Making soap and turning a profit in Louga
"...the volunteers learned that not only had the women sold all of the soap they had previously made, but had nearly sold out of the additional batches made on their own."
When the Association des Femmes Sope Borom Darou women’s group of the central Louga region was looking for a new, continuous, and sustainable income-generating activity, they approached the Chambre be Métiers in Louga to request training on soap making. Community Economic Development (CED) Volunteer Ama was charged with planning and facilitating training program to give these women a well-rounded approach to soap making as a small business. Ama started with a plan of action to decide just how this would work;
The women’s group is located far from Louga, so she knew she had a few logistics to figure out. With assistance from her counterpart Mamadou Sy, she developed a five-day intensive course on soap making, financial literacy, accounting, and marketing.
Ama reached out to fellow CED Volunteer Grace to team up and the two set to work planning out how the training would go; the plan was to do three days of soap making and two days of business development. In December 2016 they conducted the course in a rural locality just outside of the city of Louga. Despite a few glitches (like roaches getting into their batch of laundry soap!) their initial training was a success. They made roughly 150 bars of soap, including laundry soap, shea butter and moringa soap, and shea butter and mint soap, for the group to sell. The group celebrated their achievement a week later with a certificate ceremony at the Chambres de métiers, where participants showed their soaps to various community representatives.
Building on this success, the women asked the volunteers to train them on using additional additives, which they grew themselves to better the soap. The next course took place in March 2017, this time with the help of Agriculture Volunteer Edward. During this session, the volunteers learned that not only had the women sold all of the soap they had previously made, but had nearly sold out of the additional batches made on their own. Their soap making business was off to a great start! With Edward’s help, the second soap and agriculture training was a hit. The women now knew how to start their own micro garden and grown their own soap additives.
From a single soap-making training to implementing concepts of marketing, product development, and accounting, this group continues to advance as a small business. In addition, the women will earn more income for themselves and their families, and perhaps even inspire local would-be entrepreneurs to create businesses of their own. The volunteers plan to follow up with the group and see how their small business is operating. They hope to aid in the expansion of the women’s business from individuals to local hotels in the area.