Today is International Women’s Day, and the theme this year is #ChooseToChallenge. Here at the Development Bank of Wales, we’re committed to supporting women in business and female-led teams. We recognise how important a diverse workforce is and the benefit it brings to the Welsh economy.
We wanted to celebrate women’s achievements today by sharing the personal journey of one of the innovative and ambitious female entrepreneurs we’ve backed: Paris Oomadath, director of ShearWater Eco. Since launching her e-commerce site in April 2020, she secured a £35,000 micro loan from the Development Bank of Wales to help with marketing costs and support the purchase of more stock and a vehicle for local deliveries.
Using natural plant fibres such as hemp, sisal, bamboo, aloe, rattan, flax, cacti, and seaweed, Paris and her team create a range of fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) that are used around the home - from the UK’s cheapest plastic-free toilet roll, through to textiles and home furnishings.
Here Paris talks about her path to entrepreneurship and the challenges she faced, and gives some tips for other women who want to start or grow their own businesses:
After attending the Oceans Film Festival in Porthcawl in 2018, I was inspired to create ShearWater Eco. We are a Cardiff based company that innovates natural fibre household products which are both affordable and good for the environment.
Getting to where I am today has been an incredible journey. I lost two of the most important women in my life at a very early age: my mother when I was 7 and my grandmother at 11. Later I lost my only sister when she was just 25 years old. I come from an amazing family that was hit by tragedy after tragedy. My life has not been easy; in fact when I look back sometimes I shake my head in disbelief that I am actually still alive, sane and still able to accomplish my life’s purpose.
For as long as I can remember I was always the odd one out, which became even more apparent after my mother died. I was ostracized by other girls and pitied by society. It took me a long time to get to know my true self and I had to go through many painful lessons in order to peel away the stigmas that society imposed on me as a young brown-skinned motherless child from Africa.
What kept me going was always remembering where I came from, the calibre of the people who raised me and the legacies they never got the opportunities to manifest. I would like to believe that by entrusting me with those values, my matriarchs did ensure that their knowledge would pass on to the next generation and go on to create a better world through me.
I have always been spiritually connected to the natural world, more so to the Earth than to any materialistic possessions. It affected me greatly to see the destruction of this beautiful planet we have been bequeathed and I knew that I needed to start to build my own legacy whilst honouring the gifts of my matriarchs.
Through my life’s journey so far, I had to learn some pretty hard lessons, and not having my parents to provide me with comfort and guidance saw me making some disastrous choices. These scars I now see as lessons and carry them with dignity and honour because we are not in control of what life throws at us. What we are in control of is who we allow ourselves to become and how we interpret those lessons so that we can become our true selves and stay true to our passions, whatever they may be.
Every morning we are given the gift of life; be grateful that you live in an infinite world with infinite possibilities. Keep that fire always burning inside yourself and do something and be something that nobody has ever seen. Keep a positive outlook no matter how trying the time. Only you and you alone know your true potential - don’t let others bring you down. Their negative behaviour is a reflection of themselves and has nothing to do with you. See them as challenges to improve yourself and take responsibility for your own life. What culture and society says about you is not you. Reach for the stars and if you fail you will still land on the moon.
Cry if you have to, but use those tears to water the seeds you are planting today, to grow the abundance in your garden for tomorrow. You have the power - don’t let anyone, any circumstance, any trauma become you. Instead, take every experience as a lesson to improve yourself and work towards your goals. Those lessons are there to show you that you have immense strength, power and courage and that it is only impossible until it is done.
Trust me, it will be worth it. Keep focusing on what you are trying to do, constantly re-evaluate yourself and pay attention to how you are touching people in your life with Love, with your words and deeds. At the end of the day it is not about how much money you make, it is no longer about how famous you are. These times are calling for entrepreneurs to create a better world. All we have to do is to decide what to do with the time that is given to us. My motto in life is to live every single second as if it was your last because time truly waits for no one. Don’t be afraid to walk away from situations and people that do not serve you. Surround yourself with people who see your potential and help you grow.
Never give up; your biggest opportunity is probably just around the next corner. Remember to laugh, be your own best friend and keep your head held high in the face of adversity. You have the potential to create a better world. Remember that when one door closes, another one will always open and it is the Universe, God or whatever you believe in, telling you that there is something better waiting for you. Listen to your heart and keep going. Above all, love yourself and know that you are worthy. Never doubt this; it is the building block of your life.
Use as many resources as you can possibly get your hands on. Sign up for everything, talk to other entrepreneurs and live and breathe your competitors. Why? Everything they are doing wrong is what you need to aim to get right.
Business Wales and Superfast Business Wales offer free webinars with top consultants; these have helped me immensely. The Welsh Government in my opinion is leading the way in implementing legislation such as the Green Growth Pledge and Future Generations Act, which help entrepreneurs and start-ups to work towards more sustainable businesses.
I highly recommend the Development Bank of Wales, Business Wales and Bizfast Wales for their invaluable contributions in assisting my company. However, the final point in achieving your goals is that you will need to invest your own capital. This is integral in so many ways to ensure that you are able to be successful and the right people take you seriously.
Get to know ShearWater Eco, your Welsh Eco Legend: https://www.shearwatereco.com/our-story/what-we-do
Also check out our Shearwater Eco case study to find out more.