From car boot to the top shelf

Since Vusi Silora started supplying retail giant Massmart, his business’s turnover has more than quadrupled – from R90 000 to R400 000 in just two years.

“My increased earnings have enabled me to build my very own manufacturing centre and I am now also a noteworthy competitor to some of the leading cosmetics businesses that have been operating in South Africa for years,” says Silora.

Silora is the owner of Bio Lotion Cosmetics, which manufactures skincare oils, soaps and lotions using organic ingredients.

“I started Bio Lotion after I sought the help of my aunt who works in the pharmaceutical industry to help me develop my own skincare formula using organic ingredients with my own funding,” says Silora.

He now plans to open one more manufacturing centre in Johannesburg as well as two others in Port Elizabeth and Cape Town. Today he has eight full-time employees. In a story that mirrors that of entrepreneur and founder of hair care products brand Black Like Me Herman Mashaba, Silora also started out selling from the boot of his car – selling 5 000 of his skincare products like this in 2010.

“Convincing people to buy my product was difficult at first, but those who bought it liked it and they in turn recommend it to others because I suddenly noticed that I was getting new customers almost every week,” says Silora.

This helped the business grow and soon Silora managed to include baby products to his stock.

Today he supplies about 50 000 skincare products to Massmart’s 80 Jumbo, Makro and Game Food Corp stores.

“I started Bio Lotion after I sought the help of my aunt who works in the pharmaceutical industry to help me develop my own skincare formula using organic ingredients with my own funding,” says Silora.

The idea came to Silora after he noticed that there were not many black-owned skincare producers in the country.

With the help of his pharmacist aunt and the little money he had, Silora says he was soon able to plan and develop his own range of skincare oils and creams which he bottled and labelled on his own.

Soon after setting up shop in the boot of his car, Bio Lotion Cosmetic’s products began growing so popular that he eventually started approaching major retailers to have his products put on their shelves.

Things took off when he met one of Massmart’s Johannesburg branch managers who told Silora about the retailer’s interest in buying locally-manufactured goods. He then visited Massmart’s Johannesburg head office to find out more about opportunities for his business.

“My hope was to get them to take me on as a supplier for some of Massmart’s supermarkets that operate as separate brands,” he says.

Once at Massmart’s offices, the businessman set up an appointment with the national procurement officer who then called him in for an interview. This all formed part of his assessment process before he was accepted as a supplier. Silora says this all took place within one day.

During the meeting he was asked to provide health and safety certification documents for his products, proof of business registration and a guarantee that the business would be able to deliver the required 95% supply on procured goods.

Because his oils and lotions had already been tested through a quality and safety tests via skincare product testing company Future Cosmetics, Silora was able to prove to Massmart’s procurement officers and in-store buyers that his products were safe for consumers to use.

After another meeting an in-store buyer, Bio Lotion Cosmetics was eventually awarded an initial three-month contract supplying one store. This was soon extended to a one-year agreement because the product was selling well.

Now, three years later, Silora says his product is still flying off the shelves and he has his sights set on creating over 100 new jobs through his plans to build a new manufacturing centre.


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Bio Lotion Cosmetics, Black Like Me, Game Food Corp, , Jumbo, , , Vusi Silora

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