Turning A Household Ailment Into A Successful Business
Updated: Feb 18
Mom of three Marice Mercuur became a rooibos believer – and an entrepreneur – when she used it to treat her daughter’s eczema.
Anybody with eczema would know how difficult it is to find a product that doesn’t irritate the skin and also soothes flare-ups. For Marice Mercuur it was her mom who suggested she use rooibos tea to soothe her little one’s eczema. Years later, Marice’s desperate attempts to help her daughter turned into what is now an award-winning skincare small business.
After trying all kinds of prescription medication for her daughter’s skin condition Marice’s mom, Joyce Goes, told her to add rooibos teabags to little Gemma’s bathwater. And Joyce should know since she’s a rooibos tea farmer from Wuppertal, the original Rooibos town, and a firm believer in the many health benefits of the plant.
The results were amazing. Within a week Gemma’s eczema became lighter and she then decided to just make rooibos tea soap for her instead. The news of how effective the soap was made friends and family clamour for the product.
“Initially, when I started making the products after Gemma developed eczema, I definitely did not plan on starting a business. However, when interest from friends and family increased, I saw the opportunity and went for it,” she says.
By February 2018, her business, Marice Rooibos Skincare, was doing so well that Marice decided to resign from her full-time job as chief financial clerk at Cederberg Municipality to focus fully on her business. “I have one full-time staff member and one employee who comes in three times a week to help with the cleaning and look after our one-year-old baby, Miles. I have a nice little studio adjacent to my home, and it’s great to work from here,” she shares.
Her business was doing well, and by the end of 2019 she realised that she wouldn’t be able to produce her handmade range on a large scale. Doing so would mean more staff and a bigger premises. There was also more interest in a full facial range and a hair care range, using only natural products. She realised that to grow her business, she wouldn’t be able to do it on her own.
“This is where I saw the opportunity to team up with a professional manufacturing company to help me formulate a range of face and hair products that are made from natural products. More importantly, the products would be manufactured in large quantities, so the scaling issue with the handmade range would be solved.”
“Of course I would still continue with the handmade range, but it will be a much more exclusive range, with high-end branding and packaging. After all, it was the handmade range that first drew the attention of my clients,” Marice explains.
And then came the COVID-19 lockdown that can potentially be devastating for small businesses. “My staff are unfortunately not at work at the moment. It’s very important for everyone, my business included, to support the President and everyone in South Africa to beat this deadly virus. My business will take a knock in the short term, but I will use this time off to plan my next moves and also spend much-needed time with my family. Planning is very important, it’s a key part of the business that is often neglected.”
“I also make sure that I stay in the hearts and minds of my clients by being active on social media. Because, when the lockdown is over, I would really like to pick up the pieces as soon as possible.”
So what’s next? Well, a new all natural range, for starters! “I launched the Natural Face and Hair Care range in February 2020 … they are completely natural. I had my sales agents ready to go and decent levels of stock ready for sales. Sadly though, with the arrival of COVID-19, my marketing campaign was severely put on hold as people shifted their attention to buying only the most necessary items. In a sense the Coronavirus came at a very bad time for my new range.”
But all was not lost. Before the lockdown as the Coronavirus became more intense, Marice explains that demand for soap and liquid soap increased. “I also received enquiries daily for hand sanitiser, but at that time hand sanitiser was just about sold out nationwide, and the prices were ridiculous,” she recalls.
She scoured the internet and bought all the affordable hand sanitiser she could find. “I was super fortunate to receive two big orders from big organisations, and I was able to sell the limited amounts that I still had left to individual clients. I didn’t manage to meet all the needs, but I now know that hand sanitiser is here to stay, even beyond the Coronavirus.”
Marice also saw a business opportunity. “I learned that the constant use of alcohol-based hand sanitiser can be very harsh on the hands. This is definitely an opportunity that I will explore – looking at products that work well and are also good for the hands,” she says.
As rewarding as the entrepreneurship journey can be, it can also be lonely, stressful and difficult. “The past three years have been a rollercoaster ride. From leaving my full-time job, to becoming a full-time entrepreneur, to becoming a mother for the third time with baby Miles – and now with all the pressure and expectations on my shoulders... I will definitely make sure that I get enough rest to recharge my batteries and come back stronger,” Marice muses on the importance of time out.