Olivia Mbabazi started her business because she wanted to solve a problem.
She wanted a moisturizer that was strong enough to protect her skin from the harsh Canadian winters but also used high-quality organic ingredients.
After searching and failing to find what she needed, she decided to create her own products using ingredients from her native country, Uganda. Pretty soon, Sherabo Organics was born.
“‘Sherabo’ is a Ugandan word meaning ‘Gift’, says Olivia. “Sherabo seeks to share one of Uganda’s natural most precious unique gift: Nilotica Butter.”
Nilotica Butter is a unique type of Shea butter that is not available in Canada and not as commonly used in skincare products as other variants.
“The entrepreneur I am, I saw a business opportunity for Ugandan Shea butter in Canada as well as our Shea-based skincare line,” says Olivia.
Additionally, as a single mom, childcare costs can be a huge financial challenge. Self-employment gives Olivia the flexibility to work around her seven-year-old daughter’s needs and time.
Today, Sherabo Organics is a sole proprietorship that retails, wholesales and distributes fair trade certified organic unrefined Ugandan Nilotica Shea butter and Shea Oil. Products include face oils, body butters, hair moisturizers, hand creams and more.
Since starting her business a year ago, Olivia has already passed some major milestones. She has exhibited at three major Vancouver events – Make It Show, the Zoomer show and The Wellness show – and Sherabo Organics products will be in selected retail stores by the end of the year.
However, Olivia faced a number of challenges before getting to this point. Firstly, she needed to commit to self-employment full-time.
“It takes a lot of work and time to start and run a business. I needed to commit 100% to see the business take off,” says Olivia.
Since she didn’t have a lot of savings, jumping into full-time entrepreneurship also meant that she needed starting capital.
“Eight months into the business, I was privileged to qualify for Futurpreneur funding that has helped the business grow,” says Olivia.
Furthermore, Olivia needed to learn about the different aspects of running a business in Canada, as well as overcome some of the social challenges of starting a business as a newcomer.
“There are a number of challenges we face as immigrants [like] the fear of being accepted and assimilating in society,” says Olivia. “I am confident about the value and benefits of our products so I had to face my fears and doubts and put our products in front of customers through different community farmers markets and events.”
It helped that she was paired with a mentor through the Futurpreneur Start-up Program, who advised her on how to scale her business and list her products on eBay.
“I have been blessed to connect and learn from my mentor, Kelvin Lee,” says Olivia. “He has given me information about cross-border warehousing, shipping and order fulfilment.”
Overall, Olivia had a great experience working with Futurpreneur and is excited about the future of her business.
“The team at Futurpreneur is extremely awesome! I have had an amazing experience interacting with the team. They are approachable, they guided me through the business planning process and the financial application.”