Meet Sandra Letio – Uganda’s Queen of Shea Butter

LinkmeUg brings you Uganda’s queen of Shea butter who kick-started her dream of Ugandan Shea butter beauty products in 2012 with only 30,000/=. Though still in her 20s, Sandra’s company, Pelere Group employs over 15 people and exports cosmetics from a crop traditionally used as edible oil. Her story will get your business started.

Education

Sandra: I studied Biology and chemistry in high school and dreamt of becoming a doctor. When that failed, I opted for BS. Physics, Math but was not happy with it. Later, to run my business better, I enrolled for a business degree and majored in management.

Starting Pelere Group

Sandra: My business started in 2012 when I failed to get a job. With my passion for cleanliness and beauty I started making detergents with 30,000/= pocket money.

About cosmetics, I love natural products and when I saw farmers in Northern Uganda struggling to sell their shea nuts, I decided to make cosmetics out of it.

Improving the product

Sandra: In 2013, a client in Bunga challenged me to either have a Q-mark and my products certified or she wouldn’t buy from me. I had no idea how to achieve that but I asked around and ended up at Uganda Industrial Research institute – UIRI in Nakawa.

I wrote them a simple application about my product and asked for technical support. I was offered their upgraded lab at no cost and still use it to-date.

Being a chemist, it was easier to work with their chemists; that’s why I advise, beside passion, you need to know how to do the work so get trained if you need to.

Pelere Group products

Sandra: Today Pelere Group has 10 products comprised of lip balm, Hand wash, Hair Shampoo, Hair Conditioner, bathing soap, skin beauty products and liquid detergents. We also use bee wax but shea butter is the main ingredient because it has vitamin E and anti aging properties among other benefits.

Progress

Sandra: UiRI improved my product so much that companies wanted to buy them; I even got 2 partners to work with. We decided to get registered but the Bureau rejected my first business name. I prayed for a name and ended up with Pelere –a Madi word meaning wow, beautiful.

However, in 2014, we hit major challenges and my 2 partners quit. It was so hard that I washed clothes for relatives to raise money for my Business degree and invest into the business. I actually considered finding a job but then decided to wither the storms.

Achievements

Sandra:

  • We now have 2 locations, Gulu and Nakabugo Bbira off Mityana Rd]
  • We finally have a mark of excellence from UNBS – the Q mark
  • In 2016, I won the United Nations Conference for Trade and Dev’t – UNCTAD Award in which I competed with people from around the world.
  • As a result, I am now the UNCTAD Young Entrepreneur Ambassador in Uganda.
  • I also represent Uganda as the National coordinator for Common Wealth Alliance for young entrepreneurs in east Africa.

Future plans                                                                                                                 

  • With the Q-Mark, Pelere Group will export around the world.
  • We are expanding production as market widens.
  • By 2021, we hope to have 2000 workers and 1 million farmers supplying us Shea nuts.

Secrets to success

Sandra: I really do work hard; when you start a business, you must create the product, sell it, brand it and look for the market; that is hard work. My day starts at 4:00am.

  • If you have the passion and the right skills for your business then persist through the storms.
  • Mentorship is very important; Enterprise Uganda gave me mentors through Youth Business International – YBI.

Sandra believes every youth just needs passion, skill and determination to make their dream a reality not necessarily government connections or a wealthy family background, because she didn’t have either of those.

So get your dream started.

Contact Sandra on: [email protected]

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