was like that makes no sense. And a lot of these companies were greenwashing their products.
Vongai: Yeah. So you had brands that traditionally were famous for selling relaxers, we're now selling natural hair products. And and I'm looking at the ingredients and it's still toxic chemicals. I was like I don't want any part of this. Joke. It's such a joke.
Esnath: I hear you 100% that's exactly the way it was. And I was into green skin for whatever reason. And I've no particular reason I've always gravitated to natural projects like that. I was into the Green Movement way before it became a thing like and we were a small community and we supported each other a lot but what I realized while I was doing it there was nobody who looked like me who was in that space at all. And then the prices I swear to god they said exclusivity but to me they were more of ‘to exclude’ Does that? Does that make sense?
Esnath: So I was just looking around thinking something's not right here. I love everything that they're doing. I love everything they're standing for. I love the products and everything. But a lot of people who look like me cannot afford to buy this because the way everything is set, click for an instance, I am in work, I'm working with the same person, that person is getting paid £10,000 more than me, of course, they have more disposable income, to go and buy that expensive skincare that they really love that happens to be green, right? Or plant-based. Whereas I am £10,000. short, I have to think about my whole Did you see where the disadvantages start?
Vongai: Exactly. And it's interesting, you bring that up, because historically, so while so these companies that were marketing relaxers towards us, and also, I guess, quote unquote, Black products, and by that I mean, you would see a Black person on the cover or on the box or on the bottle. They were owned by white companies. And so then you start realizing that and beauty products marketed towards women were concocted and designed by men. So it's important to then, you know, as you said, You didn't see people like you in the space, a Black woman who is creating skincare for women, and you know, people who are also Black, well, not just women, but whoever wants to use the skincare. But usually, and traditionally it's marketed towards women.
Esnath: That's it. And then I also realized a pattern and a trend. We tend to buy skincare that's made by anyone.
Esnath: Other people tend not to buy skincare that's made by us,
Vongai: Exactly it's interesting you say that. So as we're talking, it's the 8th of September 2021. And my episode with Sharon Marongere. She's the CEO and founder of Mauyu haircare we had a similar conversation.
Esnath: Oh listen to it. I listened to that one.
Vongai: Oh, thank you. Yeah, it's such an issue because we're so quick to say, Oh, I'm going to buy these, I want to support local I'm or I'm going to buy these products. And then somehow Black owned or African owned, translates to cheap, or like not well made. And so then people complain and say, why would I buy this? It's $30. And it's exactly, exactly, you're paying $50 for this product that’s filled with chemical.
Esnath: And syou find they’ve been putting the same amount of quality of ingredients as this one here that you're refusing to buy.
Vongai: Exactly, exactly. Marketing.
Vongai:This is why we need more Black people in marketing and advertising. I mean, I hate advertising. That's its own episode for another day, but we need Black people in advertising for these reasons.
Esnath:But what we don't realize is we're selling all the time, all the time we are selling like everything that we do every time you go for an interview or a casting anything you're selling yourself, right. And every time that you talk about a product that's not black owned, this is not to say you shouldn't support non-Black owned businesses. I always say support businesses that support your communities. Yes, yes, yes. Do you know what I mean? So it's not necessarily about black owned, but if they support your communities, and when by that, I mean, are they employing in positions of power, meaningful positions? I'm not just talking the low level positions, no, are they making sure that you're represented in every aspect of the business? And then if you are, if your community spends a lot in that business, how are they then giving back to that community that is supporting the business? You know, and this is what I the message I keep trying to send out like,
Vongai: Exactly, yes, yes, yes, I agree with everything you're saying. So as you said you were in the skincare and beauty space and you would get freebies from PR you notice there wasn't anyone like you was besides that was there an aha moment that you're like oh, skincare line, I will create I'm talking like Yoda. Let me create a skincare line. And yes, I want you to name for it like all of that stuff.
Esnath:I don't know if you've heard about MINTD beauty box. I was speaking to the founder Cheryl at one point and I was in Scotland I was working over there. And then she said to me. Do you know what if we go ahead and she has a London accent so she was really speaking in that London accent. If we go ahead and and the skincare people will catch up on skincare, but if you're already in it, people will trust you because you're already doing skincare. So instead of trying to do the trend and go with makeup because everybody's doing makeup right now, stick with skincare because people are eventually going to catch up. And she said it way back then, when her brand was just, now it's massive in England like she's everywhere. And she started saying do that , let's stick with skincare. And at the time I didn't see I knew what she was saying, but we were not getting the views. We're not getting the likes, we're not getting the same momentum that makeup was. So I knew what she was saying. But I wasn't too sure. But that was an aha moment for me, because what she said stuck with me. And I was doing skincare through and through even though the people around me were more into makeup, and fashion.