Originally trained at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Nigeria as a physiotherapist, the foray of Morolake Ogunbeku-Bello into business was needless to say, a daunting task.
Marrying her background in the medical profession with growing up in Nigeria, Morolake was well positioned to acknowledge the importance of Ori (African shea butter), a viable product used extensively in Nigeria. But she went further, after various works of research and training, to reinvent this product. She calls her brand the Ori-Ewa Shea butter
In this exclusive interview, she talks about her journey so far and why every home should have Ori-Ewa shea. Her story is inspiring as much as it is challenging. Happy reading.
Tell us briefly about your brand, Ori-Ewa shea butter.
Ori-Ewa shea is an indispensable companion and every home must have one. This is because from our head (hair) to the toes (foot), shea butter is very useful. Apart from preventing hair breakage and promoting hair growth, it’s effect on joint pain and inflammation is magical.
In addition, here are a few of its other benefits/uses: Good for rough/dry skin, skin rashes, and a peeling skin It helps to heal small skin wounds, sunburn; It can also remove blemishes and wrinkles.
On the whole, Ori-Ewa shea makes the skin healthy
, and can even prevent stretch marks during pregnancy.
How did you start the Ori-Ewa brand?
The business idea came when I was looking for something to do outside the medical field where I was originally trained. I have always wanted to be an exporter. So the search began and then I came across non-oil products and shea butter happens to be one of them.
I did an extensive research on how to start, by training
and joining an international association on shea butter.
I also joined a cooperative here in Nigeria to know more about the product and for proper training because shea butter is more than what we see on the street and most especially when you’re looking at the export side of the business.
After this, I went for the international conference of Global Shea Alliance (GSA) in the Benin Republic and several other conferences organized by USAID, NEXTT, NEPC etc.
Indeed, the startup capital
is not quite much, but the cost of training, as well as conferences
, is quite high. Although some are free, becoming a member of the cooperative and international body is not.
What inspired you to start it?
Like I said earlier, I got into the business because I was looking for a source of extra income
and export happened to be my target. I needed to start small.
I was counseled to start selling locally before getting international offers and buyers. That was how I started shea butter formulations and packaging; packing them in small plastic containers based on the training I have had.
What and what obstacles stood in your way when you started and how did you overcome them?
As for me, I don’t see obstacles. Rather, I see them as challenges and those things I need to work on. However, a major issue remains the quality and pricing; most people compare the price of Ori-Ewa shea butter to the shea butter they sell on the streets as well as in the local markets.
Little do they know that the local ones are usually exposed to direct sunlight and dust making them dirty, thereby lowering their quality. Having said that, it’s important to emphasize that Ori-Ewa Shea is pure, clean and packed under good hygienic conditions.
As a result, you will surely get value for your money on any pack of Ori-Ewa shea butter bought.
What makes your brand stand out in the market
The Quality of our shea butter is top notch. Ori-Ewa Shea is unique just because the quality is not what you can find in any market in Nigeria today. It is Grade A, with an export quality that has all the healing properties intact.
When it comes to our brand, quality takes the front seat. And that’s the major reason why our customers keep coming back.
Compared to when you started, how large is your market right now and how do you hope to scale it?
To the glory of God, I started in a very small way with 1kg, then 5kg, then 7kg and so on. At the moment I have buyers in different parts of the country and with God’s help, I have some of my products in the USA already, Texas to be precise.
Right now, I’m seriously on the lookout for partnerships with international companies that make use of shea butter.
Looking back, what are those two key qualities you think any budding entrepreneur must have?
The two key words are; One, take that step (as in START). Two, DON’T GIVE UP (once you’ve taken that bold step, the next bolder step doesn’t quit, don’t stop, don’t give up, just keep moving).
The reason is that life is all about risk taking and it’s better to fail as a brave woman and not as a coward who hasn’t tried anything. People would say “she actually tried even though she failed; she didn’t give up“.
Remember the popular saying, quitters never win and winners never quit. Even the Bible says it that no one has put his hands on the plow and look back is fit for the kingdom of God. Just keep going, don’t stop.
In addition to taking the bold step and being resilient, what other qualities do you think a budding entrepreneur must have? Share your thoughts here