What do you do when you’ve graduated into a shrinking industry? Sonja Rudder, owner of Oui! Scrubs graduated from UWI STA with B.Sc (Hons) in Hotel Management in 2001, the year 9/11 happened. Travel and tourism plunged. She was lucky to find a job, but she was always on her toes.

In 2006, she returned to Trinidad and Tobago and officially launched her business, Oui! Scrubs, in 2015. Here’s a look at how she did it:

What inspired this decision? 

I needed a body scrub.  I used to travel a lot for work (Marketing hotels) and would be in the US often and buy from Bath & Body Works.  I moved back to T&T and traveled way less and could not find a scrub.  When I found one, it was either too expensive or it was more of a gel than a scrub.  So I did some research and that was in 2014.  That year I gave some to girlfriends for Christmas.  One girlfriend who actually owns Nik Nak Sweet Shack fell in love with it from sight and kept telling me that I should start selling them.  I finally decided in April 2015 to give it a go and the rest is history!

What’s been the easiest part in running your business?  

Mixing the scents and creating.  It actually calms me, since it is Aromatherapy.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve encountered doing business in Trinidad and Tobago?  

One of my biggest challenges is a periodic shortage of bottles.  I had an issue last year and changed bottles and my customers revolted.  They love my bottles.

What advise do you have for new business owners? 

Do your research. Find something that is a need and something that you like, and as I say to others all the time, remember that it is a marathon and not a sprint.  You have to be in for the long haul, sometimes you will be tired and wonder if it is worth it, but get over the hurdle and the feeling is fantastic!

What does “being creative” mean to you? 

 To me it means doing with your hands.  Making the world a better place through beauty.  To me it has become enhancing someone’s life by giving them a spa in a bottle!

How has your field of study impacted your business? 

It has greatly.  I studied Chemistry up until A’Levels and Food & Nutrition for CXC.  Hotel Management exposed me to different cultures, Marketing and business studies.  That all has helped with not only mixing, the combinations, but the marketing and sales as well.  Also after UWI I worked St. Lucia for 4 years at a company where one of the hotels was a spa hotel.  That was the beginning of my exposure to spa treatments and products.

What was one of your most memorable moments on campus/during your studies? 

Being one of the persons who helped create UWI carnival in Nassau Bahamas!

At what age did you discover your fondness for blending?

There is no actual age, I have always been handy with regards to cooking and so it actually came naturally.

Do you have any unusual rituals when blending?  

I must have music when I blend, therefore the radio is always on.  I suffer from migraines and actually mix when I have one, it is soothing and calming and also therapeutic.

Can you describe the time when you first realised that creating scrubs was something you absolutely had to do?

April 2015.  Literally it felt right and I made the move and have never regretted it since!

What’s been your proudest moment as a business woman?

There have been many proud moments.  Every time someone says how much they love the scrubs, and how it made them feel.  But I think my three proudest were the first day I had a table set up at a market!  My other was when a fellow entrepreneur said to me that he had heard of me, well Oui! Scrubs long before he had met me or seen my table.  That his customers would be at his table talking about Oui! Scrubs.  The third is when someone I knew realised that I was Oui! Scrubs and told me that he was at a lime for Christmas and the hostess gave the gift sets, and there was a conversation comparing me to another company that I actually admire and the hostess said that she loved the density of my scrubs.

Which materials do you love working with?

Coconut oil and salt.  I am a salt scrub lover!

Do you have a favourite product?

Can I say all?  Really I do love all the combinations that I make.  My true love is Lavender & Rosemary.  I have always loved Lavender and that combination is so unique and heavenly!

What are your aspirations (1) for your business (2) personally? 

  1. To be known as a brand that gives quality at a reasonable price.  I intention was to provide a scrub that was affordable and of great quality.  That is what I really want.  therefore we try to keep the quality constant and the price reasonable.  To be environmentally friendly, that is one of the reasons that we use glass bottles, that we encourage recycling of the bottles.
  2. I have a vision of myself at 80 still mixing and travelling the world.  To me life is about balance, it is about enjoying life.  So I hike, I go gallivanting throughout Trinidad.  Spending time with good friends and family!  Doing what I enjoy.  People always ask me why I haven’t taking Oui! Scrubs bigger, and my main reason is that I love the art of blending, of mixing, of creating, of being that niche market product that people love.  It will expand and I want to enjoy the ride.

What’s your personal mantra?  

Our goal is to measure up to God’s plan for us.

If you enjoyed Sonja’s interview look out for others featured on UWI Clubs. Meet up with Sonja and shop from collection of products on September 9th at the UWI JFK Auditorium.