Cultivating green jobs: Haja's organic skincare journey in Sierra Leone
August 15, 2023
From a journey to heal her own skin blemishes, Haja Dalanda Massally has created a thriving skincare venture. In 2017, she began "experimenting" with local remedies to combat acne. This led to her rebatching African Black Soap for extra income. Her personal quest for an unblemished skin birthed Shea and More Naturals in 2020. Haja, a determined young entrepreneur in her mid-30s, is not just creating green jobs but reshaping Sierra Leone's beauty industry. Shea and More Naturals is among 34 Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) supported by UNDP's Growth Accelerator Programme. An initiative aimed at supporting the growth of women and youth-led enterprises in Sierra Leone.
The Growth Accelerator Programme started in 2022, is fostering sustainable economic growth and innovation through support to MSMEs to stimulate job creation, and empower communities by providing them with the tools, resources, and mentorship needed to thrive.
It is providing tailored services, including mentorship, capacity-building, and grants. Haja's main challenge was production space; UNDP supported her in constructing a new factory starting in 2023.
Haja launched Shea and More Naturals using her personal funds and operated from home. She marketed her products through social media, fairs, events, and selected hotels in Freetown. With a grant and business training from Sierra Leone's Diversification project, she acquired a soap-making machine and generator. UNDP's support has further boosted her business. Haja noted that the training improved her business skills and customer insights. In 2023, her progress was evident as she inaugurated her first showroom in July.
“The support I received from UNDP and other partners has translated into more market visibility, increased sales, and of confidence in our future prospects. From an uncertain beginning, we are moving confidently in the right direction!” notes Haja.
The Head of UNDP’s Growth Accelerator programme, Richard Musinguzi notes that the support for young entrepreneurs, is a priority for UNDP Sierra Leone. He emphasizes that it is a strategic investment to find innovative solutions to today's challenges for entrepreneurs. He made it clear that nurturing the ideas of young people isn't only driving economic growth but shaping the future. Supporting young entrepreneurs is a pathway to unlocking the untapped potential of the youth and building a sustainable future.
Creating green Jobs
Haja sources almost all her raw materials locally, working mainly with women in the provinces.
“Now we are producing everything from scratch. We source cocoa husks from Kenema for our black soap, get coconuts from Port Loko and Bonthe, Moringa from Bo, Sesame seeds from Kambia, and Shea Butter from Freetown markets. Our efforts provide rural women and young people with livelihood opportunities, benefitting them and their families.,” Haja emphasizes.
Haja estimates she is reaching about 50 women in her raw material sourcing across the country.
She expects that when her small-scale production facility is completed, it will create employment for other youth and women. At the moment Shea and More Naturals has 5 permanent staff and 10 contract staff.
Haja has dreams, to dominate the skincare sector in Sierra Leone, start exporting to other countries in West Africa and to the world when her small-scale production facility is completed later this year. Through her visionary approach to skincare production, she's not only creating green jobs in Sierra Leone but also inspiring a generation to take charge of their economic future. Haja's story is a testimony to the fact that green skills have a huge potential for creating employment for the youth.
About the Growth Accelerator Programme
In 2022, UNDP Sierra Leone in collaboration with the Ministry of Youth Affairs (MOYA), launched the Growth Accelerator Programme to support the economic and social growth of innovative, viable, and ambitious Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), with a particular emphasis on women and youth-led enterprises. The first cohort of 34 MSMEs has received investments through grants, technical assistance, and mentorship.
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