When Shenelle Hills-Fife applied to the Planting Seeds programme, she immediately caught the team’s attention with her line of homemade bath-and-body products, called De Jeunesse.
It was her sister’s struggle with dry skin that inspired Hills-Fife to get into the artisanal beauty business. She found that there was a gap in the local market, as the soaps offered in most stores and pharmacies were not meeting the needs of those with severely dry skin. She also realised that there were a limited number of unscented, hypoallergenic soaps suitable for people with skin problems like eczema. So, while pursuing a degree in literature, she attended classes at the Ministry of Community Development to learn how to make soaps, candles and body butters, with the hope of eventually mass producing her own lines of bath-and-body products. Shortly thereafter, her husband nicknamed her Mrs. Soapy as her focus on her dream sharpened, making her happily obsessed with soap.
While pursuing her entrepreneurial goal, Hills-Fife learned about the Planting Seeds TV series through the National Entrepreneurial Development Company Limited (NEDCO), and immediately applied to participate in the programme and appear on the show. This led to her attending the Planting Seeds and Ernst & Young workshops, where she learnt how to win over investors and potentially grow her business.
When Hills-Fife got her opportunity to appear on Planting Seeds and present her De Jeunesse to the panel of investors, she was unable to secure an investment. While the investors all agreed that her product had true potential, they wanted to see greater scope for sales and scalability. It was also noted that the packaging did not reflect the high standard of her products, warranting suggestions that she re-brand her line.
Rather than seeing the experience as a failure, Hills-Fife took the investors’ feedback as invaluable business insights. She heeded their constructive criticism and leveraged her relationship with Planting Seeds to gain the attention of Mr. Gerald Aboud, owner of Starlite Pharmacy. She re-branded her De Jeunesse to make it more visually appealing and was able to get De Jeunesse distributed at the Starlite retail chain.
With success at her fingertips, Hills-Fife is now faced with the challenge of learning how to scale her business. Demand is currently exceeding supply, and she must quickly learn how to restructure her manufacturing process to sustain increased orders. Again, Hills-Fife has used this obstacle as impetus to become more creative: she is now collaborating with her husband and sister to design a new customised box mould that will allow her to produce three times the number of soaps she is presently producing using imported moulds.
The story of Hills-Fife’s collaboration with Planting Seeds is further proof that once given the right support, insight, and connections, the sky is the limit for our local entrepreneurs.