‘I sold O2, but my £17m baby skincare line made me rich’

Casyo Johnson (Krept) and his former partner, Sasha Ellese, created their children’s skincare line after having their daughter, Nala – Dave Benett/Getty Images Europe

Krept, also known as Casyo Johnson, is a renowned grime artist and rapper and half of the award-winning duo Krept and Konan, as well as co-host of the BBC TV show The Rap Game.

With his former partner, model Sasha Ellese, he created Nala’s Baby, a skin care line for young children. Krept, 34, lives just outside London.

How has your upbringing influenced your attitude towards money?

I grew up in Gipsy Hill, south-east London. There was a lot of violence in the area and my brother and I didn’t have the best start. My mother was divorced from my father, who spent five years in prison for drugs. She did her best, but the need to earn money was ingrained in me even as a child.

What was your first paying job?

It delivered leaflets for my local Indian takeaway. They knew me because I went there to eat. I actually asked them for the job and they said yes. I was paid about £2.50 an hour. It was 2005 and I was about 14 or 15 years old.

Where does your rapper name Krept come from?

When I was a kid I was called Kreps after the trainers, which eventually became Krept.

How did you become a rapper?

I did music as a hobby and started writing lyrics in my youth club. Konan, who was a very good MC at the time, liked them, so we made some songs that we shared via infrared, the way people sent music before Bluetooth.

Krept and KonanKrept and Konan

In 2019, Krept and Konan filled the O2 Arena – Joseph Okpako/WireImage

We grew in popularity and this led to [the late] Jamal Edwards let us play on his YouTube channel SBTV: Music. It slowly built up, and then in 2013 we released our independent mixtape Young Kingz, which was a success. The real game-changer was our song Don’t Waste My Time.

We went from Konan being homeless to releasing that song independently and it being used in the movie Creed (2015). We signed a record deal, won awards, got bookings and started seeing money from shows and festivals. In 2019 we filled the O2 Arena.

Then you had success with Nala’s Baby. How did that happen?

I’ve always wanted to branch out and not just make music. I really love having different streams of income. I also want to create a life for my daughter that I couldn’t have. I don’t want her to go through the same things we did as kids.

Sasha was pregnant and worried about what she was putting on her skin, but when she checked products on the Think Dirty app (which explains ingredients), the only ones without chemicals and completely pure were over £30 a bottle. None of the others were “clean”. So we decided to make one that was affordable.

I knew we had to find the right people who could do this professionally, so I contacted a friend who worked in retail and who introduced us to a manufacturer who specialized in skin and hair care. We met and told them exactly what we wanted: a baby hair and skin product that was zero rated and ticked all the boxes.

How difficult was it to do this, since I had no experience in this field?

Developing the products took a year and a half. During lockdown I researched every ingredient every day. If I hadn’t been cooped up at home, I would never have had the time and probably never would have done it.

Combining something that is pediatrician-dermatologist-approved and affordable into a bottle is quite difficult. We needed a minimum order quantity so we offered it to Boots who loved it.

Suddenly Nala’s Baby became much bigger than we originally thought. It sold very quickly and we were short on stock for a while. But these are good problems to have.

Has being famous helped you get investments?

Being famous had its pros and cons. It meant I had a platform and some sort of traction. A lot of my angel investors came through my music network [Anthony Joshua and Jourdan Dunn are some of the most famous investors].

But when you, as a rapper, market baby care products, people look at you strangely and wonder, “How can I trust you to do this?”

I still had so much to prove, but I always said that if someone buys it just once, they will come back.

Which career had the biggest financial impact: a successful rapper or co-founder of Nala’s Baby?

Financially, the projected amounts for Nala’s Baby are much bigger than my music work and remember that you can make a lot of money in music. But in terms of business, scaling up and becoming a national brand, Nala’s Baby will be something.

Since launching in June 2022, we’ve sold over a million products. Year-on-year sales are up 55% and this financial year they’re forecast to grow by a further 100%. Last year the company was valued at £17m.

Property or pension?

Both. I have a rental property in Liverpool, which is a bit stressful when something goes wrong – the shower needs repairs, or a tenant isn’t happy with something. I’m a very good landlord and if they experience any inconvenience, I make it right because I’ve been in that situation.

Now I have a management company that manages it and that works for me. I am in the process of refinancing the buy-to-let to buy again.

I am also in the process of setting up a pension for myself and one for my daughter. I can save between £2,000 and £3,000 a year, over several years, so by the time she retires she should have a pension of £1 million. It is as good as putting it into a house.

Has having a daughter changed your attitude towards money?

Certainly. I think more about my spending in terms of what I can invest or what can have a positive impact later.

I took out life insurance [Krept was stabbed after a Birmingham concert in 2019] so it automatically pays my mortgage and the house goes to my daughter. I have also set up a trust for her and have made sure that when I am not there she is fine.


After being stabbed at a concert in Birmingham, Johnson took out life insurance – Matt Crossick/PA

Are you a saver or a spender?

Saver. Definitely. All my friends say I’m frugal – which means I’m a saver.

What do you like to spend on?

I spend money on comfort. When it comes to traveling, I don’t mind hiring a driver and a Mercedes Benz Viano with an armchair so I can lie down.

Sometimes I get a business class flight over economy. And I don’t mind spending money on a watch that I love and that won’t depreciate in value, like an Audemars Piguet.

I travel a lot for work and don’t enjoy visiting different countries as much as I would like, so I try to have at least one work-free getaway a year.

Does money make you happy?

It’s not the basis of my happiness, but it definitely helps. And I get a lot of joy from helping friends and family, I really do. Money doesn’t change the reality of daily life or the state of your health or relationships, but it definitely helps rule out problems.

Nala’s Baby is available in most major supermarkets.

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