FIND OUT HOW THIS YOUNG AFRICAN LEADER IS OFFERING AN ALTERNATIVE SOLUTION TO HEALTH CARE IN NAMIBIA
In 2009, After Dr. Petrina Auino graduated from the University Of Western Cape, South Africa and found herself without a job, she co-founded Nature’s Way with her friend, Dr Penehafo Shindume.
Nature’s Way is a natural health center where they offer services in complementary and alternative health such as naturopathic consultations, body scans and therapies. They also retail a wide range of high quality herbal medicines, vitamins, minerals, oils and organic beauty products.
Dr. Petrina is a Mandela Washington Fellow and was part of YALI 2014 where she studied Business, Entrepreneurship and Leadership at the University of Notre Dame.
Good to have on Under35CEO today. Tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
Thank you for this opportunity to share my story and hopefully to inspire others.
I am the first born of 3 kids, had a great childhood and loving upbringing. I attended International Primary School in the northern Namibia, later moved to the capital Windhoek where I completed my primary education at Holy Cross Convent and high schooling at Delta Secondary School. During high school holidays I worked for a naturopath at her practice and eventually went to study naturopathy at University of Western Cape, South Africa. I graduated summa cum laude in 2009.
Tell us about Nature’s Way and what prompted you to start this great social business?
After completing my studies in 2009, I returned home and found myself without a job. Although I was educated and held a qualification in alternative and complimentary health, there was no place for me in the existing health care system and I couldn’t get a job in the hospitals or clinics. The only way out was to create my own employment and this is how I started my journey as an entrepreneur. I co-founded Nature’s Way, a natural health center that provides quality alternative healthcare services as well as products. We provide naturopathic consultations and we retail natural medicines including herbal medicines, nutritional supplements, vitamins, minerals and natural body products. We also offer therapies such as massages, electromagnetic therapies, thermal therapies and full body scans.
How did you go about funding Nature’s Way at startup?
We were fortunate to be able to raise funds from family to get the business off the ground. This meant we were limited and had to do a lot of bootstrapping in the beginning. We later got a loan from our development bank to buy specialized equipment and were able to grow our business.
Tell us, why are you so passionate about educating people on alternative medicines & healthy living?
I am passionate about this because I believe in empowering patients with knowledge to take better decisions that will help improve health as well as prevent illness. Through educating people about health, I can help them make better choices and also encourage people to be responsible for their own health. Often people lack basic knowledge about health, diet and exercise and they think that healthy living is expensive, but this is a misconception.
As a naturopathic lifestyle doctor, what methods do you use in treating your patients?
Naturopaths use a combination of treatment modalities such as diet and lifestyle modification, herbal medicines, nutritional supplements, exercise prescription, massage therapy, detoxification, colon therapy and aromatherapy. I also use advanced technology devices to do non-invasive full body scans that help asses patient health risks, deficiencies and general body system functions. I use all these tools to come up with a comprehensive treatment plan that is specific to the individual patient and their lifestyle and needs.
What really sparked your interest in natural medicines?
I worked for a naturopath during my school holidays in high school and this is how I got exposed to natural medicines. I became interested when I saw how patients were improving and their testimonies of how long they had searched for solutions to their health issues for so long before trying out the naturopathic approach and getting results. I was especially interested in the non-invasive approach and the many benefits of natural medicines one of which was the minimal side effects if any.
Tell us about your co-founder and how you met.
My co-founder is Dr Penehafo Shindume. She is not only my business partner, but my best friend. We met in high school and have been friends for over 14 years. We studied Naturopathy together at University of Western Cape and we founded Nature’s Way. We complement each other and have been able to work very well together making a strong team. It’s a blessing to have someone to share all the ups and downs of being an entrepreneur with, even better is that she is my best friend!
What are some of the challenges you face in running a social business in Namibia? How did you convince and educate the public about your profession on how you can offer an alternative solution to health care?
The biggest challenge was convincing the public about what we do and that it works. People always fear what they don’t know and they stick to what they do. It was not easy, but we focused on educating the public about disease prevention through healthy living. We also managed to convince more people to try our services when we explained that we were trained professionals that were registered and recognized by the relative health regulatory councils as well as the ministry of health. The fact that we were trained and qualified made people more confident to try our services. After trying our services, people were convinced by the results and they then recommended our services to their friends and family.
What are some of the biggest challenges you and your enterprise faces today?
We are still challenged to convince more people to look at alternative and complementary health as a viable option for many health issues. Convincing people to also focus on disease prevention and living healthy is a challenge because people only seek health care services when they are already sick and when diseases are quite progressed already. Growing our customer base continues to be a challenge that we face daily.
Let’s talk a bit about Mandela Washington Fellowship? Why did you apply to be a fellow? What were the specific benefits you expected to get from the fellowship? Are there benefits you had not thought much about when you applied that have emerged during your fellowship?
I applied because I thought it would be a great opportunity to grow as an entrepreneur, and also as a leader. I expected to learn a lot about business and also to network and get exposed to entrepreneurial skills and resources. I had not thought much about how I would network with the other fellows from across the African continent. The best part of the fellowship was interacting with young people making a huge difference in their communities through innovative business with a social focus.
What would you say has been your biggest lesson on this social entrepreneurship journey?
The biggest lesson for me has been perseverance and believing in your dream and vision to make a difference in the lives of others. I’ve learnt that you have to overcome obstacles and being a pioneer means changing mindsets and in the process many doors will be shut in your face, but that shouldn’t discourage you.
What strategy or tactic helped you the most in funding and growing your social entrepreneurship idea?
Having a unique business, offering a service that was new, but one that added value to people’s lives and contributed to not only the economy but also towards attaining the country’s health goals. Incorporating the use of advanced technology in our practice also meant that we were trying to deliver the best service possible.
What advice can you give others in developing their social entrepreneurial skills?
Have a good business model that is robust. You can have a good idea and want to make a social change, but you need a sustainable business plan to make sure that you continue to help people and keep the business running. It’s important to make sure that you empower yourself as an entrepreneur, learn from other successful businesses, get a mentor and use whatever tools and resources you can access to help you build a successful business with a real impact.
How do you keep your business focus- Do you have any suggestions for entrepreneurs who are experiencing challenging times?
Surround yourself with supportive people that believe in your vision and encourage you when you feel like giving up. Mentors, good friends and family help keep you focused.
What do you think about Under35CEO?
I think this is a great way to share stories of entrepreneurs that have overcome challenges. This is a great way to tell the new entrepreneurial narrative of Africa that is filled with hope and optimism. It’s a great inspiration to entrepreneurs out there.
Finally, what words of wisdom would you give to aspiring social entrepreneurs who may be hesitant from taking the plunge due to external challenges?
Challenges will always be there. If you truly believe in your idea and your cause, go for it! Challenges can be overcome and they can serve as stepping stones to help you reach your dream and build a business that will change your community and your country and our continent.
Are you a young entrepreneur under the age of 35 with an interesting story of success (or failure)? If yes, then the Under35CEO community has something to learn from you.
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