Mandy Vermaak, a wellness practitioner from George in the Western Cape, had never considered making distributing essential oils a part of her business. But, like many South Africans, Vermaak’s income became uncertain due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and she found herself taking a serious look at her future.
Before she started selling essential oils, Vermaak practiced frequency-based wellness therapies like light therapy and Theragun. She ran her own practice but realised soon after the Covid-19 pandemic broke out that she may not be able to continue her work.
“This [business] started, come Covid, when I actually got a chance to rethink where I was going with my business. I decided, after 14 years, to close my doors here in George and start something completely new.”
Vermaak’s business, called Ubuntu Africa, sells all kinds of essential oils and continues to incorporate wellness elements, with team members supplying consultation services centered on pregnancy, motherhood, and even business.
“I knew the world was going to be different [due to] Covid. I knew business was going to be different and I knew people weren’t going to be able to take money out of their pockets [for wellness],” she says.
“Generally, wellness practitioners are not linked to the medical aids so it was going to be very difficult for people to have the luxury of my treatments in the future because of what was happening in the financial world and also people losing jobs.”
Vermaak explains that, even though she closed the wellness practice, she still had online clients who she needed to support. She went on the lookout for an extra income, one that would offer her a consistent income.
“I looked further into building a business on the side, a side hustle that would help me have an income in the future if I worked really hard for a certain period of time. This is when my world really changed.”
The essential oils sold by Ubuntu Africa are sourced from American company Young Living. The company is known as a multi-level marketing (MLM) company, a business model Vermaak describes as “hated by many.” MLM businesses are often associated with pyramid schemes, as fraudsters tend to disguise their schemes as multi-level marketing. Vermaak says she used to be one of those sceptics.
“I was actually introduced to an MLM company some 35 years ago. My view on it was very warped in the sense that I thought it was a pyramid scheme. I thought there was no real potential to build big business and I didn’t really understand what the industry had to offer.”
As someone who now runs an MLM business, Vermaak is passionate about succeeding in the industry. She believes that so many people fail within it because they do not have the requisite knowledge or information. “It’s the hardest industry to get involved in, and no one really offers you enough information so that you can keep that momentum in the future. So, it’s really important to do a lot of personal development along the way.”
For Vermaak, selling essential oils and building her business in a way that empowers people is the most rewarding aspect of it. She offers budding agripreneurs the following advice:
“In the beginning, you’ve got to work like a crazy person. Even though you work for yourself, you cannot actually take time off when you feel like it, you have to [work]. There’s a wonderful saying in this industry; ‘if you treat it like a hobby, you’ll make hobby money and if you treat it like a business, you will make business money’. So that’s very important and I stick to that.”
“Be truly disciplined. I’m exceptionally disciplined. I have a very, very good work ethic. I am in my office, even though I work from home. I work between certain times, and I make sure that I am present in my business every single day. So, this is also something that is extremely important”
Don’t give up
“Most people who are attaining or trying to attain success, miss success or stop just before they reach this success. And that’s very sad because many people get to the point where they’re at their lowest, and I think this is where you need to dig deep. If you do, you’re able to then reach that pinnacle of where you’re going.”
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