By Tom Jackson
VENTURES AFRICA – A Kenyan holistic soap-making company has built on its success at last year’s Enablis Business Plan Launch Pad Competition to record a 15 per cent increase in sales in the first quarter of this year.
The Nature Soap Company Ltd won in the Manufacturing and Construction category at the Enablis awards, winning a cash prize and recognition as an emerging manufacturing entity.
Formed at the back end of 2010, the Nature Soap Company is founded and run on the principles of social venture capital, which provides linkages, networks and investment in enterprises that seek social and environmental concerns as well as economic ones. The company is looking to establish itself as a leader in providing indigenous natural therapies, and has already been able to place its products in Chandarana supermarkets and the Healthy U stores. Sales are increasing month-on-month, driven by the internet as well as word of mouth and one on one sales.
“We endeavour to bring the traditions of our indigenous natural therapies and a mix of new age production methods to create invigorating experiences,” said technical director Andrew Okello-Syata. “Nature soap is handcrafted with a blend of natural oils specially chosen for their skin conditioning properties featuring our own unique infusions of fine herbs spices, fruit pulp crushed leaves, ground herbs, botanicals and the magical aromas of essential oils.”
The all-natural soap is ideal for those with normal and sensitive skin, as it has no added synthetics and has its own natural glycerine. Produced using ethical and fair-trade practices, it is handcrafted with a blend of natural oils and unique infusions of herbs, spices, botanicals and essential oils.
“We have created a category of Nature Soap which is a benchmark for other entrants in the soap market,” Okello-Syata added. “We are creating a niche and category in the toilet soap segment which is holistic, healthy and a “me” time experience.”
The Nature Soap Company has had to deal with low expectations from the off, but Okello-Syata says that running a company in Africa takes much initiative and a stiff upper lip. “Throwing away the rulebook and dealing with the situation with your gut feeling (are important),” he says. “Knowing it can be done even when the naysayers are the loudest.”
Having started off with the original goal of teaching children in a home in Nyeri to make soap for sustainability, recognition by Enablis has allowed the company to aim even higher. They were shortlisted for the Enablis Business Plan finals in 2010 and followed that up with a category win last year, which brought the company more funding. More fundraising allowed the Nature Soap Company to be born, with a determination and passion to create a sustainable enterprise that could have environmental and social impact.
The company is also looking to embrace technology as it rolls out new organic soap combinations, and is looking at an SMS-based ordering and distribution system.
“It has now become standard practice on a global platform hence we are just embracing it to cater for the emerging online following, reach the emerging 120 million people East African Market and to manufacture locally but create a global brand,” said Okello-Syata with regard to the internet.