Continued from yesterday
WHILE doing her research on soap making, Hellen came across a Malaysian lady who not only had a company that specialised in natural handmade bath and body products, but also trained people in the art.
She contacted the 14-year skin care product-making veteran and arranged to fly to Malaysia to be taught by her. She learnt how to make soap, hair shampoo and conditioner. In addition, the lady gave her pointers on running a business.
Hellen, who is now a certified organic skin care formulator, constantly works to expand her skills through research and taking online classes.
By so doing, Hellen has been able to teach herself how to make other bath and body care products. She knows that she has to stay on top of her game to not only meet her clients demands but also be able to grow her brand and initially launched in June 2014, it primarily made soaps.
According to her, clients made her want to create another line, which include lotions, body butters, scrubs, shampoos and conditioners.
Upon her return from Malaysia, Hellen’s father gave her a small structure in the backyard of their house for her to use for production purposes.
She invested her savings in transforming the space into a suitable soap making plant. However, Hellen was informed by the authorities that the plant was not up to the standard so she had to demolish it and in the process lost the mazuma that she invested in it.
“It broke my heart then. It really broke me – I didn’t know if I could get up from that,” she says. She was later able to bounce back from that initial setback, thanks to her parents’ support and generosity, she secured a godown that she transformed into a desirable working space. This time the authorities approved it.
Before leaving Malaysia, Hellen had ordered inventory for her company to be shipped to Tanzania through an agent. She had also bought raw materials to use in her initial soap production from Kariakoo – one of Tanzania’s biggest markets.
She used these to start her business and fill the customers’ orders she already had as she waited for her shipment to arrive.
Then the agent messed up and she lost her entire inventory order. Failure to deliver on her business commitment set Nuya’s Essence back several months.
“It took a toll on the business and our clients,” she notes. Hellen’s can-do attitude and persistence, coupled with the constant positive feedback from her clients prevented her from giving up.
“I am meant to do this. I had to go on no matter what,” she says. It is after the incident with the agent that she decided to relocate her product-making facility to Zanzibar.
She has found it to be a more conducive business environment. This is especially in terms of its efficient port as well as ease of access to some of the herbs and oils that she uses in her products.
Inspired by Africa, Inspired by Nature Nuya’s Essence is committed to ensuring that its clients enjoy the full benefits of its products which are a hundred per cent natural.
“No preservatives, no fillers,” says Hellen, who takes time to educate clients on the health and environmental importance of using natural products. Creating Nuya’s Essence skin care products is a multistep process.
Hellen first decides what she wants to achieve with each product, and finds the oils and herbs that will help her do that. The production process at Nuya’s Essence is primarily carried out by Hellen and her production assistant whom she trained. The two make everything by hand on a daily basis.
The company also has 8 part-time employees – two of whom are family – that work both on site and remotely. They include 3 assistants who help Hellen when she showcases products at farmers’ markets and other events; a graphic designer; an operations assistant; and a lawyer. Hellen’s sister is the startup’s accountant.
Her mother, who encouraged the siblings to use natural oils from an early age, helps with the making of Nuya’s Essence coconut oil and manages the company’s Dar es Salaam distribution. Being a startup makes it difficult to hire full-time employees due to limited funds.
“You want to save and reinvest all the money in the business,” she says. “So you hire people when you need them.” Hellen says that 75 per cent of the raw materials that are used in the production of Nuya’s Essence products sourced from all over Africa come from Tanzania.
This is aptly captured by the brand’s slogan “Inspired by Africa, Inspired by Nature.” Transforming the skin care industry Hellen says that the skin care industry is saturated with manufactured products that contain chemicals.
Nuya’s Essence is breaking through this with its hand-made products as people are looking to move to natural products. Hellen sells the brand’s products at Oysterbay Shopping Center Farmers’ Market and Garden Market, where she also gets the opportunity to network with potential vendors.
Partnerships with vendors are important for companies like Nuya’s Essence particularly for expanding market reach and distribution purposes.
This fact is not lost on Hellen who currently collaborates with several vendors who stock her products. These are Kijani Organics, Slipway, L’appetitie Gallery and jumia.co.tz.
Not constrained by borders, Hellen has also partnered with Kung’ara Kenya, a Nairobi-based boutique that sells her products, and she continues to seek new vendor partnerships.