Hellen Dausen wanted to be a professional model and she was serious about it. After graduating with a BSc. in International Business Administration and Entrepreneurship from the United States International University-Africa in Nairobi, she participated in the 2010 Miss Universe Tanzania beauty pageant and won. As the winner, she received a scholarship to study performing arts at the New York Film Academy and the opportunity to pursue a modelling and acting career. But things did not turn out as expected. “It was hard to get jobs and even harder to sustain myself while living in Los Angeles,” Dausen recalls.“I later made a bold decision to come back home with nothing to show for it.” That was in August 2012.
After four months of soul-searching, she found the inspiration that birthed Nuya’s Essence – an all-natural bath and body care brand based in Zanzibar….There was no money for advertising or too many give-aways. But Dausen made sure that she created world-class products and gave excellent customer service, in the hope that early customers would share their testimonies with others. Then, in 2016, as the winner of two business plan competitions, she received funding from the Tony Elumelu Foundation and the Mandela Washington Fellowship. In the same year she was listed as on one of Forbes Africa’s most promising young entrepreneurs.
After the magazine feature, sales shot up and her client base increased. “That feature really boosted the Nuya’s Essence brand and increased our credibility.” Today Dausen has nine full-time and three part-time employees at three shops – one in Dar es Salaam and two on Zanzibar. She now envisions franchises all over the world within the next five years. She must have faced some challenges? In the beginning, Dausen couldn’t get her brand certified by the regulatory board in Tanzania. “I have had many disappointments,” she says. She was urged to close her workshop simply because she didn’t comply with the standards. She then moved to Zanzibar where many artisans use spices and herbs to manufacture cosmetics and food products, and where the authorities understand the needs of small-scale manufacturers. There she quickly received the Zanzibar Food and Drugs Board certificate.
Only when Nuya’s Essence opened its Dar es Salaam branch in 2017, Dausen successfully applied for and received the Tanzania Food and Drugs Authority certificate.
Anything we can learn from her experience?
As a self-starter in the beauty care industry, Dausen says it is best for budding entrepreneurs to learn by doing. “Look for someone who is ahead of you and ask them to guide you through the process.” She says this will help to avoid unnecessary, and often very costly, mistakes. “Make sure you also have someone to help you with financial education. This will set you up on a very good platform from the start. Keep the passion burning, read books, meet people and draw inspiration from everywhere until you find your purpose.”
Concerning sales, Dausen says word of mouth is the most powerful tool. “I will encourage other entrepreneurs to maximise it before putting so much money into marketing and advertising. Nothing can beat an honest testimony from a customer. Nothing will.”
And in the end? “Be still and live life,” Dausen says.
Originally published here