Meet a Tanzanian company that provides natural skin care products for all people, but especially for those whose skin has been affected by working daily in the sun, bathing in dirty water, and the resulting irritations. Most people in Tanzanian villages and interior areas do not have soap, petroleum jelly, and lotions, and those that exist are chemically based. In addition, since fifty percent of the available products are from imports, there is a need for in-country production.
Mwana Wa Pepa uses herbs and natural ingredients to make their soaps, petroleum jellies, and lotions. Their products help people with skin diseases and rashes, giving people hope in addition to better skin health.
The Mwana Wa Pepa business model involves selling products wholesale to a team of vendors who then sell on commission. They sell at bus stops and open markets, as well as through individual customers like the bank employee who bought their product, used it on her chemically lightened and damaged skin, and has now become a bulk buyer because she loves the product so much.
The vision of Mwana Wa Pepa extends beyond bringing hope to individual customers, however. They have built their business to grow opportunities for young entrepreneurs and to support local churches as well.
The Birth of Mwana Wa Pepa
Mwana Wa Pepa grew from the heart and mind of Alex Samwel, a Tanzanian native with a business degree, a gift of teaching, and a concern for Tanzanian young people with limited job options. He also has a vision for multiplying resources.
As a volunteer in community support centers aiding job seekers, Alex noticed that while students learned skills for job interviews, they were not learning how to interview others. In other words, people were learning how to be employees themselves, but not employers of others. Similarly, he saw how local churches knew how to receive and manage charitable gifts for needed projects, but not how to generate income to sustain themselves independent of outside donations.
Alex also knew that for too many years, Tanzanians have been dependent upon other economies and individuals for economic stability. Knowing these obstacles are difficult but not insurmountable, Alex began to dream about how to foster economic growth for both individuals, communities, and his nation through leveraging and multiplying existing resources from people and the planet.
Working on his father’s verandah with Yusuph, a friend with specific technical knowledge about skin care products, he began to develop and test natural soaps and lotions that are not only effective for routine care, but able to bring healing to damaged skin and hair. His products now sell under his company name, Mwana Wa Pepa, which comes from a tribal word meaning “don’t lose hope.”
Alex and Yusuph now work with a team of people executing their business as mission model and building the kingdom of God among their customers and community.
Multiplying impact “the Jesus way”
A few years ago, Alex met John in church. But not in the way people usually meet, through a service or community meal or small group. John was sleeping in Alex’s church building because he had nowhere else to go. After his father had insisted he become caretaker of the family farm, John had abruptly left his rural village in order to pursue his dream of becoming a teacher. Alex shared with John the good news of Jesus and quickly became his mentor. John began following Alex around and helping out with the sound and visual technology of Mwana Wa Pepa’s sales presentations. After this life-on-life impact Alex had on John, John now wants to teach—not in a typical school, but to other Tanzanian adults who want to learn business as mission principles.
This is just one of many examples of the multiplying impact of Alex and Mwana Wa Pepa. Alex plans to use his business skills in helping churches with their financial plans and stewardship. He plans to offer training and discipleship, teach BAM in churches, and help local churches send and support missionaries to Congo and Burundi.
Bringing the gift of hope
Many stakeholders receive hope through this Tanzanian venture:
- The nation of Africa, in which many leaders would like to see less economic dependence on foreign aid.
- Local Tanzanian churches which have received generous charitable donations in support of programs that did not endure but who now can establish a local, sustainable financial base.
- University graduates who have employment opportunities capable of providing income adequate to pay off student debt and to start families.
- Local consumers who enjoy purchasing “Made in Tanzania” products.
- People concerned with establishing healthy skin and using natural products to either reduce prevalence of, or damage from, chemically-based products.
Alex, Yusuph, and their team hope to inspire others to invest in Tanzania’s natural resources, both its people and what grows from the earth. In this way, Tanzania can move toward financial independence with pride while the kingdom of God grows in its communities and neighboring countries.