Sarah Najmudin Bhaijee is the owner of a home-based business called Nurture - Mother’s Love. She sells 100 per cent natural lactation powder—safe for mum and baby—that helps increase breast milk. She shares her career path with Sunday Nation:
Briefly tell us about yourself
I was born and raised in Mombasa. I’m strong-willed and strive for perfection in all that I pursue. I am also a wife and a mother of two amazingly witty girls.
I am a mother of 2 amazingly girls whom I strive to teach that a kind, honest and courageous heart is as important as education for any success.
Tell us about your childhood and educational background.
I did my primary education at Pwani Academy and secondary at Aga Khan High School, Mombasa. Later, I graduated from the University of Nairobi with a Bachelor of Commerce in Finance.
I lived in a family where most men were self-employed and a handful of women had careers or businesses. My mum always reminded my two siblings and me the importance of education.
My dad started working when he was 18 years old in Nairobi and later opened his own business in Mombasa. He never pursued his University education and seeing me graduate from University was probably the best day of his life. If I was to put his happiness in words, it was like he graduated from University that day.
While growing up my mum would always tell us about her childhood of how my maternal grandfather was a charcoal seller in Tanzania and my maternal grandmother (who is the biggest contributor to my now career) would cook food for hotels so they could make ends meet. It was always fascinating to hear these stories. Little did I know my grandma would be the biggest influence on my new career path.
Share with us your career journey
I started as an assistant accountant in an oil firm in Mombasa immediately after I finished my last year at University. I was handling their bunker business, real estate, and their emerging oil depot accounts. As I was working towards my dream job to become a chief accountant or a CFO in a company, something was always off deep inside. Don’t get me wrong, I put my 100% dedication, honesty and integrity into the job, but it wasn’t what I was meant to do.
After working with them for a few years, I moved to Nairobi when I got married and got another accountancy job in a different company, where I worked for less than a year because I had a baby and going back to work was not working out for the baby.
I couldn’t breastfeed her as much as I would have loved to. She was mostly on formula and all other Lactation teas on the market were three times the price of my product and half the quantity I provide at the moment. For a couple who have just started a life and a career in Nairobi with only 1 income, it wasn’t affordable for us.
I stayed with the guilt of not breastfeeding for 3 years until I had my second child but still no breast milk. That’s when my maternal grandmother came to Kenya from Tanzania. She is a lady who has travelled the world, experienced it all and seen it all. From selling food to hotels to supporting my grandfather in his endeavours to becoming financially stable. Some would say “well-to-do.”
She came with one suitcase full of herbs and seeds with her and I laughed at it.
When I started formula with my second child my grandma wasn’t too happy about it and started brewing Nurture every day for me, in a week’s time at my checkup, I was told to drop the formula by the Doctor because I had enough milk for the baby. I was amazed and really happy. She taught me how to make it and I made it for myself and drank it for over and year.
A while later, a very dear friend couldn’t breastfeed her second child whilst she breastfed her firstborn. I made it for her and she swore by the product that it worked. Then I made it for some more family and friends, it worked for all of them and I ventured into it. My primary focus was affordability so that it could help as many mums as possible because I have seen both worlds of formula feeding and only breastfeeding. Now I am the owner of Nurture-mother’s love. I source the raw materials, make the lactation powder and package it myself. Heck, even sticking labels on packages is done by me because I feel the passion, love and care I put in will always be 110%. The all-natural lactation powder has been on the market for 3 years now.
What are your fondest memories of your career journey thus far?
It is when my girls help me with some processes like sticking the labels or stapling the bags. It makes my heart full. Seeing those tiny hands trying to stick it perfectly so I can applaud them for it.
What has been the key driver of your growth?
My driver of growth is when I get that message from a mother that the lactation powder worked and the blessings they shower me with. For someone I have never met, only conversed via WhatsApp or phone call, to shower me with immense love and blessings is the biggest driver for me.
My daughters too. I want them to grow up seeing that a woman has the ability to succeed in her career path whilst having a family and make it. A woman is not limited in any role in her life.
The lesson I learnt is not to be fixated on a dream job or think you will end up pursuing what you studied for. For me, there’s nothing more fulfilling or no dream job better than what I am doing for mothers right now because when a mum talk to me about their low milk supply I can relate to it and feel their pain.
My perception of self-employed men and women has changed. Growing up I used to wonder when my dad would be stressed out, or come late from work, I was always under the impression it’s his own business so why so stressed out, he could close and take an off. After I ventured into Nurture, there is nothing but respect for self-employed people as now I know that from the moment you open your eyes to the time you lay in bed, your business occupies most of your day. It is a full-time job. There are no weekends off, no timings and limited holidays. My children and husband need as much attention as my business. I cannot interchange or quantify the importance of each role I am playing, a mother, a wife, a homemaker or an owner.
My habits have changed for the better. I work more effectively and efficiently than before. I have a routine that most of the days I stick to, to enable maximum productivity and provide quality Lactation powder. In the process, I also learnt how important it is for women to empower women because if it weren’t for the women who trusted my product when I started I wouldn’t have succeeded. Whenever I get a chance I always promote a woman owned business.
My principle in life is very simple. Always do good in all honesty and with a clean heart, and it will always come back to you.
Who are the people or relationships that you can single out that have been useful in your career growth and how did they influence your trajectory?
The four people responsible for putting me where I’m are mainly my grandmother Ateka, my parents and my husband.
I remember calling my Grandma in the middle of the night, asking her why the powder never formed, why is the consistency sticky? where can I buy the raw materials from, and what are the measurements of each ingredient? She would gladly pick up my calls, first talk about every other topic apart from what I asked her, and then tell me how to make it right.
My parents supported my decision and have moulded me into the person I am. A risk taker and flexible enough to accept the change in my career.
My husband was my motivation. He took the initial pictures for advertising. Helped me source most of my packaging and, of course, was my first investor in the business. I remember him climbing on top of our dining table to get the correct shot for the advertising. He helped me with the design of the brand and on the first few nights of my very first orders, he would stay late up with me to just give me morale.
What accomplishment are you most proud of in life?
I am grateful and proud of Nurture-mother’s love. It is mine. It gives me immense pride when I am asked what I do, in any social setting, both my girls will answer it for me that my mum does Nurture. Nurture has helped me gain confidence in everything else I do. It is my driving force.
Key decisions you might have taken along your career journey?
The key decision I took was not to get back to a desk job and getting my financial independence back by starting up my business.
What’s your current role and scope of job?
I am the owner of a Home-based business called Nurture-mother’s love. It is a 100% natural lactation powder safe for mum and baby which helps to increase breast milk for breastfeeding mums.
I am in charge of the process from beginning to end.
What would you advise the youth in Kenya today?
The advice I would want to give the youth is to stay true to your roots and culture with all honesty and integrity and an opportunity might just be within what you went through in life as in my case an age-old recipe which was passed on to by my grandma has influenced what I do or it could also be among friends and family.
If a whirlwind moves you away from your dream job, sometimes just trust the process as something better might be on the other path.
Any future plans
The Lactation powder is all natural so storing it or shelving it in a shop doesn’t make sense at the moment as I make a fresh batch on order every single day. In the future God willing I want to work on an online platform which will be able to cater for orders within 24hours to streamline the ordering process.
There is another product in the pipeline which will still be 100% natural and affordable. Still in the planning stage.
What you do for fun?
I love swimming. Growing up in Mombasa, the sea and pool were my second home. Swimming in the ocean calms me and brings the Zen back to me. It’s a shame Nairobi doesn’t have the ocean.
One thing you could change in the past?
The mistakes I have made are what brought me to where I am at this very moment. I learned a lot from it and still am learning and striving to be better.
Success is rarely instantaneous it is a learning curve from past mistakes and any idea without hard work is just an idea.