Hellen Dausen may have once been Miss Universe Tanzania, but these days she’s making a name for herself as the founder of Nuya’s Essence, a natural bath and body-care brand that she launched in June 2014.
While Nuya’s Essence is now a success, the company’s early days could not be described as promising.
Dausen, who was named Miss Universe Tanzania in 2010, started the business by building a soap-making plant in her parents’ backyard in Zanzibar. Unfortunately, it was deemed not up to standard by regulating authorities and Dausen was ordered to destroy it.
This setback didn’t deter Dausen, 29, and she rebuilt the plant. This time, it passed inspection. Today, her handcrafted natural bath and body care products such as soaps, body oil and lotions made from botanical oils, butters, herbs and spices are growing in popularity.
Dausen was born and raised in Dar es salaam, Tanzania to a family of six children. Her schooling has been between Tanzania and Kenya, having earned her bachelor of science in international business administration with a focus on entrepreneurship from United States International University in Nairobi.
Dausen tells AFKInsider how she is continuing to grow her business.
AFKInsider: You started off by making an investment in a soap-making plant in your parents’ backyard. Why did you decide to do this?
Hellen Dausen: It was the best option at that moment and it was a free space. Besides, it was a new business, a totally new concept for Tanzanians to grasp, hence it would not have been wise to rent out space elsewhere. I wanted to minimize costs as much as I could, so I did.
AFKInsider: How did you deal with the news that it was not up to regulation?
Hellen Dausen: It was very hard for me. I really cried so much that night, it was my first failure and did not know what to do. But my biggest concern was for other youth who have amazing ideas and do not have parents to back them up. Where do they go? And the government won’t accommodate their small business until they flourish. That’s why as much as our government encourages entrepreneurship; so many people cannot live their dreams, so many youth are scared to even start.
AFKInsider: What did you do next?
Hellen Dausen: I had to sit on the news overnight and pray about it, asking God what to do next because I have failed. I then talked to my parents and my father helped me build it up from scratch to the standard that can be approved. It was very costly but with time, we all managed. My parents believed in my dreams so they did all they could to make sure I am on the ground, safe and sound.
AFKInsider: What is the environment like for female entrepreneurs in Tanzania?
Hellen Dausen: Well, it is very challenging, as I had mentioned above, but I think challenges women face are more or less universal, from dealing with sexists, being looked down upon, to not being trusted to deliver good work. We have really come a long way and there is a huge cloud of female entrepreneurs in Tanzania that are coming up so strong, fearless, and ready to take the economy by the horns. I am in awe of all this energy and it keeps growing.
AFKInsider: What makes your product different than others on the market?
Hellen Dausen: Our products are very unique due to the ingredients we use, the formulas we come up with. We do our best to source very unique oils, butters, fragrances and pair them up in a very unique way. Our products are all natural, handmade from scratch and truly deliver the maximum benefits to the skin/hair.
AFKInsider: How do you market your product?
Hellen Dausen: At the moment, word of mouth is still our biggest marketer and continues to do so. We use social media a lot to match and deliver product experience and evoke an emotional connection with the brand before a client gets to test or even purchase our products. We get much traffic and engagement from our Instagram platform. Definitely. We plan to extend our marketing outreach, to appear in different magazines, newspapers, and billboards. Baby steps indeed.
AFKInsider: How did you get involved in the beauty pageant world?
Hellen Dausen: My elder sister’s friend really convinced me to take part and that time, in 2010, I was involved in modeling so I thought the beauty pageant will be a great platform for me to get more modeling jobs and grow my then-dream career, so I said “yes!” to the beauty pageant world.
AFKInsider: What was it like being Miss Universe Tanzania?
Hellen Dausen: It was an interesting experience, being a complete introvert and suddenly everybody knows about you and wants to know more, invites to events, various appearances, community service, so in some way it was overwhelming but I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for such experiences in my life and for that I am forever very grateful.
AFKInsider: Did being Miss Universe Tanzania open any doors for you?
Hellen Dausen: Yes, it did. Until now, people remember my title and sometimes I get special treats because of that. And oh! How I love it.
AFKInsider: Are you the first entrepreneur in your family?
Hellen Dausen: I am not the first entrepreneur in the family but maybe the first among my siblings. My mother has always initiated projects and started different businesses, but the most popular one is selling flowers, she is a florist at heart and when I was young I helped her around the garden a lot.
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