Mother Nature knows best. After all, everything we consume is, directly or indirectly, derived from one of her gifts. While the world is filled with a multitude of innovations that include the latest technologies, improved formulas, and new designs, the more complicated products do not necessarily yield the best results. Every so often we are reminded that Mother Nature offers us simple ingredients and endless possibilities for product ideas.
Seventeen years ago, Naana Daniels was diagnosed with two autoimmune diseases: Lupus and Scleroderma. Both diseases attack connective tissue, organs and the skin membrane. Neither disease has a cure, but symptoms can be alleviated. Over time Naana’s condition got worse; and while she had tried many treatments, none seemed to soothe her skin. Then she remembered the staple of her everyday skincare routine growing up in Ghana – shea butter.
The health benefits of shea butter are well-known in Africa; it is widely used for cooking, daily moisturizing, alleviating pain and soothing skin conditions. “Why don’t you try it?” suggested Naana’s mother. Trusting in Mother Nature’s age-old remedy, and taking the advice of her own mom, Naana ordered some raw shea butter from Ghana and put it to the test. Her scars faded away and she saw a wonderful transformation in her skin. From that moment on, Naana started importing raw shea butter from Ghana and whipping up butters for herself. Family and friends took notice and quickly, the life-changing remedy Naana had made for her own skin turned into a business opportunity.
“I started [making the butters] for myself, and I didn’t think I would get this far, so it was surprising for people to embrace it…”
The elixir can help others affected by similar diseases, while serving as an all-around great moisturizer for anyone. “I started [making the butters] for myself, and I didn’t think I would get this far, so it was surprising for people to embrace it…and to get a store downtown – that was very exciting!” After discovering how high the demand was, Naana officially started her small business in 2017. Suitably, she called it Honam Naturals (the word honam means skin in Twi, a Ghanaian language).
Naana’s first product was the ultra-moisturizing shea butter that worked so well for her own skin. Later she researched other natural butters that can nourish sensitive skin, contain anti-aging properties and are non-comedogenic (meaning they don’t clog pores). Today Honam Naturals features eight different butters that are wonderfully nourishing for the face, body, and hair. The butters all hydrate the skin to protect it from the elements and contain a sunscreen to protect it from the sun’s bright rays. The brand offers other body and hair care products for anyone to use, including special product lines for dry skin, baby care, and men’s grooming.
While still working in property management from 9 to 5, Naana creates her products in the evenings. She imports the shea and cocoa butters directly from Ghana and she sources the raw ingredients from a local wholesaler specializing in high quality organic products (olives from Italy, mangoes from India). Then, she just fluffs up the butters at home using only her Kitchen Aid mixer; “I can make everything with it!” she exclaims. To stay efficient, she keeps the production process simple and gets some help from her family. Her niece and her grandchild lend her a hand with the production sometimes, and her son creates the labels for the brand.
“It’s not going to be easy; but if you are passionate and you love it, you’ll definitely make it.”
Competing with the popularity of The Body Shop butters was a challenge at first, but Naana’s formula is unique. Honam Naturals body butters have sunscreen built-in and contain a higher percentage of the raw butter and more natural ingredients. Naana does not have high production, marketing or venue costs, so she spends more on buying more raw material. “I use it so I have to make sure that it’s quite organic, because [otherwise] my skin would just break out,” she explains. Applying her products to treat her own skin conditions places an even greater premium on quality.
Naana also has the products tested by others with sensitive skin, including her grandchild with eczema. She often asks her friends and nieces what they need and then has them test new products for her. “When they test it, and come back and they love it, then I go into production,” Naana says. She wouldn’t sell a product that she couldn’t use herself or give to her loved ones. Reflecting on her entrepreneurial journey, Naana shares what she has learned: “It’s not going to be easy; but if you are passionate and you love it, you’ll definitely make it. …There’s a market for everybody and you shouldn’t let people tell you that the product is already there and it’s not needed.”
“I don’t have to pitch, I’ll be honest…most people look at my skin and ask, ‘What do you use?’ Then I tell them I make my own products. So usually, my skin does the pitching.”
Thanks to Honam Naturals’ prudent quality control process, finding customers is not a problem. Naana doesn’t need to advertise because Honam Naturals’ products, especially the butters, sell themselves. Naana’s skin is a testament to the quality of her products and her trustworthy and open nature speaks to their authenticity. People notice her radiant skin, or they see the difference in the before and after photos on her website. “I don’t have to pitch, I’ll be honest…most people look at my skin and ask, ‘What do you use?’ Then I tell them I make my own products. So usually, my skin does the pitching. …I give them a sample and a card, and before I leave, they will have called me and ordered,” she smiles.
Honam Naturals products can be found throughout the GTA. Naana supplies her products to the Arts Market at 790 Queen St. E. in Toronto, Feelgood Natural Health Store in Whitby, and a few hair beauty supply shops. If Naana can find some more help she will be able to increase production and expand her product lines into more stores. She is speaking to a manufacturing company in Toronto about expanding production in the next few years as well. Naana also sells her products in pop-up shops and markets around the city, as well as online, where she receives many bulk orders (the butters make great party favours). She’s also hosted pop-ups in England, Ghana and the United States and often plans events with friends to help her spread the word. When she’s travelling, Naana asks whomever she is visiting: “Can you get a few friends?” They usually do and Naana runs a little pop-up where everyone has a great time.
Naana credits her resilience and resourcefulness to her mom: “My mum is very tough, and…if she doesn’t find something that she’s looking for, she makes it. So I also learned that from her, and throughout this journey that is what has helped me.” Like Naana, if you’re faced with a problem that you cannot solve, look to those you trust, look to your roots, look to nature. Perhaps Mother Nature already has the answer you’re searching for, you just have to open your mind to her.