UMOJA GOLD – The Beginnings By Ingrid Figueroa

I started using macadamia nut oil on my face and body almost 20 years ago. My skin has always been very dry, so I’ve always made sure I moisturize it. From then on Macadamia nut oil became part of my daily routine. After a few years I got in contact with a startup that wanted to launch macadamia oil based products in the cosmetic market. I am a chemical engineer, so they asked me for help, but unfortunately the business partners had other priorities and they went their separate ways.

The existence of macadamia nut oil is not a secret, but there’s so much marketing done for other products and oils out there, that it has stayed “a treasure hidden in the background of the cosmetic world”. I knew this was a natural product with so many benefits to the skin, and also a business idea with great potential. I just had to find the right partners to introduce it to the world.

A few years ago I met David, our Business Strategy Director, in Colombia. We were travelling with a group of entrepreneurs, as part of a strategy to support one of International Needs’ projects: a school in the slums of Barranquilla. While in Colombia I saw that David was using baby oil to sunbathe. I was shocked and told him mineral oil (the base for most baby oils) comes from petroleum and was not healthy for the skin. Instead I gave him a sample of Macadamia nut oil, which I always carry with me.

He became a huge fan of the oil and over the next few years I became his unofficial supplier. During that time I kept telling him I wanted to export the oil and that I knew this was also a great business opportunity. David is a born strategist and a couple of years ago he met Nicola, our Director for UK Operations, while leading an African journey. Nicola, also a chemical engineer, commented on the importance of the quality of natural healthy products and how most people are not aware of how many chemicals they absorb through their skin. David immediately made the connection and arranged for us to meet.

I had met Geoff, our Marketing and Communications Director, through David a couple of years earlier, and worked with him on his business. Geoff and David have both been involved with International Needs Canada, a global non-profit development organization, for many years. After I learned about a group of Guatemalan doctors that had a dream, a vision to reduce maternal and newborn mortality in our country, I asked IN to consider supporting this project in Guatemala.  The project was accepted.

I’ve always wanted to make a difference in my country, and knew the biggest challenges in Guatemala are in health and education. So a few months after the African trip, the 4 of us met in Guatemala and analyzed the potential of bringing Macadamia nut oil to the world.  After hours of brainstorming and sharing our personal motivations, we knew we didn’t just want to launch a business… we wanted to make a difference and it all came together: a business model that combined an amazing product with an amazing cause: we decided to go ahead and Umoja Gold was born!