How menstrual pain gave birth to Harriet Botanicals


Chebet Ng'ok, CEO and Founder of Harriet Botanicals at one of her shops in Karen Nairobi on April 2023. PHOTO | POOL

Chebet Ng’ok’s journey to running a successful business started from the need to address pain.

While working in London in investment banking, she would experience debilitating menstrual cramps that rendered most of her work impossible.

“I had tried to look for allopathic and alternative medicine for this recurring pain I would experience but nothing would work. It got to a point I almost considered it my fate,” she narrates.

Coming back to Kenya, she met an aunt that ‘mixed’ some herbs for her after she witnessed the pain she was going through.

In came the magic wand with a Midas touch to not just take away her pain, but also start a business.

“Now that I think about it, I did not start Harriet Botanicals as a business, I started it as a means of service to help women in managing their menstrual pain like I had gone through for years,” says Ms Chebet.

“I discovered that all along, I may have been looking for a cure in the wrong places. Nature has had these solutions for ages. So, why not harness nature’s opulent provision to create solutions for women?” She continues.

She started developing her flagship product — Arorwet from what she had discovered helping friends with similar health concerns.

“I wouldn’t quantify the initial stages of my company in terms of financial investments. All I did was bootstrapping. Friends that had used Arorwet did the person-to-person marketing. This means that I had demand for the product on a tangent. I started selling Arorwet in 500ml and one-litre bottles.

Soon I had to look for space in Nairobi’s central business district as the logistical challenge of operation from my house became bigger,” she says.

Ms Chebet institutionalised Harriet Botanicals in February 2018, by getting certification from the Culture Ministry under which her type of business and products fall.

The other step was to take her products to the University of Nairobi’s Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology to ascertain the safety of her products.

The products got the green light for mass production. She gets her herbs from the South Rift.

They include roots, barks, and leaves from about 30 species of trees and herbs.

Harriet Botanicals has nine products for cleansing blood and reproductive, gut and respiratory health.

Ms Chebet and her team have also developed a journal to keep track of health developments for users of their products.

They serve an estimated 3,500 clients a month with shops in five Kenyan towns and several other stockists.

Her bid to expand to foreign markets hasn’t been easy. The high cost of the shipment and the general attitude against traditional medicine are hurdles.

To beat these challenges, Harriet Botanicals has special packaging for exports.

“I learned that my products would be more acceptable by authorities in other countries if I label them differently. I now have products like womb wellness tea, and vitality tea, which are the same products with local names here,” she says.

“I have learned that if you don’t have your why in a business, the how, however good, is bound to fail. Businesses run on purpose. The thread that holds a business together is the main reason it started.

“The gap they sought to fill when they started. When this remains present, running an enterprise will be easier. I have also learned to always let my light shine. Do not sit on your light.”

An idea, a plan an action you need to take. Let your light shine.” She says.


Looking back at Harriet Botanicals what fills Chebet with pride?

“That I have helped thousands of women manage pain. That I have been able to create a conversation around traditional medicine as a safe means of treatment and that that conversation keeps broadening. I look forward to a day we will all understand that even modern medicine largely depends on the herbs we use.” She concludes.

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