Marike Smalman - Owner of Blue Mango Salon



Q&A with Marike

Tell me a bit about yourself, your background and where you are from.
My name is Marike and I have just entered my 30’s. Born and raised in sunny South Africa, my middle class upbringing gave me a stable environment to develop my skills. I’ve always been a busy child, busy making plans, busy organising my room, busy doing ballet and busy arranging play dates. I was never bored. I designed my own games and loved playing dress up.
Ever since I can remember we had jobs to do around the house, may it be feeding our pets, cleaning the pool  or washing the cars, we always had responsibility. My parents are both entrepreneurs so the example and principle was set in stone. You always have to show up, people are counting on you and never hope for things that you are not willing to work for. Be positive, cheerful and kind to others, even if you are not feeling it. Don’t be a negative Nancy – it rubs off on people. Funny how that works but it does! If I am feeling negative, my mantra is that things can always be worse and I start feeling better soon.

If I had to sum myself up in a few words it would be : determined, loyal, ambitious, strong and positive.  I refuse to believe it won’t work, so I have to try until it does… I guess that’s how I got to my current chapter in life.

How did the idea to open the Blue Mango Salon come about?
When I was in high school, I loved my business economics class and on one of our assignments we had to write a business plan and think of a business name (as you do). I wracked my brain for a good name for a business that could be anything and not limit myself to something specific. I mean at 15 i didn’t know I wanted a salon but, I knew I was going to have a business. I then thought of the name Blue Mango. It was catchy and intriguing as mangos aren’t blue. A name that would stick. A name that sounded fresh and welcoming. Also, a name that could become the umbrella name for a few businesses, the same way that Richard Branson did with Virgin… and today it makes total sense as Blue Mango is the umbrella for my hair lab, skin centre, derma lab and salon.

How did you get to where you are today and what was your career path?

Ever since I was in primary school, my teachers always wrote on my report cards that I had a strong personality and that I show strong leadership skills and I am always leading the activities wanted jobs in the classroom aka responsibility. We had entrepreneurs day at school once a year and it was the highlight of my year! I baked, I sold books, I made bracelets etc. and I always won and made profit. I have always loved making lists and plans so it came really naturally to me. I was mega chuffed to be an entrepreneur prefect at school and took my duties very seriously!
I had my first job as a packer in a grocery store at the age of 10. At 12 I was  cashier and at 13 I was waitressing. I also worked in bars and was always juggling 2 jobs and school and then later on, beauty academy. For as long as I can remember, I have been working with people. I love people and customer service. More importantly, I started working because I wanted my own money and I wanted things and didn’t want to ask my parents for it. I wanted to be independent and be an entrepreneur as soon as I finished my degree in Somatology.  I needed to spread my wings.  I had a few jobs in salons and spas but, always knew I could do it differently as I had so many ideas pouring out of my head, heart and mouth and got super excited about doing it my way. People thought I was nuts and said my ideas were too big and costly and that I would never turn a profit … “Watch this space”, I would always say.

There is a great gap In the market when it comes to customer service and I think I know how to fill it. You need to believe it will work and it will I promise you that.

I worked really hard to get where I am today. No trust fund to help me through. The kindest and most generous helping I have ever had, was from my husband who has given me every spare penny he has made. He says its the best investment he has ever made because he believes in me so much.

I’m not saying that it’s not difficult, because it really was very challenging to start up a business from scratch at 22 in a foreign country (now my home) without any money or backing. Failure wasn’t an option for me, nor was backing down. I’ve learned in life to be my own cheerleader and boy have I given myself a number of pep talks over the last 8 years in London.


DSC_4704-2What do you love the most about what you do?

Making people happy, laughing and spreading positive vibes. My soul needs it, I draw so much energy from it.
Spending time with so many different personalities every day, has taught me so much about life and love and happiness, to get out of my comfort zone and to embrace change. I love going to the mango mothership everyday. I’ve made it my mission to create a space that I love to be in, thus i don’t feel like it’s work. It’s my home away from home. I’ve developed so many beautiful friendships with my mango babes.

What keeps you motivated?
The fact that I love what I do and I don’t see it as a task. Also, all the exciting things I still want to achieve with my lil mango. I always have ideas and plans. My brain is like a blender… its always working and wondering and sketching out new ideas to try.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
No amount of guilt can change your past and no amount of anxiety will change your future. Be present and embrace it all. The mundane day to day tasks is what makes your life story in the end. Do the best you can until you know better and when you know better you need to do better!

Any tips for running a successful business?
It takes more than capital to swing a business.


Find Marike at