Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in personal care but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Debbie vanGrieken, Owner of Moyaa Shea Products, located in Lowbanks, ON, Canada.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

Moyaa Shea Products is a Fair Trade business that works directly with women in Uganda to export raw, organic shea butter. Shea butter is used to produce award-winning skincare products and is also sold as a raw ingredient to other small makers of cosmetics and skin care. Helping people is the foundation of our business. Paying fair wages and helping the community that produces our shea, in turn, ensures our customers receive the highest quality products for their skin issues and helps bring organic, sustainably made products to the global marketplace...

Tell us about yourself

After a Melanoma ( skin cancer ) diagnosis and surgery, I began looking at what I was putting on and in my body. As a mother of five, I wanted the best and safest products for my family. I had a passion for fairer trade and was an advocate in my community. When I was introduced to a group of missionaries that were buying East Africa shea butter from Uganda, I began using shea and loved it.

I entered into discussions with the group and determined that I could travel to Africa and help the community by creating fair trade purchases and developing sustainable processes.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

One of my proudest moments was when we were able to purchase a charcoal-making machine that takes agricultural waste and makes charcoal without using any wood, thus saving the shea trees from being destroyed. This helped to employ women to make charcoal, sell it to neighboring communities, and provide the community with charcoal for cooking.

Moyaa also sponsors two girls to go to school in Nicaragua and provides filled backpacks to local Ontario schoolkids in need. We have won several awards for our products, which always makes me happy, but none of them compare to knowing we have helped others in need.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

So many things are hard when you become a business owner. Learning tech tools, managing cash flow and inventory, and hiring reliable help are just a few of my struggles, but I think the hardest for me is managing my own expectations.

I put so much pressure on myself to "succeed," and when you have setbacks like a pandemic, you can really start to spiral, so taking time to evaluate and remember my "why" is important.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Have a plan and get help with it right away ( so many program areas available for startups and I didn't know till it was too late).
  2. Even if you think you can't, you can. I was so nervous, but I entered and won a pitch competition and got $5000 cash and thousands of dollars in services. I had to push myself to go out of that comfort zone where all the magic happens.
  3. Hire a bookkeeper and an accountant, even if you are small. Knowing and understanding your finances is crucial.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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