Nguzo Ogbdoo is a Bronx, New York-based non-profit founder working to promote menstrual health education in Nigeria. Through her non-profit Hope and Dreams Initiative, she and her colleagues have been able to provide thousands of school age girls in Nigeria with re-usable menstrual products and even WASH (Water, Sanitation, And Hygiene) facilities, so they never have to miss a day of school just because of their period. During the Pandemic Ogbdoo began to consider adding another branch to her global mission of ending period poverty: a social enterprise to be exact, and thus Yara Shea Beauty was born. Ogbdoo’s beauty line is all naturally inspired and ethically made skincare and body care whose proceeds go to support Hope and Dreams Initiative. Today the mompreneur is busy growing brand awareness for Yara Shea while also continuing to support her network of young women and girls in Nigeria.
Ogbdoo’s story, as told to The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project:
What was your reason for starting your business?
I run a non-profit, Hope and Dreams Initiative. Our organization is a leader in menstrual health management and sexual and reproductive health and education rights, that leverages sanitary pads and health education as a combined intervention for women and girls’ development. As the organization has grown, I have learned about the obstacles that the young women and girls we serve in Nigeria face; like balancing providing for their family while also going through puberty. For many adolescent girls around the world, puberty is a vulnerable time when they face various pressures and challenges, including sexual harassment, abuse, early marriage, unintended pregnancy, and absences from school which threatens their health and well-being. The challenges are amplified when girls lack the knowledge and tools they need to navigate puberty safely and with dignity.
With these challenges weighing in my heart, I was inspired to create the Yara Shea Beauty Brand during the Pandemic. The brand seeks to make a positive difference in the world by offering high-quality, naturally inspired skincare and body care products produced ethically and sustainably. The brand is committed to generating a positive economic, social, and environmental impact. We are joining a growing number of businesses committed to making positive change in business and society by ending period poverty, so that menstruating young girls and women can stay in school and work during their period cycle. This makes a significant difference in their life for the duration of their elementary and secondary school education and for their families as whole. We aim to reduce inequality, lower levels of poverty, build a strong community and leave these young women with dignity and purpose in their life. Yara Shea Beauty’s long term goal is to promote the power of community and to empower women around the globe.
How do you define success?
Success to me is seeing a world full of energized, supportive and amazing woman! That’s the kind of world, that I want for the girls I serve. Do we have that? Do we care for them well enough? Do they know they are a part of something bigger? It’s important to me, that as we build the company, we think about the young girl next door and who she is. Everything we do is for her. From our product packaging materials, to what we write on them, to what we put inside them, to our social media and website – everything is designed to elevate, amplify, empower, and inspire ambitious young girls and women. I think that if we stay truly focused on her then we will be successful beyond measure.
Tell us about your biggest success to date
Knowing that through my non-profit we have created nine WASH (Water, Sanitation, And Hygiene) reading rooms in public schools in Nigeria, built a massive community WASH Library and safe space, and have over 50,000 girls in school through our End Period Poverty campaign, are among our biggest successes. The smiles on the faces of the young girls and boys we serve when they walk into newly created libraries is also success. The day I launched Yara Shea Beauty was also a huge success – just knowing that through this brand, more lives will be changed and impacted forever and for good.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
My top challenge is creating visibility and advertising and marketing Yara Shea Beauty.
What is your biggest tip for other start up entrepreneurs?
My biggest tip for other entrepreneurs starting up, is to take your time. Don’t be in a hurry and follow your passion.
How do you find inspiration on your darkest days?
I listen to music and watch my youngest child, who is a ballerina, dance.
Who is your most important role model?
My children are my role models, they inspire, pray, encourage and mold me.