Shea butter cured my son’s eczema - Kinyera

Catherine Adong, the founder of Amari Naturals. The Initial capital of starting Amari Naturals was Shs5m. After undergoing training at Uganda Industrial Research Institute, the product was tested on the market. While the idea was conceived in 2015, active selling began in 2019.PHOTO/CHARLOTTE NINSIIMA

What you need to know:

  • When Ms Catherine Kinyera, a telecom engineer and founder of Amari Naturals, could not easily get shea butter for her son who was battling eczema, she ventured into transporting it from Gulu and later ventured into shea body butter production among other products.

Every child’s wellbeing is a mother’s happiness. Alas! Catherine Kinyera’s two-year-old son suffered from eczema, a skin condition that causes itchiness and swollen skin, for more than a year even after numerous visits coupled with exorbitant bills paid to different medical specialists. After Kinyera’s mother advised use of shea butter, this experience birthed the idea of ‘ Amari natural cosmetics.’

Kinyera, the founder of Amari Natural cosmetics, describes her story as a journey of pursuit, healing and purity.
“We suffered from that ailment for approximately a year and a half. We undertook medication for a long period of time and some of these medications were supposed to be used for a few months or weeks.”

When her mother suggested Shea butter, she searched for it in Kampala but in vain.  Later, her mother sent her sheabutter from Gulu which became a game changer.

“After using this for a while, he started showing some improvement and we have never looked back since then. The inspiration sprouted from getting a natural solution and that reaffirmed a belief that natural skin care works,” Kinyera shares.
Amari Naturals is a personal care brand, currently dealing in body care products. It is also inclusive of body butters, lotion, scrub and wash. In future, she intends to add a hair and facial care line on this list. 

The raw materials are sourced from around Uganda and the world. Shea butter and sim sim oil is purchased from Lamiyo farmers group in Agago and Akemkwene farmers all dominated by women.  They also use sunflower oil sourced from Lira and coconut oil from Mombasa. Other ingredients are sourced from the world. 

The start
“After undergoing training at Uganda Industrial Research Institute, where we started with research, did product sampling and testing, we then proceeded with market testing. The initial capital was estimated at Shs5 million,” Kinyera narrates. While the idea was conceived in 2015, active selling began in 2019.

She works with a team of nine people including a chemist, sales and marketing team and casual labourers. Social media through boosts and promotions on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram has been the main advertising platform.  

Business in a pandemic
But business has been challenging. 
“Before the pandemic, we had finances and have been successful in organising our expansion, getting UNBS certification and filling up some positions. But we have been unable to recuperate since we are unable to make sales. Our biggest avenue of making sales had been cut short,” Kinyera narrates. 

As part of Amari’s business continuity plan, management is trying to expand online marketing through daily periodic boosts so that they have a bigger percentage of sales coming online instead of direct sales in case another lockdown is reinstated. 

“We got on our feet by activating our online sales, through Jumia and the website. We are scheduled to join two more platforms so that we can be more accessible to other customers,” Kinyera says.

They hope to also double their sales and marketing capacity to improve on the figures.
Their production capacity is between 50 and 100 litres per day. Currently, 20 litres can be done in a day. Amari’s prices range from Shs10,000 to Shs30,000.

They frequently give discounts at least every four months up to 30 per cent on some products. In addition to that, management offers free delivery for products worth over Shs30,000 within Kampala. Amari’s market targets mainly urban based females and families looking for oil and Shea butter products.

The proprietor believes her product is very effective, has incomparable value in terms of price with sustainability in mind. The brand supports groups that add value to society and those that protect the environment too.

Amari’s core competence is the ability to use science based natural solutions to create quality products unlike most natural skin care products that ‘cost an arm and leg.’ 

For some time, there has been a negative perception that Ugandan brands cannot come as close to an international brand. 
“The public is deeply engraved with an inferior attitude that our products are not good. In most cases, she was advised by dealers to intentionally label it ‘Made in South Africa’ as opposed to ‘Made in Uganda’ because it was too good to be branded Ugandan.

Going organic
From the beginning, Amari Naturals set out to come up with healthier choices for customers whil safeguarding the environment. The flagship like shea butter is packaged in aluminum, that can be recycled and degrades faster than plastic. Some of the products are in environmentally friendly packaging like the Shea body butter. 

The other packages are well branded paper bags and boxes. For the plastic, there is still no viable option since it is more mass produced and lowly priced however Kinyera says they are also considering glass as they try out several containers of aluminum.  

Behind her success 
Many consumers have become health conscious about what they eat and put on their skins. They take time to know what is in a product and prefer using natural skin care products. This has made it a major sector in the cosmetics and wellness industry, something Kinyera attribute her success to.

Working while managing a side hustle is another ‘new normal’ that society has come to terms with. There are days you are exhausted but you figure it out.  

“When I am not at work, I put in a lot for Amari,” Kinyera says. 

Getting certified
Like any start up, the road is not smooth. “On a good day,  we earn Shs500,000 and the worst day nothing. I have not yet broken even. However, the client base has grown from just family and friends to a bigger market in metropolitan Kampala because we sell at six supermarkets and so many cosmetics shops per town.” 
Kinyera is making strides in  creating market. 

“We got the UNBS [Uganda National Bureau of Standards] certification because we would like to check the regional market in Sudan, Tanzania and Kenya but this is after we have captured a bigger market in Uganda.”

When it comes to opening up a business, the telecommunication engineer says the more you stay in a business, the more experience you get to handle your challenges better. 

Future prospects
Amari Naturals is producing a body care line in collaboration with Natural Skin Care Chemist, an internationally based body skin care specialist.

In the near future, Amari hopes to add facial and hair care lines.


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