February 6, 2023

Umeeda and Nareena Switlo, a mother-daughter team, co-founded Naledo Foods and Beverages in 2016. Offering a line of turmeric products — from an innovative paste to juice blends to soap — the social enterprise and certified B Corp uses sustainable production practices and directly supports small-scale growers, paying 7.5x fair trade prices. Selling in Canada, the United States, and Bahamas, Umeeda and Nareena are committed to providing delicious products that are healthy, sourced and produced sustainably, and empower the communities they work with.
 
My first job ever was… 
Umeeda: As a youth engagement student for the District of North Vancouver, then guide at the Vancouver Aquarium
Nareena: A Barista at a coffee shop in Horseshoe Bay. I was 16 – I loved working the morning shifts on the weekends and was employee of the month a few times. I also had a fun job in University – In October every year I was a scarer at a haunted house! I have had some very interesting and random jobs in my life!
 
I decided to be an entrepreneur because…
Umeeda: My late husband saw those skills in me and asked me to write a business plan for a Childcare facility called My Little School for 150 children. The bank and he thought it was well planned and gave me a loan to start my first business. I sold it and it is still running today after 30 years.
Nareena: I really believe that I was born to be an entrepreneur. If you were to look at my CV, I never stayed at a job for more than 2 years. I would always want to help the company address inefficiencies or create positive change. Eventually I would see that creating a role for myself in a way that was fulfilling to me wasn’t going to happen while I worked on someone else’s dreams. I think that because I had so many jobs in various industries, it has given me a holistic approach to running Naledo. 
 
My proudest accomplishment is…
Umeeda: The founding of Naledo. It has made the greatest impact on the lives of Belizean growers and our young team Also it has taught Nareena about business and I now feel comfortable leaving it in her hands as soon as we are able.
Nareena: I think going to stores like London Drugs, Whole Foods, Save on Foods, etc. and seeing our product on the shelves! It is still exciting to me and I feel so proud that Truly Turmeric is in people’s homes across the world. Cooking is how my mom, grandmother, and I really connected, so to think that our turmeric paste is part of a family’s lives makes me very proud of everyone on our team. 
 
My biggest setback was…
Umeeda: When I started a ticketing company for events called Community Box Offices. I underestimated the competitor hoping that they would allow another small company into the market. It was a David versus Goliath fight and I lost all my assets and had to start again from my parents basement as a single mother.
Nareena: On a very personal note, I was diagnosed with Endometriosis a few years ago. It can set me back a week or so every few months and is worsened by stress. When you are an entrepreneur and things get stressful, it is really challenging when I have symptoms and cannot work. 
 
I overcame it by… 
Umeeda: Working hard for others and proving myself and finding my niche in international development. I made sure everyone was paid and could look forward. I had to overcome my fear of failure which I did in Belize by training young people and accepting the fact that I was afraid. They gave me the strength to begin a new business.
Nareena: I am still learning to manage my health and stress levels — I am a work in progress. But turmeric helps endo, so I am fortunate to have a great supply! I think when you wear so many hats in business it can be hard to put work away. I am flexing my resiliency muscles. 
 
If you Googled me, you still wouldn’t know… 
Umeeda: That I am a refugee that came to Canada at the age of 15. I had lost so much and had to begin a new life.
 
My best advice for small business owners is…
Umeeda: Start small and plan.
Nareena: Do not overspend or take on more debt than you need to. Keep it small and focus on sales. 
 
The one piece of advice I give that I have trouble following myself is… 
Umeeda: Take care of myself.
Nareena: When things are stressful and you don’t know what to do to solve a problem, do not hide from it. Keep moving, keep going, and focus on sales! 
 
When starting my business, I wish I knew…  
Umeeda: The industry I was entering better by doing a better SWOT analysis.
Nareena: More about accounting! Quickbooks still scares me, and I have a hard time learning that aspect of the business. Thankfully, Umeeda is a great teacher and is helping me to become more confident in financial management.
 
The future excites me because… 
Umeeda: I have a place to play in improving the environment and the lives of challenged individuals.
Nareena: Hmmm… I would say the future both excites and scares me. I see how much our communities and the natural world are struggling with climate change. I try to focus on what I can control, like lowering my consumption of goods, ensuring Naledo operates sustainably, and trying to inspire others to make a positive impact in our world. 
 
Success to me means…
Umeeda: Finally owning my own home again and seeing my daughter feel secure again.
Nareena: Being able to buy my mom a home and feel financially stable. Small businesses are always competing with the big players, especially in the food industry. I would love to grow Naledo and offer more innovative products while creating more positive impact in the communities we work with.
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