In Summary
  • She quit her job to concentrate on processing natural avocado oil. Eronie Kamukama explores how she started this business and where it is headed.

Ariam’s Naturals, a budding natural skincare brand, has its simple beginnings in a family house in Makindye, Kampala.
Ms Mariam Nanziri, its founder’s thick black hair speaks of nourishment, yet a year ago, her scalp bore patches, a sign that something was wrong.

She has a smooth dark skin too. Back in the day, she would have given anything to look in the mirror and see a reflection of what it is now. Throughout high school and university, the spots on Ms Nanziri’s face were a reminder of all the pimples that appeared and disappeared.

“I tried almost everything. I had big pimples that darkened my skin until I found literature so I read about Avocado oil. One night, I got an avocado, fried it and squeezed out oil and used it on my skin. It didn’t work after a week. It worked after a month. So I also started putting it in my hair,” Ms Nanziri narrates.

She had a job, working as an administrative assistant at a secondary school. But she suddenly felt drawn to the idea of commercialising the natural avocado oil. In 2016, she went to Kampala’s downtown malls searching for packaging materials. This time, there was no precooking but cold pressing. The avocadoes were smashed, put under the sun and oil was extracted from the dry fruit. She remembers starting off with six bottles of avocado oil and posting pictures on her Facebook page.
“I had registered my brand, I worked on the logo within that short time. I wanted to make money because I know women want oils and this had already worked for me,” Ms Nanziri says.

Her startup capital was Shs30,000. That is what she used to buy a few avocadoes and brand her products.
Her friends were the first to support her and this further strengthened the belief that she could actually produce natural oil for sale. But when her day job’s premises were moved from Kampala town to Namawojjolo, she made the difficult decision to resign and pursue her side hustle. With the success of the brand a world away, Ms Nanziri embarked on making as much oil as her capital could enable her and making door to door deliveries.

Whereas it comes off as an easy beginning, Ariam’s Naturals has had its bad days. The first of them being when her customers could no longer get their products conveniently.
“It became hard when I resigned and started working from home. People asked why I had started charging them for deliveries,” she recalls.

When the complaints came through, Ms Nanziri signed a contract with Enviri za Nacho, a natural hair salon in Ntinda, to sell her avocado oil. This permitted her to bring the oil closer to her customers and enabled her to focus on production. But the contract soon failed.
“People were buying but it was a bit costly. So I could not keep up with the charges,” she says about using a salon to move her products. The failure did not go down well with some customers.

Determined to carry on, Ms Naziri asked customers to pick up their oil at home. She paid for stalls at exhibitions to market it. In 2017, she had sold 40 litres of cold pressed oil, having invested Shs2m.
Sales slumped in 2018 as avocadoes became scarce. A sack which contains about 120 avocadoes costs between Shs30,000 and Shs50,000. One sack of good quality avocado provides up to one litre of oil.

But also, she started juggling passion fruit farming with avocado oil production. Profits from avocado oil were ploughed into farming and vice versa.
The company is yet to have its big break. Much as she has created a small workshop at home, the business is still too small to employ people. Marketing has a long way to go. She is paying for Facebook adverts to get the word out.

Deliveries remain in the hands of two entrusted boda boda riders. Customers still have questions about natural oils.
“People are not aware of using natural oils,” she says.
“I do not add anything, no color, no scent but people have concerns on how it smells. I have to explain that its pure oil which should maintain its nature,” Ms Nanziri says.

Another question is in relation to the high prices of such natural oils with a litre at Shs150,000.
“I have to factor in my time as it takes a week to produce the raw materials, electricity costs for cold pressing, the packaging material. All these are costly too,” she explains. Ariam’s naturals dreads the wet season as the avocado moulds in the rainy season.

The company intends to move to another level. In fact, the plan is to produce 10 different natural oils in future.
“I want to make oil from carrot, flax seeds, shea seeds, chia, coffee, pumpkin, simsim, ginger, I chose to start with Avocado oil because the fruits are easier to source,” she says.
For now, she is looking at the possibility of refining the avocado oil to make it edible.
“I went to Uganda Industrial Research Institute’s lab. They tested and said it is good for skin and hair but asked that I take it to Uganda National Bureau of Standards if I am to take it to the market as an edible oil,” Ms Nanziri says.
She hopes more natural oil producers will come into the untapped market, something she believes can help natural oil use become a part of daily skin care.