Meet Nomahlubi Nazo, our 2018 SA Innovation Summit FemBioBiz Pitching Den Winner in the Student Category. She is s a young scientist and a social entrepreneur at heart… ready to take on the cosmetics industry!
Who is Nomahlubi Nazo?
I am a Cosmetic Formulation Scientist, a social entrepreneur and a mother two little boys.
What is Foi Science?
Foi Science is a company that specializes in formulating and manufacturing wound care and skin care products. Because I had limited funds, I had to start lean, I started with converting fish scale waste into collagen to make hydrogels for burns, scars, slow-healing wounds and ulcers. Blend this with essential oils and vitamins so the hydrogels can provide a moist and effective healing environment and to reduce the appearance of the scar.
Tell us about the products you have developed?
I’ve always had a dream of starting my own company, so I started training unemployed women and youth on how to make soaps and lotions and convert agricultural waste into activated charcoal to make face masks, soaps, tooth-whitening powders, air purifiers, and pet care products so we can raise funds for the startup.
Another service that Foi Science does is to do research and new product development and formulas for other SMME’s looking to start cosmetic brands.
What impact has your participation in the SA Innovation Summit have your business?
Taking part in the SA Innovation Summit and winning R70 000 from the SAB Foundation has helped me buy containers, raw material to help full fill my new goal which is the to start and develop five cosmetics brands.
You were selected to participate in the Slush GIA (Global Impact Accelerator) programme that took place in Finland, please tell us about this experience.
Slush GIA and Slush Helsinki were eye-opening experiences I learned so much and as a result, I made so many valuable contacts I am in the process of saving up for a business startup Visa with Business Finland. I am currently starting Masters in Biotechnology researching on wound healing and healing efficacy of collagen hydrogels blended with indigenous medicinal plants.
I have also found a university in Helsinki that will partner collaborate on the research and assist with clinical trials and EU Compliance so that the products can be sold in Europe too.
What made you want to participate in the FemBioBiz Pitching Den at the SA Innovation Summit?
I love chemistry and I am awesome at chemistry but I lacked business skills and Fembiobiz offered a lot of training that I really needed to succeed.
Where to next for Nomahlubi and Foi Science?
To develop five cosmetics brands. The first one is a partnership between me and a make-up artist for film and television; to create customized skin care solutions for actors in Film and television production companies. We have a 5 month-contract with our first television production company.SS
The second brand, an Aloe and Rose hip and Helichrysum skincare brand that cares for scars and sensitive skin and also makes hotel amenities in Lesotho and our marketing and sales agents will be students and unemployed graduates from universities, technikons and colleges in Lesotho.
The third company is still in prototype and testing phase, making hydrolysed Collagen (from fish scales), Hyaluronic acid (from egg shell), Rose hip (for the high vitamin C) and Moringa (super food) powders that supports healing from within to complete the fish scale collagen hydrogels. The powders can be made into a delicious jelly and also added to cereals and smoothies.
These smaller companies all help me to raise funds for my main company which converts fish scale into Collagen to make wound care hydrogels and films for burns, wounds, scars.
I approached the Chemistry Department at the Vaal University of Technology and asked if they could assist me with factory space at their Science Park in Sebokeng and in exchange I will buy the equipment to start a mini-pilot plant for making Collagen hydrogels and films for scars and wound care. The agreed and have offered me a position where I will give in-service training to their students.
Another exciting thing for me, is that the SA Innovation Summit has agreed that I will supply them with sample sizes of my products; I will make small samples of air purification bags, soaps, and skin repair serums for 1500 goodie bags for 2019 Summit event in September.
Tell us about the challenges were you faced with while building your product and being an entrepreneur.
Access to funding was my biggest challenge and that helped me to think out of the box to find creative ways to raise funds. Finding the correct investor fit was a challenge because it is really important to share the same vision and also finding a good team of people because it is not possible to do everything on your now finding people with the same level of passion and work ethic and commitment is very hard.
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs or those looking to start their own business?
You have to really love what you are doing because it will get very hard before it gets easy and there will be days were you toy with the idea of giving up, especially when the money is tight and nothing is going right. It is on those days you have to remember why you started and remembering you starting a business is not only about you it’s also about the impact on other people’s lives too.
Taking care of yourself is key, make time for your loved ones, stay healthy and rest when you need to rest and don’t be so hard on yourself.
Being extremely kind to your self is important.
Trust yourself and have faith.
Do not be too trusting read contracts, trust your gut feeling about people and please do your due diligence before working with people.