Damien’s burning business idea

| Training

Metropolitan resident Damien Paul

A mishap on a Gambian beach sparked Metropolitan resident Damien Paul’s skincare enterprise

It was a nap on the beach and a burnt nose that inspired Damien Paul to create his own organic skincare products.

The Metropolitan resident was on holiday in The Gambia and fell asleep under the African sun. He slept peacefully, confident that the shea butter slapped all over his body would protect him from any harmful rays.

He woke with a sore nose, peeling skin and shaken faith in shea butter’s sunscreen properties.

Damien decided to do some investigating. “I asked the Gambians what they used to moisturise, soothe and protect their skin,” he explains. “I learnt things I never knew. For instance, they rub bamboo cream on their babies until they are one to cure eczema. They also use it for body massage.”

He returned to London with new knowledge and a case full of natural oils and creams. In his Hackney flat, he began to experiment with his own multi-purpose product, juggling combinations and quantities until he hit on a formula that, he believes, “works wonders”.

A self-confessed “creative type”, Damien also designed the graphics and packaging for the range he calls ‘Something Different’. “I had tried other products, but none of them did it for me,” he explains. “They did one thing or the other. My product is something different.”

Feedback from friends was encouraging, his client base grew steadily and Damien started to think he had the makings of a business. But he needed support.

That came when he met Saiful Alam, Metropolitan Neighbourhood Investment Officer, at a training session at the local community centre.

“Saiful simplified my ideas and gave me insightful advice,” Damien says. “He is helping me develop an action plan and apply for funding from the government-backed Social Innovation Fund. The funders are visiting us in April. Hopefully, I’ll get the financial support to set up as a social enterprise.”

Saiful has encouraged Damien to engage more with the local community and boost interest in his products through word of mouth.

Already, he has invitations to tell his story on community radio stations and he has joined Saiful at a number of outreach events, where he shared his ideas about organic products and distributed samples. He is also keen to recruit fellow residents as volunteers to support his enterprise.

“Some people already engage with natural stuff,” says Damien. “For others, it’s revolutionary. They’ve never tried anything like it.”

Saiful has been impressed by his efforts. “It motivates me to see our residents become more independent,” he says. “Damien wants to get to a position where he can support himself financially, but he also wants to use his products to encourage other residents to think about health and wellbeing.”