Stabroek News Sunday

Odela Joseph’s unexpected journey

- By Miranda La Rose

As the world was still trying to come to grips with the COVID-19 pandemic last year, Odela Joseph unexpected­ly launched a skincare business.

Joseph’s Ojay’s Natural Skincare had its unlikely start in her own search to find a natural cure for her acne, while trying to occupy herself after being laid off and expecting. “I am humbled, amazed and grateful that what I began out of the need to find a natural cure for my breakouts of acne and partly boredom, has not only become my source of income but has created direct employment for some other persons,” Joseph, 27, says, a year and a half later after watching the venture blossom into a thriving business.

Joseph, who spent her early childhood in Ituni, had her formal education at Ituni Primary, Mackenzie High School and President’s College (PC) before obtaining a bachelor’s degree in business management at the University of Guyana (UG) in 2017.

Moving from the small community of Ituni to Linden and then to PC, she said, prepared her for the world of work. “In Linden I had my aunt for guidance, at school I had my teachers and weekends I had my mom. At PC we had one house parent for 200 or so girls, so many times I couldn’t go to her. I had to learn to study on my own, how to manage my own money and how to do everything on my own.”

Joseph knew from a young age that not much job opportunit­ies were available in Ituni and that she wanted to do something big. Her products are stepping stones which she wants to expand.

On leaving PC she worked for a year as an insurance agent then as a clerk in a lawyer’s firm.

“I wasn’t prepared for those jobs because I was shy and they wanted me to bring them business, so when I left and I spent about six months at home learning to sew and to make leather bags which I taught myself by looking and practicing from DIY [do it yourself] videos on YouTube. I’d bought a sewing machine with my last salary. I didn’t sew to make money at first but when my friends found out that I could sew, they all wanted me to take in their jeans.” She still has a leather handbag she made and plans on restarting leathercra­ft production.

In between studies during the August holidays, Joseph worked part time at Qualfon and UG.

After graduating from UG she was assigned a twomonth internship with Aurora Gold Mines/Guyana Goldfields (AGM/GG) in the human resources department. During the internship, the company advertised internally for a document controller. She applied and was successful. A switch to health and safety, however, was on the horizon. As document controller, she was part of the health, safety and environmen­t (HSE) department and her duties included taking minutes of meetings, and documentin­g training records and safety reports.

“I was learning about HSE through their data and although I had a degree in business management I liked HSE because it helped people. Eventually there was an opening and I applied for the job. As the successful candidate, she took a course in health and safety with New Brunswick University, Canada to become a certified health and safety officer. She began as a trainee and after training was placed on probation before being appointed a health and safety officer. She worked with AGM/GG from June 2017 to January 2020.

She was stationed at Camp Aurora in the Cuyuni River. “That company made me grow so much from the introverte­d person I was, to become assertive and to give guidance in my area of expertise in a camp predominan­tly occupied by men who were older and more experience­d. As a safety officer, I realized I had to interact with everyone. It meant I had to take control of the situation, especially during incident investigat­ions where I had to be on the ground to find out exactly what happened. That basically pulled me out of my shell into the person I am today.”

In January 2020, a few months before the pandemic was declared, Joseph was retrenched as the company was downsizing due to difficult financial times. She was the newest staff and the least experience­d.

“Pregnant at the time, I didn’t want to go out and search for another job. I didn’t know what I was going to

 ?? ?? Odela Joseph with several bars of soap before labelling
Odela Joseph with several bars of soap before labelling
 ?? ?? Odela Joseph using one of her products
Odela Joseph using one of her products

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