Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in personal care & cosmetics, but not sure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Georgy Rahayel, founder of Le Joyau d'Olive, based in Beirut, Lebanon.
Tell us all about your business...
Our business started as a means to support small soap masters and artisans get to international markets. We got together to revive the traditional craft of soap making and save our olive orchards by finding a new call to our olive growers nationwide. What started as a coop that gathers experienced artisans and teaches new entrants how to produce soap has today grown into a luxury brand of soap that has won 2 international awards and is today striving to further expand globally. Our clients resonated with our mission and felt the high quality and benefits of truly natural soap. We stick to the traditional recipe and keep our processes simple and manual. We only use the finest virgin olive and essential oils and have no intention of growing by industrializing our processes.
What's your background and motivation to grow as a solopreneur?
I lived ten years outside of my home country. Throughout my stay between Canada, the US, and Spain, living the hotel life of a consultant, I developed severe eczema in my hands and couldn't tolerate synthetic soaps anymore. So I wondered why significant soap producers worldwide use at least ten ingredients in their soaps while my grandmother back home could produce a natural soap using only virgin olive oil, water, and lye? I figured that many people out there share the same problems, and we, as people of this planet, could go without chemically produced soaps and save our waterways one soap at a time.
In 2018, I traveled back to Lebanon to learn more about ancestral soap-making techniques. I discovered that the industry is practically non-existent because cheap synthetics soaps have made it impossible to compete against, and our craft was dying. My idea was to create a luxury brand out of something everybody takes for granted and export it to the world. This is the only way the industry could survive. I wanted the world to experience the benefits of truly natural soap and make sure that the next generation wakes up to see what a traditional soap looks like. And that's how it all started.
What motivates me in this business is that we're growing every day, slowly but surely, gathering more artisans, teaching new entrants, and ensuring that the olive growers preserve the oldest olive trees we have nationwide. The entire ecosystem is breathing better, and that's what keeps us moving.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Surviving the 2020 COVID crisis. In 2020, we lost deals with the seven major airliners in the Middle East. We also lost a contract with Duty-Free boutiques. I wouldn't like to say we lost these deals, I think they were postponed until further notice. Our accomplishment is that we kept all our employees on the payroll, and we focused our energy internally to enhance the brand image. We ended up winning the Transform Award for the most commended brand of 2021 and the Go Global award for the exporter of the year. During 2020, we were on the verge of declaring bankruptcy, but our dedication kept us moving forward.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a solopreneur?
For a founder of a start-up, the most challenging yet most exciting challenge is doing everything on your own. I produced soap, managed to account, learned business contracts and insurance policies. I also have worked in logistics, moved boxes, participated in the design of the packages, learned ERP systems, did plumbing, carpentry, wall painting, whatever you can think of; I got my hands dirty doing it. Doesn't mean I'm an expert in all of them; on the contrary, it means I learned, grew, and got my fingers burnt a couple of times.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Do it yourself until you understand what it takes to do it. It's only at this stage that you can hire someone to take over.
- Don't think you know best. Always ask your clients. What you think is a fantastic idea might not even mean a thing to your clients.
- Manage your cashflows carefully, as cash flow is more important than profit.
Where can people find you?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email firstname.lastname@example.org; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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