This is the story of a woman scientist who read chemical engineering for her first degree but soon garnered an MBA -- in a remarkable transformation of life from one that would mean spending long hours in a quaint lab to the buzz world of business.
Her name is Rose. Riding the high crest of academic excellence, Rose Ana Aziz literally smashed the ground racing towards a welcoming global business partnership.
But the smiles were short and the fortunes were to soon run aground. It was the Easter weekend of 2012 – on that fateful Wednesday before Good Friday – that Rose “just collapsed” and was virtually dead for half an hour.
By the time things cleared, the worst had just begun to unfold. “I couldn't function for more than a year … doctors in India told me it was stress related,” Rose recalls, adding that she remains on medication to date – and prone to “seizure attack” when stressed.
Educated in the United States, Rose Ana worked briefly with a cosmetics company, Procter & Gamble, but soon decided to return to her native Tanzania, where she discovered and patented a miracle skin oil from the leaves of the Moringa tree. She christened her product POZA, Kiswahili for relief (from pain). In fact it lives up to that name by providing an elixir to a raft of skin ailments, from rabid rashes to severe burns.
The philosophy of this scientist-turned-business entrepreneur – on which her business was conceived – is “a social cause on a business platform” -- way before the term ‘social enterprise’ was coined. But first things first: Rose Ana Aziz was born on August 1, 1961, in Moshi, Tanzania. She received her primary education in the United States and secondary education in Canada.
After finishing her secondary education, she returned to the States for further studies – where she received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Chemical Engineering in 1984, and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in 1986, both from Howard University in Washington, D.C. During her academic years at Howard Rose was inducted into several honour societies, including the National Deans List for Outstanding College Students, the Chemical Engineering Honour Society for Outstanding Chemical Engineering Students (Omega Chi Epsilon), and the National Engineering Honour Society for Outstanding Engineering Students (Tau Beta Pi).
In addition, she was elected as secretary, then vice-president, of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, Howard University Chapter, between 1982 and 1983, respectively. Rose has worked in the private sector, holding a number of positions, both in the States and in Tanzania.
She is currently managing director and chief executive officer of Products of Nature Company Limited and managing director of Azipack Company Limited. Rose has also served as deputy secretary of the Federation of Women Entrepreneurs in Tanzania (1996-2000), and a member of the board of trustees of The Jane Goodall Institute (1995-97).
Kathleen Holland, managing director of a movement that enjoins women entrepreneurs worldwide, Trade+Impact, recently described Rose Ana as “one of the inspirations” behind that alliance of ladies in the world of global business. “…I met her in South Africa 10 years ago at a women’s entrepreneur conference. She told me she … struggled for many years with little investment but she built a young strong team with rural farmers and made it possible for them to become shareholders of the company.
“I met her at this point; an incredible product, the chemistry and patents had all been sorted, positive community impact but her global partnerships to expand were not there. She lacked marketing, sales and government support to aid her in her pursuit of expansion.
” Kathleen ranks Rose alongside a number of other extraordinary women-led social enterprises like Jenny Thorne from Gone Rural and Sheila Freemantle from Tintsaba – as being “the inspiration behind Trade+Impact.” Between them, these extraordinary entrepreneurs have spent five years to mobilize the movement – drawing support from woman-to-woman alliances like CAABWA (Canadian and African Women’s Alliance) and CAWEE (Centre for Accelerated Women Economic Empowerment) and SWIFT (Swaziland Fair Trade), TFO Canada and many other organizations and individuals have dedicated countless hours to develop the concept and prepare for launch.
In her own words: “It wasn’t until November 2015 when Shareefa from Qatar introduced Khadija from Morocco to the concept while in South Africa at a Vital Voices Lead South 2 South Exchange conference that the breakthrough occurred.
We all met and Khadija loved the concept, returned to Morocco to present to her government and within 2 months it was a ‘go’… “… Sophie from Kenya, also a Vital Voices cohort, and Daniella from Swaziland, a long-time supporter of the initiative, joined and all 5 of us established ourselves as partners across the globe and founded Trade+Impact, a for profit women-led social enterprise.
Our goal is to raise awareness and support for these extraordinary women-led social enterprises so they will have an even deeper and more profound impact on their employees and their communities.” And back to the story of Rose, Kathleen says: “She did eventually find very interested partners/investors in the US, but it was too late. Rose’s health had failed and she had not developed any succession plan for the business.
” In the meantime, Kathleen feels it’s at such critical moments that Trade+Impact will have to provide equally critical training to ensure a smooth succession plan for a business that literally hit the ground running – and came to a dramatic halt just as quickly. “The patents now sit dormant, the world not getting access to this extraordinary product and, even worse, the positive impact she had on the community has come to an end,” Kathleen says, ruefully.