“I have learnt that nothing is easy. Business success requires hard work and determination and you need to keep focused on what you are doing. I have learnt that you also don’t need to do everything yourself. Entrepreneurs should learn to delegate to other people. You need to have people who can help and advise you. You don’t have to leave all the baggage to yourself.”
Domitila Silayo couldn’t have put it better, those were words spoken out of a deep experience.
At just twenty-one-years old, she became the founder of Jatropha Soap Production in Tanzania, which produces handmade soap which has medicinal uses.
She was the second runner up for the 2013 Anzisha Prize, a competition that recognises and celebrates young Africans who through their entrepreneurship skills have solved problems in their communities.
Domitila saw an opportunity to make a difference in her community and quickly grabbed it. She came up with the idea of producing Jatropha soap after attending a cultural festival with her brother in 2012. They discovered some of the medicinal and cosmetic uses of the Jatropha plant in their country.
They found that the jatropha, a common plant in their country, has some healing properties which are known to combat several skin diseases like; ring worm, eczema, dandruff and many others. Next, they decided to learn soap making, to be able to launch out in business.
She recounts; “The plant has seeds and we extract oil from the seeds and we use the oil to make soaps. We have Jatropha plants in our country but people are not using it, so I thought that was an opportunity and started making the soap.”
Today, the duo produces more than 1,000 bars of soap a month and has one other full-time employee. Now what do you think? Business is booming!
Like every other budding entrepreneur, the young woman has big ideas for her business; she sees an opportunity in producing hotel soaps and supplying the local hospitality industry in her area.
She also faces some challenges, one of which is the level of competition in the market. About this, she reports; “My Company is still small – it’s just starting, and there are other big companies that are producing soap with similar benefits to society in line with helping skin diseases. So the market is a challenge. People often run to the products belonging to a big brand first. They don’t always run to the new products that are from small brands and starting at the bottom. So that is a very big challenge.”
But then looking at the extent of this entrepreneur’s determination, one can tell that this challenge will not remain for long.
Domitila is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Business Administration and Marketing at Mzumbe University in Morogoro and this, alongside her own entrepreneurial experience, has taught her some valuable business lessons which she happily shares with other young entrepreneurs whenever she finds an opportunity.
“They should try to look at the problems their society is facing and try to think of what can be the solution to the problem. That is how I came up with my idea of making soap with Jatropha oil… My society has a lot of people who are suffering from different skin diseases and the Jatropha soap is one of the soaps that help in curing different skin diseases.”
On the issue of courage and determination, she says; “You should know that entrepreneurs who are successful right now also faced many problems when they first started out. Entrepreneurship is a process. It’s a process that someone faces and has to go through – from a small stage to a higher stage – without losing hope. Always try to pull up your socks and open yourself up to new ideas. And have the courage to know that you can do it, because all entrepreneurs face the same problems. You are not alone,” she emphasised.
And in conclusion she says; “You must also have humility, determination and be able to work hard. All of this will help young entrepreneurs to have a successful business.”
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