For Bilqees Seria, affectionately known as Sister B, educating people in a world where many still regard cannabis healing as taboo has always been a life-long mission. Her business, which she co-founded with her husband, is called Indigenous Dread, and is primarily a skincare business.
Originating from Bo-Kaap in the Western Cape, Seria started studying aromatherapy with her mother in the early 1990s. It was around this time that she met her husband, Isak, who introduced her to Rastafarianism, and not long after, they started a family.
“We started trading at the flea market in Claremont in between Cavendish [Square] and the Link. [We traded through] hail, sun, wind, and harassment from our brothers in blue, but we still persevered. At that time, it was very difficult as cannabis was taboo and illegal.”
Seria says after they opened their store, they had to convince people that cannabis was not what they thought it was.
“We [were] having to convince people that cannabis is a healer of all nations, that cannabis is also a great alternative to pharmaceuticals, and that cannabis is just such a versatile, diverse and beautiful product for people.”
Organic all the way
The Serias eventually moved their business from the flea market to a formal store in Mowbray in 1999. Now based in Diep River, Indigenous Dread makes soaps, face creams, and other skincare products, and also offers consulting services.
“Our products are all-natural and our materials are organic and indigenous. Our products do not contain any animal alcohol, preservatives, chemicals or parabens. We try and use recycled material for our containers and then try and encourage people to recycle.”
Seria says the journey has been a long one, and it has not always been smooth. From having to convince people that cannabis has many benefits, she now finds that the change in attitude towards the plant has ushered in big business.
“As a female entrepreneur in the cannabis industry, it’s very difficult and challenging, especially in this time, with the big corporations taking over this beautiful and humble plant. Too much money and greed [around it], and most importantly, [there is] no inclusion of our indigenous people.”
While Seria is unhappy with the exclusion of indigenous people from the growth of the plant, she is happy to work in the industry.
“I have the privilege of meeting many different souls every day, healing along the way, sharing knowledge, seeing [people in] transformation and [people gain] confidence, especially women. I get to spend a lot of time with my family, which is a blessing to me.”
Seria’s advice for aspiring agripreneurs
- It’s important to study and get qualified in your field, especially at this time. Go and do different courses, and get your experience.
- Don’t just use Google and research on the internet. Those things will sidetrack you. You have to do the work.
- Strive for balance. Try and eat healthily. Discipline is very important, although sometimes not always possible.
- Don’t listen to any negativity.
- Self-care is crucial. Sit in your garden, and plant more food. Listen to the birds, meditate, and pray. Anything is possible if you keep the faith and believe in yourself.
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