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Tammy Nott’s scented passion for arid Namibia

Text Annabelle Venter

M BIRI Natural Skincare is a truly Namibian skincare range, launched in Windhoek earlier this year.  Based on the core ingredient of Namibian myrrh, wild harvested by Himba women from the Commiphora wildii plant, Mbiri is a unique product made by women, for women.

The dynamic force behind Mbiri is local business woman Tamarind Nott, who successfully launched the Rare Scent cosmetic range in 2013. Her new product is taking the Commiphora wildii story that started with Rare Scent, to the next level.

THE SOUL BEHIND MBIRI
Tammy grew up in the small town of Omaruru, where we first met when she was just 5 years old! Already at that age the  sparkling eyes and bubbly personality hinted at an interesting future for this young Namibian. A self-confessed ‘people-person’, Tammy has a passion for her country, specifically the desert and its people and plants. She takes inspiration from the arid serenity of the desert, and her parent’s lifelong involvement in conservation helped open her eyes to the beauty in the ‘nothingness’ that lay around her.  After school she left Namibia for a while to pursue her studies in video editing at AFDA in Cape Town. She returned to her beloved country in 2012.

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Mbiri products

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Tammy launched her Mbiri range in April 2015

Mbiri_essential_oil

Mbiri essential oil

THE START OF SCENTED THINGS
In that same year a course on the art of soap-making set this young mind off in a new direction. While she spent time in the desert with her mother, who was starting a new project with the nomadic Himba people of the far northwest, Tammy began formulating ideas on how to turn her soap-making skills and the myrrh collected by the Himba into a business. Around this time a competition was launched, called Namibia’s Essential Oil Challenge Fund Competition, sponsored by the Millenium Challenge Corporation and the Natural Resources Institute. They were looking for an innovative cosmetic use for the oil of the Commiphora wildii plant that the Himba were harvesting. Tammy entered the competition and triumphed as one of the two winners. With the title came the financial boost and exposure that she needed, and Rare Scent was born.

Rare Scent products were well received by the local market and sold extremely well all over Namibia. But being a one-woman production line from start to finish was restricting the business. There is only so much you can do from your garage! It was time to look further afield and bring this amazing story to the attention of the outside world.

Mbiri is born
Tammy needed to upscale her brand to make it more accessible to more customers outside the small Namibian market. In the
past, her long-suffering family and friends had tested her products but now she wanted to comply with international regulations and have unlimited production capacity. Engaging
professional cosmetic formulators meant offering a safer product and enabling her to be transparent about the products’ claims. She also wanted the packaging and name to be
sophisticated and more Namibian. It took just one year to take this leap to a new level and in April 2015 the revamped product was launched under the new brand name Mbiri.

The range consists of lip moisturiser, body wash, body lotion and myrrh essential oil.
Three of the main ingredients are 100% Namibian:

  • Namibian myrrh (resin of the commiphora wildii plant)
  • Marula oil (from Eudafano Women’s Co-operative in Ondangwa:  EWC)
  • Kalahari melon seed (from EWC)
    Other ingredients are sourced from elsewhere in Africa, ensuring an entirely African product.
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Himba women mix Namibian Myrrh with animal fat and ochre, which is then rubbed into the skin.

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Commiphora wildii resin has been collected and used by Himba women for centuries. Photo ©Dave Cole

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IS IT GREEN?
Commiphora wildii resin is a protected resource. The resin is processed at a community-owned factory in the heart of the Kunene region.

Visitors are welcome to join a tour of the Opuwo Processing Facility and see how the whole process is conducted. No chemicals are ever used here, all products are 100% natural. It’s one of the few opportunities for tourists to meet the locals in Opuwo, and buy local products. What fabulous gifts you will find there! In the meantime visit www.scentsofnamibia.com.

THE SCENT OF INSPIRATION
Tammy says her mother Karen’s work with the Himba – which has created a sustainable source of income for them, based on their ancient knowledge and skills – has been her greatest source of inspiration.

In addition, her love and respect for the Himba people shines through in the conversation with her, and she is enormously inspired by their ability to live in one of the most arid places on earth.

When returning to Namibia for holidays, Tammy says the car was always packed and ready to head up north to the Kunene Region where her mother started the Omumbiri project. Tammy has spent much time with the Himba, attending conservancy meetings and joining the women as they harvest the resin in dry times. More recently she has seen the Opuwo Processing Facility being built and watched how the precious essential oil is extracted from the resin.
In July this year Tammy was selected to attend the Global
Entrepreneurship Summit in Kenya to learn more about
marketing her unique product.  She feels that these days people are looking for products with a story, rather than yet another mass-produced cosmetic item. Mbiri’s story is certainly one of its kind and she is looking forward to expanding the range in 2016.

Tammy would like to inspire other young Namibians. “When something inspires you just go for it! There are so many ways to convince ourselves not to do something and that is what holds us back. Take a leap of faith and believe in what you do! It’s worse to take no risk. In moments of doubt I remind myself why I first started the business and I remember my inspiration: the desert, my childhood, the Himba people. I grew up with the project and it has always been a part of my life.  Through Mbiri I can support a community that I have been visiting since I was a young girl”.

GREENIE POINTS:

  • Mbiri is 100% natural
  • Endorsed by The Vegan Society
  • Endorsed by Beauty without Cruelty
  • Approved by Phytotrade Africa
  • Body wash is biodegradable
  • Packaging is recyclable

WHERE CAN YOU FIND MBIRI PRODUCTS?

  • Maerua Superspar in Windhoek
  • Various lodges and gift shops around Namibia
  • Faithful to Nature in South Africa (online store)
  • Future plans include health stores in South Africa and entering the US market in two years.
This article was first published in the Spring 2015 issue of Travel News Namibia.
Travel News Namibia
Travel News Namibia
Travel News Namibia is a high-quality glossy Namibia travel and lifestyle magazine tasked with promoting Namibia to the world. With riveting stories, first-hand encounters and magnificent photographs showcasing tourism, travel, nature, adventure and conservation, TNN is the ultimate and most comprehensive guide to exploring Namibia. Travel News Namibia is published in five different editions per year. These include four English- language editions and one German. Travel News Namibia is for sale in Namibia and South Africa.

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