Just as the demand for organic produce has skyrocketed in recent years, so has the demand for organic beauty products. People around the world are becoming increasingly conscious of what they put in their bodies, and on their skin.
That’s great news in the eyes of many proponents of holistic, natural living, like Roberte, a Haitian naturopath who started her own skincare business out of her basement in Port-au-Prince. She named her business Belzeb, which means ‘beautiful herbs’ in Creole.
Each of Roberte’s products is rooted in traditions she grew up with, like a line of soaps, gels and lotions that include basil. In Haiti, it’s common for people to bathe with basil and use its essential oil because it’s believed to bring good luck.
Other lines feature sour orange which is used to induce relaxation, while others contain castor oil, a staple of Haitian heritage and a remedy for just about everything.
Roberte started out making massage oils and loose leaf teas to share with her family and community. It wasn’t long before demand increased, but the products people were asking for, like soaps, required further training. So Roberte went to school and became a naturopath.
Roberte opened a spa on the Caribbean island of Grenada and was creating her natural products out of the basement in her home in Haiti. But when the 2010 earthquake struck, she lost everything. Her home and basement factory were destroyed and as a result her business was shut down for 5 months. Despite the devastation, Roberte began to rebuild, and little by little got back on her feet. In 2015, she took out a Kiva loan to help grow her business, and to purchase a generator, bottles, an automatic cutter and labels.
“There’s a saying in Haiti,” Roberte said. “When you help 1 person, you help 10 others.” The loan she took out not only helped her grow her business, but also employ 3 other people. Each person she’s employed has their own family and network to support.
Roberte’s goal in starting her business wasn’t to enhance her own wealth, but rather to help others. She’s achieved this in more ways than one: in creating jobs, in the sustainable and earthly products she creates and also in educating others on how to make these products.
Roberte, naturopath and owner of Belzeb.
She promotes health and empowers women in her community and around the world. Her spirit is fearless, and her advice to other women is to “make your business your priority, and don’t let nobody stop you. Don’t let anyone say you cannot do it. Just go and do it.”
Roberte’s loan was fully funded and she’s in the repayment process. The next steps in her dream plans are to open a spa and wellness center outside of Port-au-Prince that will be free of chemicals and entirely natural.
You can find more inspiring stories like Roberte’s and loans to fund here.