In 2012 I met the founder of Hope Shines, which supports orphans and vulnerable children in Rwanda. I was inspired to go on one of their volunteer experiences at their annual summer camps. It changed my life and the course I was on as an actor and massage therapist, and I knew that this was now my calling, and one I’ve become more and more passionate about the more I’m involved. I visit Kigali, Rwanda normally twice annually now, bringing donations for the kids and supporting Hope Shines.
In trying to come up with a way to help the small organization become more sustainable, I decided to take a longtime hobby of soap making and turn it into a social entrepreneurship, with proceeds benefiting Hope Shines. I then plan to take this business model to Rwanda to employ some of our older teenage or adult orphans and empower them with work experience and a new skill set.
I will be making all-natural bars of soap, using oils and colorants that are organic, and as fair trade as possible, which will also serve purposes that benefit skin and hair. The packaging will be attractive, recycled and eco- friendly. There’s the social element to the soap, as well, with $1 of every bar purchased going to Hope Shines. I also plan to use a 1-for-1 model, with a bar going to those in Rwanda living in poverty who cannot afford or access soap.
The whole idea of doing the soaps is thanks to my friends in Kigali, who encouraged me to do this. I brought them gift soaps last year, and they went crazy for them! They insisted I make and sell them there, and teach others how to do it. In researching materials there, I saw that it was possible. It went from that idea stage last year to being ready to purchase supplies and startup costs and get the business rolling.
My customers are middle income women mostly, but also men who appreciate natural soap and what it can do for them. I appreciate those friends and professionals I know who believe in this project and have stepped forward to help in certain areas where I needed help, as in projections and branding. My aim is to bring a separate but similar business to Rwanda to empower and sustain our young adult orphans. I love that I’ve been able to take a passion and am turning it into a business that will benefit others.
This loan will go towards the necessary startup costs for most expenses, excluding labor. I will need the soap making supplies and oils, packaging, equipment, website, registration, trademarking, and other legal fees, and liability insurance. Due to the curing time of the soaps (4-6 weeks), it’s necessary to produce them in quantity ahead of demand. This business will impact and help sustain Hope Shines and the Rwandan orphans it supports through its programming, as well as my own livelihood.