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With some help from Suriname’s Saramaccas

trailblazing Guyanese entrepreneur grows from strength to strength

By Gwen Evelyn

Sherl Daniels

GEORGETOWN, Guyana — March 30, 2019 — When Guyanese entrepreneur Sherl Daniels lived in neighbouring Suriname, she noticed something that aroused her curiosity and admiration.

It was a group of women with dark skin, particularly white teeth and long, beautiful hair.

Sherl asked who these people were and was told that they were the Saramacca women who had made a trip to town.

Sherl first attributed this to good genes. She had heard that the bloodline of the tribal Saramacca people—the largest group of Maroon peoples of African descent in the world—was virtually uninterrupted for centuries.

Then she remembered that many scholars credit the Saramacca with the greatest success at carrying on the customs of their African homeland. This made her wonder: Could their luxuriant, shiny, healthy hair be based on natural beauty products that were largely unknown to the outside world?

She decided to find out; it was a decision that changed her life. Her quest to find out the Saramacca secrets for beautiful hair allowed her to acquire priceless information about ancient hair care techniques and natural hair care products, knowledge that would eventually enable her to launch her hair products, Sherl’s Cosmetics. Without hesitation, she gives much of the credit to the secrets she gleaned from the traditional practices of the Saramacca people.

What they told her opened her eyes and opened the door for her trailblazing success in the hair care industry. Recalling her learning experience, Sherl said, “It took me a while to actually be friends with them. They took me to the village and showed me what they would do. I was also reading up and researching what was best for my hair… I talked to them and I got the right guidance as to what I need.”

Early in her mission, Sherl decided to expand her knowledge beyond what she learned from the Saramacca and incorporate knowledge from other unorthodox sources. She incorporated several Guyanese folk treatments and recalled getting some useful tips from an Amerindian girl who had unusually thick hair.

By trial and error, she figured out what worked best for her, and found many innovative solutions for common hair problems.

When persons around her started noticing the fantastic results, Sherl quickly became the best advertisement for her products. “I started using it in my hair and folks around me were like, ‘what are you using? I want some of this!’…My relaxed hair grew very long and it was almost at my waistline… so everybody was amazed,” she recalled.

Her hair attracted so much attention from family and friends that Sherl would make hair products and give them away to all who wanted to try them out. The demand for her products kept growing and it wasn’t long before Sherl had the idea to sell some and see what the market had in store for her. Eight years ago, she started small, just making 20 bottles of hair oil and 20 tubs of a product she calls Mega Growth.

The response from the public was overwhelming. As orders for her products grew, home-based production became a serious challenge. She soon had to move production from the kitchen of her East Ruimveldt residence to her garage to get more space. By that time, she had expanded her product line to include shampoo, conditioner and moisturizer.

Sherl also began working with chemists and medical experts to improve her products continuously, and also to use their knowledge to identify and eliminate harmful ingredients in her manufacturing processes.

From the reviews of countless satisfied customers, her products produce tremendous results. Sherl said feedback from customers indicates that her products give users coarser, healthier strands of hair and stimulate rapid hair-growth. She guarantees that most persons’ hair will definitely benefit from the use of her products; however, she emphasised that they might not work for persons whose hair follicles are permanently damaged due to old age, health issues and other factors.

The main ingredients Sherl uses include natural oils from local fruits, herbs and vegetables such as awara, coconut, tonka, avocado, coconut, kuru and others. She also uses aloes for many of her products. “All these oils are combined with the right balance. You have to know how to combine them,” she said.

She gathers 90 percent of these oils from Guyana, especially from Amerindian communities in the Interior. For her range of fragrances, she sources unique scented oils from the Rastafarians from Jamaica. Many key chemical ingredients she has to acquire from various overseas nations, which she admits is a challenge.

However, Sherl identified her main challenges as a lack of manpower, machinery and space to run her operation more efficiently. At the moment, she ‘cooks’ her products in special crockpots, but these can only produce small quantities at a time. With good machinery, however, she can produce hundreds of gallons of product at a time.

That is why she is participating in the Guyana Manufacturers and Services Association (GMSA) Marketplace UncappeD event on Sunday at the Guyana National Stadium, Providence. She expects her products to once again be a big hit at the event, which would help expand her customer base and might even cause a few investors to knock on her door to see if they can work out a mutually profitable business deal.

If her participation in the event yields the anticipated results, this would be much more than a step closer to the realisation of her professional and personal goals; it would have meaningful positive impact on youth empowerment because of her long and dedicated involvement in social work.

That is because, above and beyond being a pioneer in local hair care and cosmetic products, Sherl does extensive social work, mostly with a youth group comprising disadvantaged young ladies in her community—school dropouts, teenage mothers and survivors of abuse and others—who come to her residence for guidance, to learn a skill and get employment.

Sherl brings them on board and helps them to become gainfully occupied at her establishment.
“A lot of young people are not doing anything for themselves, especially the young ladies… I work with them and bring them into our system… I give them another chance because I was there at one time, wanting someone to look out for me…,” Sherl explained.

She disclosed that she is currently trying to get business space at the Industrial Site in Georgetown. To this end, she urges patrons to visit her booth at the Marketplace UncappeD event, not only to sample her products, but also share with her any ideas or suggestions they might have to help her improve her products and expand her business.

This year, Sherl has a surprise for visitors to her booth at UncappeD. She will be launching her margarine made from vegetable fats as well as a special toothpaste that she has created.

Looking back at what she has achieved, as well as what she has in mind for herself and the young girls she is helping, Sherl will forever be grateful to the Saramacca ladies in Suriname who put her on the path to an interesting and exciting business venture, which in turn allowed her to get passionately involved in social work.