The plant oil that healed her scars eventually became her livelihood.
They called her a crazy lady with the secret potion. The secret made her R7 million ($518,000) a year.
It’s a Thursday afternoon on a sunny winter’s day, and we meet Relebohile Moeng at her offices in Irene, south of Pretoria, South Africa’s capital.
One side of the room is painted shocking lime, which makes it fit for the lady who made lemonade out of lemons, after an accident that left her with over a 150 stitches on her face.
Her skin formed keloid and plastic surgery was a far-fetched dream.
“The doctors immediately saw this [keloid] and they recommended plastic surgery so that I don’t have the scars on my face. They were saying that they can look horrible on one’s face. They said if I have surgery that will remove the epidermis, so it doesn’t form an ugly scab. I didn’t have the money at the time,” says Moeng.
Today, she wears the scars pretty well.
Moeng searched for something that would help with the scarring, but that later became her lifeline when all hope was lost.
“Never ever have I imagined that this would become a business opportunity. The penny really dropped when we went to Tshwane municipality because our lights had been switched off and two of our cars had been repossessed,” she says.
She was retrenched. Her husband Fabian, who holds a cost and accounting degree, was merely making enough income at the time to sustain both of them. They had applied for indigent services with the municipality but were rejected and they told her to sell their house in an affluent suburb and move to the township.
“’We knew that was not an option, and we had to do something fast,” she says, laughing.
She came across Moroccan cold-pressed Argan oil, a plant oil produced from the kernels of the Argania spinosa tree endemic to North Africa.
She used to import the oil to heal her scars, but that oil slowly became her livelihood.
Desperate for assistance, she went to the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA) in Pretoria.
“I would go there, get dressed up and I would tell them that I know that there are services for young women and the youth. They kept calling me the lady with the magic potion,” says Moeng, who holds a master’s degree in business management.
They sent her away until they had no other choice but to help her. SEDA tested the oil and found that there was 96% of Omega 3, 6 and 9 in the cold-pressed Argan oil.
“The laboratory was also astounded because they test a lot of things from a lot of companies but they were very impressed with the Omega in the oil,” says Moeng.
That was just the beginning.
With an initial capital of R10,000 ($730), the couple started Afri-berry, a naturally-based skin and hair care products line. The products include coconut oil, Moroccan oil, raw shea butter and Jamaican black castor oil.
The business started with just the two of them and now has 58 employees in a span of seven years. She is the head of operations and the creative director of the business and her husband is CEO.
They persevered and sampled their products on everyone, including the security guard.
From pain, came creativity – and cash.