By Lakhram Bhagirat
Challenges form part of our daily existence. Without a doubt, life is going to throw us challenges constantly but how we deal with those challenges is more than likely to determine our path.
So, when life threw Odela Joseph an unexpected challenge, she knew that she had to confront it head-on. In 2020, the year the world slipped into a pandemic, Joseph lost her job as the company she was working for laid off the majority of its workers.
She was pregnant at the time and knowing that she would soon have to go on maternity leave, Joseph opted to stay at home. However, she also knew that she had to do something while at home so she began to put her degree in Business Management at work and started building her own company.
“I thought of something that could help me as well as other women suffering from the same condition as I was since I have (blemish) prone skin. If I get a scratch it leaves a scar, if I gain a little weight, I get stretch marks, if I get a couple of boils, I have dark marks. So, I was always dibbling and dabbling on stuff for myself and I realised that they worked for me and I decided to share the products that I was using on myself with other people and that is how the business basically started,” Joseph said.
Joseph owns Ojay’s Skincare – a local beauty company specialising in skincare products that are handmade locally.
The Sunday Times recently spoke with the young entrepreneur who shared her journey with us.
The 27-year-old is from the logging village of Ituni in the Upper Demerara-Berbice Region. She attended the McKenzie High School in Linden and then completed her Sixth Form studies at the President’s College. She read for her Degree in Business Management at the University of Guyana.
“When I finished university (in 2017), I stayed in Georgetown to find a job because there aren’t really any career opportunities where I come from and I worked for two years with Guyana Gold Fields and last year they had a major retrenchment and I was one of the persons that got retrenched,” she explained.
After she was retrenched, Joseph went online and signed up for several short courses on creating beauty products. There, she learned the science behind making soaps, body butters, hair oils and lots more. Eventually, she took the knowledge she earned and created Ojay’s Skincare.
Coming up with the name Ojay for her business was quite easy since most of her friends would refer to her as Ojay instead of her name, Odela.
Her products are all-natural and eco-friendly.
“I only use natural ingredients basically olive oil, coconut, castor oil, shea butter, mango butter, cocoa butter. I use locally produced sugar in my sugar scrub, coconut oil from Guyana and I would combine them and make all the stuff.”
Initially, she started producing and selling her products in small batches but the demand for them started to grow and soon she was producing her body butters, soaps, hair oils and other skincare products in large quantities. However, she gave birth in November 2020 and then took a break.
Shortly after giving birth, she rebranded and began to focus solely on her skincare line and dropped the haircare products.
“I basically rebranded the business and I named it Ojay’s Skincare because I wanted to focus more on Skincare as opposed to skin and hair because I found it to be too tiring to market all of that. We still make body butters and scrubs but I have expanded a bit more on the soaps end.
“At first, I was making turmeric soap and charcoal and now we have turmeric soap, charcoal and matcha. They all target skincare problems like acne, acne scars, hyperpigmentation, stretch marks and eczema. Basically, all the problems that people would have with their skin,” she explained.
Like every business, there are going to be challenges in the initial set-up and even when progress further. For Joseph, her particular field required ingredients that are not readily available in Guyana. In the cases where they are available, it is not economical for her to purchase and then make her products.
She then had to turn to overseas markets to source items like shea butter, mango butter, cocoa butter, essential oils and packaging.
“When you are small, it is okay to buy in small batches but when you are a growing business you don’t want to always have to go back or pause your business and say that oh we don’t have any containers or we don’t have any oils left so we can’t make nothing. So, what I did was made an investment and bought everything in bulk and shipped them in. So, I don’t have the problem of having to run back or pause my business,” she related.
While she does not have a physical location, Joseph’s products are accessible through her social media platforms – Ojay’s Skincare on both Instagram and Facebook.
“At Ojay’s, I put in the work and I make sure that all the ingredients I put into my products are natural and I try my best to make the products so that they will work. I know that I can’t please everyone but as long as the majority of my customers are satisfied, I feel really good.
“At Ojay’s, I don’t want to just sell the products. I want to sell you the skincare products to make sure that the skin issue is resolved. So I would follow up with my customers to see how the product is working if they need any assistance. It is not just about selling the products; I want to help. I want to solve the problems that they are having.”