En­tre­pre­neur Annabel Big­gar-David’s jour­ney from a trou­bled past to a bright fu­ture

Fairlady - - CONTENTS - By Shireen Fisher

‘At Or­gan­ico, we be­lieve that ev­ery­one de­serves a life of hap­pi­ness and well­ness, so we of­fer safe, nat­u­ral prod­ucts that de­liver re­sults,’ Annabel (42) says. Her busi­ness spe­cialises in a range of dif­fusers and es­sen­tial oils. It’s un­sur­pris­ing that Or­gan­ico’s ethos cen­tres on well­be­ing: the abu­sive en­vi­ron­ment Annabel grew up in was per­haps the very thing that drove her to es­tab­lish a com­pany with such a holis­tic ap­proach.

The Dur­ban-born en­tre­pre­neur moved to Mitchells Plain on the Cape Flats when she was four, and re­turned to Dur­ban a few years later to live with her grand­mother.

‘I went back to the Cape Flats when I was 11,’ she says. ‘That’s when ev­ery­thing changed.’

Like most of us, Annabel’s child­hood in­formed who she would be­come as an adult – but in her case, it was by clearly show­ing her what she didn’t want to be­come.

‘Things got rough: my fa­ther started drink­ing and do­ing drugs again, and was abu­sive and in­cred­i­bly vi­o­lent. Home was no longer a safe haven.’ Worse yet, says Annabel, her fa­ther was a child mo­lester. ‘It was my tes­ti­mony that put him in jail.

‘Life makes brick­lay­ers of the best of us, but we get to choose which side of the wall we live on.’

I re­mem­ber the call from prison: he said that as soon as he got out of jail he would kill me.’

Hav­ing to con­front her par­ents at age 13 to re­veal her fa­ther’s abuse was the most ter­ri­fy­ing thing she’s ever had to do, she says.

‘I wish my mother’s re­sponse had been dif­fer­ent – “no one will be­lieve you and no one will ever feel sorry for you”, were her words. But that ex­pe­ri­ence al­lowed me to see the world as it shouldn’t be.’

Such a tu­mul­tuous start in life would un­der­stand­ably have put many a per­son on the back foot. Not Annabel, who founded Or­gan­ico in 2015. ‘We of­fi­cially launched on Free­dom Day in April 2017 and have been in­cred­i­bly hum­bled by the amount of sup­port we’ve re­ceived,’ she says.

‘We’re fo­cused on qual­ity, and we guar­an­tee the pu­rity and au­then­tic­ity of the oils; we know ex­actly where they orig­i­nate.’ In fact, the United States Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture (USDA) as well as Eco­cert SA have cer­ti­fied Or­gan­ico as or­ganic.

‘When you buy prod­ucts that are cer­ti­fied or­ganic, you’re help­ing to re­duce the amount of pes­ti­cides used. These toxic chem­i­cals have far-reach­ing ef­fects on our bod­ies, on wildlife and the en­vi­ron­ment,’ says Annabel.

She cred­its her grand­mother with in­still­ing in her an en­tre­pre­neur­ial spirit as well as a so­cial con­science in the two years she lived with her.

‘My gran taught me kind­ness. With ev­ery new toy I re­ceived, one of my older toys went to a less for­tu­nate child. She also helped me start my first busi­ness, sell­ing fudge, when I was nine!’

When Annabel re­turned to Cape Town, she kept up with that busi­ness and ex­tended her range to tof­fee ap­ples. Af­ter high school, she en­rolled at the Univer­sity of the Western Cape, but fi­nan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties com­pelled her to drop out. She quickly found a job, and started mak­ing dream­catch­ers and can­dles on the side. In this way, she was able to help sup­port her fam­ily and buy her first car by the age of 19.

Per­haps it was her trou­bled early years that taught Annabel that no amount of se­cu­rity is worth liv­ing a life of re­grets, and it’s prob­a­bly why she took a gam­ble in es­tab­lish­ing Or­gan­ico.

‘I wanted to con­tribute to some­thing big­ger than my­self, to make a dif­fer­ence. I didn’t want to be im­pris­oned by the thought of “I wish I had”, so I risked al­most ev­ery­thing I owned. I sold most of the pos­ses­sions my hus­band and I share, and tapped into our ac­cess bond.’

Annabel’s tim­ing was per­fect: the busi­ness launch co­in­cided with a spike in de­mand for plant-based, cer­ti­fied or­ganic prod­ucts.

There have been many high­lights in Or­gan­ico’s short ex­is­tence: the com­pany has been ac­knowl­edged by the Depart­ment of Trade and In­dus­try’s (DTI) Small En­ter­prise De­vel­op­ment Agency as a suc­cess story in cre­at­ing em­ploy­ment, and Annabel is in ne­go­ti­a­tions with a large re­tailer to have her range on their shelves from this month.

‘This is very ex­cit­ing, be­cause it makes our range more ac­ces­si­ble. I’ve also been blessed with the of­fer of a schol­ar­ship from the Gor­don In­sti­tute of Busi­ness Sci­ence to study there, and I was in­vited by the DTI to at­tend an out­ward sell­ing mis­sion to Aus­tria and Ger­many, which will hope­fully en­able us to start ex­port­ing our range.’

It’s an ex­tra­or­di­nary story of suc­cess, but Annabel is equally forth­com­ing about her fail­ings. She ‘went off the rails’, as she puts it, a few years ago. ‘I started abus­ing al­co­hol and did things I’m not proud of. I guess this was a cul­mi­na­tion of many things that fi­nally erupted, like a vol­cano.’

Typ­i­cally, she doesn’t dwell on the neg­a­tive but is in­stead thank­ful for the life ex­pe­ri­ence. ‘As Os­car Wilde said: “Ev­ery saint has a past and ev­ery sinner has a fu­ture.”’

And Or­gan­ico cer­tainly seems to have a fu­ture – it’s been show­ered with nu­mer­ous ac­co­lades. ‘We made the fi­nal round of the SAB En­trepreneur­ship Pro­gramme,’ says Annabel. ‘We won the Re­gional Busi­ness Achiever award through Hirsch’s Home­store, and were fi­nal­ists in the Busi­ness Achiever of the Year. We were also nom­i­nated as En­tre­pre­neur of the Year by Women of Stature.’

Annabel says her re­la­tion­ship with her grand­mother and her fam­ily’s parish priest have made her the woman she is to­day.

‘It’s taken me a long time to get to this point. Life makes brick­lay­ers of the best of us, but we get to choose which side of the wall we live on.’


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