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Nigeria: How Zuwaira Isah-Ikharo took baby products business from kitchen to global markets

Zuwaira Isah-Ikharo is the founder and CEO of Amal Botanicals, a prominent baby care brand based in Nigeria, Zuwaira has carved a remarkable path in the business world, driven by her passion for improving the lives of mothers and babies.

Zuwaira’s entrepreneurial journey is rooted in her personal experiences and determination to make a positive impact. Her story began during a high-risk pregnancy when she was expecting triplets. Faced with the need to avoid harmful chemicals and substances, she recognized a gap in the market for safe and effective baby care products. Motivated by her own challenges, she embarked on a mission to create natural and organic solutions.

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She started by crafting homemade baby care products using natural ingredients and shared her creations on social media platforms. The response from fellow mothers was overwhelming, igniting her belief in the potential of her products. This inspired her to invest in her knowledge and skills, leading her to enroll in a cosmetic science formulation course in London, specializing in children’s products. She obtained her certification and began developing her unique formulas, adhering to international standards.

In 2018, Zuwaira officially launched Amal Botanicals, a brand committed to providing mothers and babies with safe, gentle, and effective products that nurture their skin and promote overall well-being. Under her leadership, Amal Botanicals quickly gained prominence, serving customers not only in Nigeria but also reaching beyond borders.

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Beyond her role as a businesswoman, Zuwaira Isah-Ikharo is a beacon of inspiration for aspiring entrepreneurs, particularly women. She is deeply passionate about empowering others to chase their dreams and attain financial independence. Zuwaira actively mentors individuals looking to start their own ventures, sharing her personal journey of overcoming obstacles and recognizing opportunities.

Zuwaira’s diverse professional background reflects her adaptability and determination. Before venturing into entrepreneurship, she worked as Deputy Manager Tax at the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), gaining nearly a decade of experience in the public sector. She also held positions as a Consultant Manager and Consultant in various locations across Nigeria. Her career journey began as a Graduate Audit Trainee and Student Intern at Pedabo, where she developed her foundational skills.

Zuwaira’s commitment to continuous learning is evident in her academic achievements. She holds a diploma in Natural Cosmetic Formulation from Formula Botanica and has completed courses on essential oils from The Essential Oil Institute by Dr. Josh Axe. Her academic journey commenced with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting and Business/Management from Igbinedion University, Okada, and a diploma in the same field from the University of Abuja.

Zuwaira Isah-Ikharo’s story is a testament to the power of innovation, resilience, and passion. Her journey from a high-risk pregnancy to the founder and CEO of Amal Botanicals exemplifies her unwavering dedication to improving the lives of mothers and babies. Zuwaira’s commitment to empowering others and her determination to create safe and organic baby care products have positioned her as an inspiration to many and a true trailblazer in the world of entrepreneurship.

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“I had my triplets in 2013 and that is when my entrepreneurial career started. My children were born premature and, even when I was pregnant, I had a high-risk pregnancy, and I was told to stay away from some products and cosmetics. All the products I had bought for my children, which were conventional baby care products, were not suitable for them. I needed something more natural and toxic-free to use on them because they were in the incubator and they were still receiving therapy,” says Isah-Ikharo.

According to a report by news distribution platform, GlobeNewswire and research by Brand Focus Africa, the global baby care products market is estimated to reach $26.84 billion by 2030. In recent years, the term ‘baby products’, which broadly denotes all products made for infants under the age of three, has become increasingly popular.

In Nigeria, in particular, market and consumer data provider, Statista, estimates that the baby and child market segment is expected to grow annually by 19.15% (CAGR 2023–2027).

The problem for Isah-Ikharo was that there were no products on the market that she felt she could trust. That is when she began to do her own research and, with the help of her personal Instagram page, she started sharing how she dealt with taking care of the triplets and the experimental products she was using.

“I was getting response[s] from people asking me what I was using and this was coming from all over Africa. I also discovered that there were other mothers on my page and they needed to hear more from me.”

To help her formulate her products, Isah-Ikharo took a course with a cosmetic science formulation company in London, with a special focus on children. Once she got her certification, she began creating her own unique formulation, which she shared with family and friends.

“They kept demanding it and I needed to put a price on it to help restock my raw materials because I was giving it [away] for free for a while. And that is how Amal Botanicals actually started,” says Isah-Ikharo.

Her first products, which included a moisturizing cream, soothing shea oil, bubbly bath wash and African black bar soap, were immediate best-sellers.

“When I started, I only had the vision. No one understood what I was trying to do and they thought it would not survive. Starting a business for a delicate niche like babies was risky because people are very careful about what they use on their children. So, trust in [the] brand I was building is very important.”

Today, Amal Botanicals is still self-funded and has grown organically with products being shipped to all 36 states in Nigeria as well as to Ghana. But the growth has not been without its challenges.

“One of the difficult challenges we have had relates to sourcing raw materials and we all know how the exchange rate has impacted businesses globally. Right now, most of our packages are still imported because we want to be able to compete with the global brands out there and hence, there is [a] high cost of importation. Our packages are imported from China and the back and forth from our manufacturers can become very tedious,” says Isah-Ikharo.

With minimal barriers to entry in Nigeria, Isah-Ikharo has her vision cut out for her–of becoming one of the biggest suppliers of quality natural baby care products.

“The beauty industry in Nigeria is plagued by people with substandard products. Because it is easy to enter, we have people with no certification mixing products together without following the due process of formulation and this can be dangerous to customers, and harms our industry,” says Isah-Ikharo.

But like Alba, Isah-Ikharo is determined to build a leading baby care brand in Africa and with sales of her products consistently selling out, the future certainly looks bright.

Education

  • Certificate, Entrepreneurial Edge Program, London Business School, 2020
  • Diploma, Natural Cosmetic Formulation, Formula Botanica, 2018
  • Certificate, Essential Oils, The Essential Oil Institute by Dr. Josh Axe, 2017
  • BS, Accounting and Business/Management, Igbinedion University, Okada, 2007
  • Diploma, Accounting and Business/Management, University of Abuja, 2004

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