In today’s competitive market, founding a business and making it a success is not an easy job. It takes months and sometimes years of advanced planning to come up with an impactful product that people would like to purchase. Even after it has been released to the market, you cannot truly guarantee the product’s success unless and until you work on its outreach in the market.
Additionally, being a female business founder in a nation like South Africa has its challenges and difficulties that need to be faced day in and day out. Also, making use of the available resources to better the lives of local people and provide them with employment and other opportunities is a task that many do not wish to take on. Those who take this responsibility are true leaders. They come up with ground-breaking ideas to fulfill business and society’s wellness purposes at the same time.
One such leader is Annabel Biggar-David (Founder). She established her eco-friendly home wellness and healthcare product company, OCO Life, in a challenging environment. But, with time and her efforts to provide the best service, her company slowly and steadily developed its place in the market.
In the following interview, we talked with Annabel to get her perspective on the successful establishment of her company’s brand, the challenges that she faced on the way, and her plans for the coming years.
Annabel, please give us a brief overview of your journey as the Founder of OCO Life.
As a little girl, my grandma would mix home remedies to treat any sickness we had, and they worked. That and the drive towards a healthy lifestyle and an eco-conscious mindset set into motion what is today OCO.
My love for alternative medicine sprouted from my childhood; it took trial and error as I would concoct anything that would help prevent me from having to go to the doctor. Growing up poor does not leave extra cash for ‘indulgences’ like visiting a doctor.
Friends and family were responsive to my homemade remedies, so I decided to research the global market. Always interested in holistic health, I contacted a company in the USA asking if they would provide me with a global market report on the essential oil industry. They said, “sure, it costs $10 000”. I begged and pleaded and eventually paid $100 and offered them essential oils for life. The rest is history.
Tell us more about your company, its vision, and the key aspects of its stronghold in the healthcare sector.
OCO Life is a multiple award-winning brand born in Africa. It is pioneering the health industry with a revolutionary and effective range of organic essential oil blends, ultrasonic aroma diffusers, air purifiers, and traditional medicine, which includes the African Sacred Herb Imphepho and, most recently, a premium pet range called Luna Life.
We improve lives and have created solutions to our client’s health needs. Our products are different, innovative, interesting, functional, and provide an excellent holistic approach to health.
We believe in creating a lifestyle of harmony, where a balance and collaboration exists between people as it does in nature, with ethics, integrity, and respect. And it is these core values that we hold front and center that have resulted in us being market leaders.
Please elaborate more on the distinct offerings of OCO Life and how they are impacting your clients and the industry.
We have made one’s home a haven and a safe, tranquil one at that. Our global design award-winning Air purifiers are a great addition to our range, especially during these challenging times we find ourselves in.
As a brand our consumer trusts, we are diversifying and have launched incredibly exciting product lines, which includes the Beauty, Home, and Pet industries. With over 60% of South Africans living in poverty and the staggeringly high unemployment rate, as a passionate and purposeful driven team, OCO Life strives to capture the essence of economic value by upskilling employees while reducing our own ecological footprint.
Sustainable farming practices ultimately contribute towards a sustainable ecological environment for future generations. When buying organic, you are assisting in reducing the number of pesticides used on our planet since these unwanted toxic chemicals have far-reaching effects on our bodies, wildlife, and the environment.
What challenges did you face during the initial days of the foundation of OCO Life?
A start-up’s default state is a failure; as an entrepreneur, you have to work to un-fail it. We spent a year and a half in research before we launched. Success is no accident; it’s hard graft, perseverance, learning, studying, hustling, grinding, sacrificing, but most of all, it is the love of what you are doing.
It can be a lonely and often frightening journey. I have begged, pleaded, and borderline harassed editors of magazines for free editorial. I hand-wrote letters to every single person who appeared on the tv show Undercover Boss USA, Dragons Den UK, Richard Branson, and every other successful person I admire, asking for tips and mentorship. There was a common thread in the overwhelming responses I received, and that was always having integrity.
Governments need to realize the importance of women entrepreneurs in their economy and to inspire entrepreneurial attitudes. Women in business sometimes feel invisible. African Women have a voice that can no longer be silenced.
We want to be the change and help create employment. But it starts with young girls at home: instill in them a love for reading and learning which will lead them to a sense of curiosity about the world. As the sayings go: “Little girls with dreams become women with vision” and “It is easier to build strong children than repair broken adults.”
What is your opinion on the necessity for healthcare organizations to align their offerings with newer technological developments, especially when it comes to catering to the ever-evolving healthcare needs?
Wellness has certainly always been the central focus of healthcare organizations, but now more than ever, leaders need to ensure to put in extra efforts to ensure that patients get well and stay well.
The business model of healthcare needs to change, which includes providing a holistic approach to patients and people. Holistic medicine is a form of healing that considers the whole person — body, mind, spirit, and emotions — in the quest for optimal health and wellness. The primary goal of holistic medicine practice is to gain a proper balance in life.
Patient-Centeredness and coordination of care are crucial. Healthcare organizations are shifting gears; we have seen this first hand, putting their patients at the center of everything they do. Social Media is a powerful tool, and healthcare organizations need to use this as a way to further engage with their patients.
As an established industry leader, what would be your advice to the budding entrepreneurs and enthusiasts aspiring to venture into the healthcare industry?
Persistence will take you places, not talent or genius or even education. Remember that your clients are your number one key to being successful, make sure they are in your thoughts every day. Research, research, and research. Know if that idea will work in the industry and then prepare to execute the idea.
People buy people, and you need to show your customer how much you care. The most successful companies are founded on a combination of frugality, wise spending, customer service, and superior products. You do not need to reinvent the wheel.
Keep testing every aspect of your business and then challenge every one of those assumptions.
How do you envision further strengthening OCO Life’s stronghold in 2022 and beyond?
As a proudly born African brand, trusted and firmly founded on integrity, we want to continue researching and developing quality products and ranges. We have plans to export and have three exciting trips in the next few weeks to Zanzibar, Accra, and Dubai.
Known as disruptors in the industry, we have plans to spread the wellness message across the world and intend to go global. I am honored and blessed to have the support of our government nurtures our potential and sees the huge impact we can make.
In business, collaboration is key; by aligning ourselves with other organizations who share the same ethos as us, we can change the healthcare environment and improve so many more lives.
Awards and Honours
- Best Brand in Africa Award
- Entrepreneur of the Year award
- Women in Business Award
- Inspiring Women Leaders
- Celebrating Women in Business
- One of 10 Most innovative Businesswomen
- Pioneering Women Leader for Innovation in Health Industry
- One of the top businesses in South Africa to watch
- Woman of Statue finalist
- Woman in Business Achiever of the year finalist