The ability to build a high potential, high growth business with a sustainable heart is one that entrepreneur, Ana Alecia Lyman, founder of Bio Óleos de Miombo and Grupo Trichilia, has in huge amounts. Her vision to create world-class products that celebrate the sustainable natural resources of Mozambique and create a much needed value chain from community to consumer, is one that is making the world sit up and take notice.
LoA had the pleasure of meeting with founder Ana Alecia Lyman at the recent Lioness Lean In event in Maputo to find out more.
What does your company do?
Trichilia Group is a group of Mozambican companies involved in the sustainable commercialization of non-timber forest products and their value addition for local and international markets. The flagship company, Bio Óleos de Miombo, has two brands: "Bio Óleos de Miombo" (“BOM”), which produces a line of natural skincare products for the local and regional market, and "MIOMBO", a highly-crafted luxury product line. Building on the value chains from these product lines, we are now in the process of constructing a factory for industry-scale processing of wild-harvested oilseed species, and are heavily involved in the development of these value chains from community-level through to consumer-ready food and personal care products. We are largely vertically integrated, and are investing in the improvement of tree stock as well as a pipeline of new species that we see potential for developing into innovative, valuable products for local and world-wide use.
"I have always been inspired by how under-utilized resources, whether natural or man-made, could become economic drivers."
What inspired you to start your company?
I have always been inspired by how under-utilized resources, whether natural or man-made, could become economic drivers. Here in Mozambique, I found that many forest resources had tremendous potential for industry application and markets, but were in jeopardy because of the various factors contributing to deforestation. I believe that ethical trade and benefit-sharing with the communities who are the owners of the resources can be a powerful win-win, generating real income and incentivizing locally-driven investment in the health of the landscape. I did not find enough examples of this here in Mozambique, so I was inspired to build a company that could model my hope and vision for that win-win.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
Our products represent real treasures from Mozambique’s landscape. The oilseeds and plant extracts that we work with have been known and celebrated for generations; our work has been to capture their unique characteristics in new and innovative products. Our new hair products have been developed with a Maputo-based salon specializing in natural hair care; we are really excited about how they have been received thus far.
One of the most exciting parts of my work has been consulting on the development of new forest-based value chains. I have been able to bring my on-the-ground experience and professional network to help craft strategic plans for linking new areas, resources and communities to value-addition strategies and markets. These opportunities have been inspiring as they have taken me to new areas and prompted me to launch into new research.
"I believe that ethical trade and benefit-sharing with the communities who are the owners of the resources can be a powerful win-win, generating real income and incentivizing locally-driven investment in the health of the landscape."
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
I studied Public Policy at Brown University, and originally came to Mozambique as a Peace Corps volunteer in 2005. My hope was to better understand the world of development aid, and what type of organization I might want to work for. However, my experience taught me the real limitations of development aid and the importance of economic development, particularly for women at the base of the pyramid. Without economic autonomy, empowering women with lifeskills sessions and negotiating condom use seemed futile. I became captivated by models for business development that invested in social and environmental sustainability.
I don’t come from a family of business people, and I certainly didn’t know much about navigating the Mozambican business arena when I began. There have thus been many, many learning curves along my path. One of my biggest take-aways has been the importance of a strong team and good partners. No one does it alone.
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
Seek out mentors and skilled expertise. And, be courageous. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.
Contact or follow Bio Óleos de Miombo
Why LoA loves it….
There is no doubt that Africa is blessed with an abundance of natural resources, and in Mozambique, that is certainly the case. What is needed is a sustainable approach to turning these resources into commercially viable products that the world both needs and wants, whilst at the same time ensuring these valuable natural resources are protected. Entrepreneur Ana Alecia Lyman has been inspired to build a great company that is turning this vision into a win-win for business, community and the environment. --- Melanie Hawken, founder and editor-in-chief of Lionesses of Africa