When a coup in Madagascar sent her father into bankruptcy, 24-year-old Hanta Tiana Ranaivo Rajaonarisoa was forced to abandon her business administration studies in the U.S.
She took over the family’s unused essential oil-making machine, and now supplies insect repellents to 40 pharmacies in Madagascar.
Malaria is one of the country’s top 5 causes of death.
Rajaonarisoa says she’s helping protect Madagascar’s amazing biodiversity – up to 90 percent of the country’s plant species are endemic — by using green waste recovery to make her products.
Rajaonarisoa comes from a family of entrepreneurs, but it took a family emergency to push her into business.
Her father went bankrupt after a 2009 after a coup by Andry Rajoelina plunged Madagascar into political crisis, according to Forbes. Rajoelina was president until 2014.
Malaria has declined in Madagascar but it’s still among the country’s top 5 causes of death.
Rajaonarisoa, 24, decided to help combat the disease by creating a line of natural insect repellents.
Using the money she saved working part time as a student, Rajaonarisoa launched Flore Aroma, an essential oils company.
She sold her first batch of 100 bottles of mosquito repellent and antiperspirants at a trade fair. She now supplies to 40 pharmacies in Madagascar. Being the youthful founder and manager of the company landed Rajaonarisoa on Forbes Africa 30 Under 30 in 2016.
Flore Aroma manufactures ready-to-use essential oils to produce mosquito repellents and fly repellents that help combat hepatitis. It also produces air fresheners and body deodorants. Now Rajaonarisoa has her eye on export markets.
Rajaonarisoa told AFKInsider how she turned a surprise venture in entrepreneurship into a success.
AFKInsider: What prompted you to start Flore Aroma?
Hanta Tiana Ranaivo Rajaonarisoa: Flore Aroma’s first goal is to provide natural and good quality parapharmaceutical (natural medicine) products to the Malagasy people.
Its second purpose is to protect Madagascar’s biodiversity by using green waste recovery to manufacture our products. (Green waste is biodegradable waste that can be composed of flower cuttings, hedge trimmings, as well as domestic and commercial food waste. The differentiation green identifies it as high in nitrogen, as opposed to brown waste, which is primarily carbonaceous.)
According to the World Wildlife Fund, the island nation of Madagascar has developed its own distinct ecosystems and extraordinary wildlife since it split from the African continent an estimated 160 million years ago. Approximately 95 percent of Madagascar’s reptiles, 89 percent of its plant life, and 92 percent of its mammals exist nowhere else on Earth. It is essential for Flore Aroma to help fight deforestation in Madagascar.
Our mosquito repellent is also a contribution to solutions to combat tropical plagues such as malaria, which is recognized as one of the main causes of mortality. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 3.2 billion people worldwide–nearly half the world’s population–are at risk of malaria. Efforts by national health authorities in Africa to distribute insecticide-treated mosquito nets to control malaria are now limited.
AFKInsider: How did you fund the startup?
Hanta Tiana Ranaivo Rajaonarisoa: To fund Flore Aroma, I saved money from college and had a side-job as a freelance editorial and legal translator from French to English, and English to French for various companies for several years.
AFKInsider: Please tell me more about what your company does.
Hanta Tiana Ranaivo Rajaonarisoa: Flore Aroma manufactures ready-to-use essential oils thanks to green waste recovery. We produce mosquito repellents to help fight malaria that is one principal cause of mortality in Madagascar, and also across Africa. We also produce body deodorants, air freshenners, shampoo, shower gel, and soaps. With Flore Aroma, essential oils are no longer luxury products and can be used to prevent diseases and improve the hygiene of the Malagasy people. Our products are dermatologically tested by Madagascar’s National Pharmaceutical Research Center. Our production still, an essential-oil-making machine, is located 200 km (124 miles) from Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar, and provides jobs to the locals. Flore Aroma’s products are distributed by the Malagasy Pharmaceutical Office in pharmacies, parapharmacies, pharmaceutical deposits, university hospital centers, clinics and dispensaries throughout Madagascar. You can also order online at our website.
AFKInsider: What’s the environment like for female entrepreneurs in Madagascar?
Hanta Tiana Ranaivo Rajaonarisoa: In Madagascar, we are very lucky about female solidarity in business. I am a member of Entreprendre au Féminin Océan Indien (Female Entrepreneurs of Indian Ocean) and like a family, we have each other’s back. EFOI is a powerful local and regional network that connects women entrepreneurs across the Indian Ocean to build strong and sustainable partnerships between them. We share opportunities and that’s essentially what makes us strong together. As female entrepreneurs, we need to be part of these kinds of organizations to have people to turn to when we mostly need it.
AFKInsider: How have your products been accepted?
Hanta Tiana Ranaivo Rajaonarisoa: Once again, solidarity is what makes our businesses grow. Since Flore Aroma won the Indian Ocean’s Best Development Stage Company trophy in 2015, by the Indian Ocean Commission and Synergie Jeunes Océan Indien (Synergy Young Indian Ocean), our products immediately gained visibility. I had the chance to meet the members of JPMJ (a strategy organization for Malagasy youth) who believed in me and had Flore Aroma represent Madagascar for this contest. JPMJ gathers several university students and private institutions of higher education to implement innovative ideas of the Malagasy youth. JPMJ’s vision is moving towards “a developed Madagascar with a rich population.” To meet this challenge, several projects focus on entrepreneurship, development and expansion of the economy.
AFKInsider: What have been some challenges of being a female entrepreneur?
Hanta Tiana Ranaivo Rajaonarisoa: Over the years, I realized that being a female entrepreneur requires a lot of practical intelligence. Unfortunately, sexism in the workplace still exists and to make our way to success, as women, we sometimes need more practical intelligence than men. Being a woman trying to succeed in business might sometimes feel like David trying to defeat Goliath, but being a female entrepreneur is not always a weakness. Reverse discrimination is now common and as I always advise, “Turn your weakness into your biggest asset.”
AFKInsider: What has been your biggest business lesson?
Hanta Tiana Ranaivo Rajaonarisoa: In business, adaptation is key. The world changes every day and keeping up with new opportunities and new trends will make your business grow every day.
AFKInsider: What are your goals for 2017?
Hanta Tiana Ranaivo Rajaonarisoa: Exporting our mosquito repellent, body deodorant, shampoo, shower gel, and soap to the tourism sector in the Indian Ocean islands is Flore Aroma’s goal for 2017. We are also working on expanding our product range.