De la Enzie Essentials

True Stories De la Enzie Essentials

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Chenielle Delahaye-Mckenzie

When I was a little girl, I accidentally stepped on a very sharp nail. Instead of taking me to the doctor, my grandfather roasted banana skin and tied it on my foot with some other herbs.

Growing up in rural St. Catherine, I was surrounded by Jamaican bush medicine. In my household, we never had traditional tea bags or modern medicine in the house. We would always just go outside and pick the leaves for whatever tea we wanted; mint leaves, soursop leaves, fever grass, you name it, we had it.

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I was always so intrigued by the taste of bush tea and its mystery. Although these beneficial leaves grow in abundance, you cannot just go outside and pick any bush for tea or chewing; you have to know what you are looking for. This piqued my curiosity and influenced my interest in science life because I really wanted to uncover the mystery behind typical Jamaican bush medicine. I studied Biotechnology at University and in my third year I took a course that transformed my life called ‘Economic and Medicinal Botany’. This course catalysed my entrepreneurial endeavours in skincare and proved to me that once you have the knowledge then anything is possible. I learned how to actually monetize plant-based remedies and other fascinating skills like how to use ackee pods as soap.

Since then, my thirst for knowledge grew even stronger and I had to delve even deeper into medicinal botany. The following semester, I got the opportunity to do a research project on garlic. With the knowledge I gained during the three years of undergrad, in addition to the knowledge from my grandparents in childhood, I made multiple concoctions for coughs and colds that worked really well. My lecturers at the time encouraged me to go even further with my studies so I aimed for the highest level and enrolled in a Ph.D. program. Coming from humble beginnings, my mother always told me that education was the way to break the lineage of poverty, so I saw the Ph.D. as my one-way ticket.

The Ph.D. was very challenging. At times I would be faced with writer’s block and be very overwhelmed, however, I found a way to channel stress into creativity. In the laboratory, I would experiment and make various products. I soon became known for my creations which led me to get invitations to various symposiums and conferences to speak about my expertise. These events gave me the opportunity to showcase my talent and I even got offers on my products. Since I was regularly showcasing my products at these events, I thought to myself, “why don’t I monetize this and turn it into something extraordinary?”

My inventory grew rapidly, so much so that I eventually had to move my workspace from the laboratory at the University of the West Indies, to my house. Eventually, I went from making oils and creams in my kitchen to purchasing a lab space in Kingston with my husband.  I recently quit my nine-to-five job to focus on this business full-time. We started a farm in St. Elizabeth to supply our raw materials that are not readily available. Now we can make products in larger quantities.

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It feels like a dream come true, but I would be lying if I said the journey has been easy. Despite my drive and passion, entrepreneurship has its challenges. I may have scientific knowledge, but I did not have any business knowledge. As a child, my mother drilled into me the importance of saving money, but I knew nothing about investing, or even how to run a business. It is one thing to save ten dollars, but it is another thing to know how to turn that ten dollars into twenty dollars. I have had to give myself a lot of grace as these skills do not just come overnight; it just takes a lot of practice.

I have always had an entrepreneurial mindset, but my other ideas never came to fruition like skincare has. With skincare it is so much more than making money. I enjoy solving people’s skin issues. Even when there is a lull in business, I still feel fulfilled because I know that my customers depend on me. After five years of starting this business, I still have that drive to satisfy my customers and expand my knowledge. True Story

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