Meet Nicole Sherwin, a serial entrepreneur on a mission to ignite a transformative wave of positive change. As the driving force behind Eco Diva Natural Superfood Skincare and a partner in the innovative Danish furniture brand, SOFACOMPANY SA, alongside her brother Jonno Sherwin, Nicole’s remarkable journey is a testament to her unwavering commitment to fostering genuine transformation.
Nicole’s upbringing, split between the varied landscapes of South Africa, England and the USA, and her diverse career path, reflect her belief that one can break free from preconceived notions of a single career and 9-5 rut and become one’s truest self by pursuing one’s passions. She has repeatedly demonstrated that when you follow your heart’s desires and find your bliss, you can manifest a life brimming with joy, inspiration, passion and purpose.
Twelve years ago, Nicole embarked on an audacious venture, simultaneously launching two businesses from scratch. Armed with nothing but her determination, will to success and creativity, she launched these brands with zero start-up capital. Today, both businesses are thriving and she continues to make waves in both the clean skincare and furniture industries, a testament to her unwavering entrepreneurial spirit.
Nicole’s family history adds an intriguing layer to her story. Her maternal grandfather was a founding member of Adcock Ingram pharmaceuticals (bought over by Tiger Brands) and the original co-creator of the much-loved Ingrams Camphor cream. Additionally, she is the daughter of renowned holistic practitioner, Dr. Philip Sherwin, who received royal recognition from King Charles (now Prince Charles) in England for his alternative healing practices.
We recently chatted with Nicole to delve into her businesses, her work-life balance, her passions, and her secret to thriving amidst it all. But first, let’s take a closer look at her remarkable journey.
You might recall Nicole from her distinct presence on SA TV screens back in 2011 when she graced the SABC 3 Expresso Show as the cosmetic chef ‘Eco Diva’ every Thursday morning. Nicole hosted the DIY segment, crafting over 85 natural home recipes for skincare, haircare, baby care, pet care, and home cleaning products. Viewers were captivated and began requesting personalized products, sparking her continuous innovation.
Nicole has a passion for writing and also made her mark as the editor of ‘Simply Green’ magazine, where she fervently championed environmental awareness, new eco innovations and helped to shine the light on global warming issues.
Notably, she hosted the Gigaton Awards at COP17 in Durban in 2011, alongside Costa Rican President José María Figueres. The Gigaton Awards recognized large industries making substantial strides in reducing carbon emissions on a gigaton scale.
Nicole spent 6 years living and working in Los Angeles in the entertainment industry between 2005-2010 where she was invited by James Cameron and his production team for “Avatar” to green (carbon-neutralize) the film’s launch in Hollywood.
While living in L.A she founded and introduced the world to the first-ever carbon-neutral expo, “The Green Lounge Experience,” an eco-luxury event held in both Los Angeles and New York that attracted many A-list Hollywood celebrities as well as the Environmental Media Association that help to create environmental awareness in TV and films.
Nicole’s early education after school was crafted at the prestigious Laine Theatre Arts, a performing arts Academy near London where she garnered a batchelor of arts degree. One of her big loves and passion in life is acting and choreography that she still dabbles in today. She has a small upcoming role in the new Hollywood feature film G20 starring Viola Davis. You may remember Nicole from her other film roles co-starring alongside Luke Goss in the 2001 feature film “Charlie,” which explored the lives of London’s East-end gangsters. Her screen credits also include roles in “The Da Vinci Treasure,” with “C. Thomas Howel, Homeland with Claire Danes and “Safe House“ starring Ryan Reynolds and Denzel Washington, as well as tv series “Tropical Heat – Sweating Bullets,” filmed in 1993 that re-introduced Nicole back to South African shores (Cape Town) which she chose to make her permanent home.
In 1997 Nicole launched her South African entertainment production company Impact! Entertainment, that saw her producing, choreographing and directing the Rugby World 7s and Stormers on-field entertainment, the relaunch of the Blue Train with Nelson Mandela and Naomi Campbell, the eTV launch and numerous African entertainment extravaganzas.
As the years progressed, so did Nicole’s interests and passions and today, they revolve around promoting awareness for health and safety in personal care products, environmental care, animal welfare, and, most importantly, self-care—an area many tend to overlook.
Q: Launching not just one, but two distinct businesses simultaneously must have been quite the challenge. Can you share your experience?
N: Twelve years ago, I had just completed a two-year stint as the editor of “Simply Green” magazine while also being busy on the Expresso Show. My involvement with Expresso led to the creation of over 85 non-toxic, natural recipes for viewers to replicate at home, prompting an overwhelming demand. I had also recently recovered from serious toxic metal poisoning caused by mixing and matching too many skincare, makeup and personal care products. The poisoning was not only physically debilitating, but produced severe imbalances in my skin, hosting a toxic mess of adult acne, pigmentation and rosacea. With the realisation that the skin is the largest organ of the body that absorbs everything that is applied to it, it, I began creating recipes using 100% plant-based healing ingredients instead of synthetic ingredients. The healing and recover were so remarkable and actually very quick, that it inspired me to embark on the journey of formulating, manufacturing, and launching a clean, non-toxic, environmentally friendly and beauty without cruelty brand Eco Diva Natural Superfood Skincare in 2015 so that others could heal their skin too.
Around the same time, my brother approached me to partner with him in launching a stylish Danish furniture brand. Despite my total lack of experience in the industry, I took up the challenge, and it wasn’t just about managing two vastly different businesses; there was also the challenge of starting with no capital. I had to strategize meticulously to avoid burnout.
Q: How did you manage to launch these businesses without any startup funding?
N: It was undeniably tough. For SOFACOMPANY.com, we struck a deal with a Danish factory, securing a 20ft container of exquisite couches and armchairs with 90-day payment terms. I worked tirelessly to ensure that we sold out of everything within that timeframe. At that point, we didn’t even have a website; I listed the items on Facebook and shared an office with another business, adorning the walls with photocopies of our furniture range. It was quite an unconventional online setup, and makes me smile when I think back on the madness of it all.
I began by created a business profile page on Facebook, where I posted the furniture pieces for sale. Thankfully, we completely sold out of all the stunning SOFACOMPANY furniture, and with the profit, we reinvested in a larger 40ft container. Back then, Facebook advertising was a burgeoning frontier; you could boost a post for a mere R200 and generate up to R100,000 in furniture sales. That was proper ROAS. It was exhilarating, although algorithms have drastically evolved since then.
With my modest salary from SOFACOMPANY, I began investing in the development of Eco Diva Natural products, carefully planning budgets to accommodate each stage of the skincare startup methodically.
Q: What skills do you believe are essential for launching a business without startup funding?
N: I think one needs to be a versatile jack-of-all-trades and be open to learning new skills that will push you to your limits. When the going gets tough, you need to have the willpower and resilience to persevere. I had to acquire various skills, from handling business documentation, VAT, and website development to understanding bookkeeping, accounting, marketing, social media management, brand development, stock control, and import-export procedures. Then it helps to find unconventional ways to create brand awareness through PR, advertising, social engagement, and event planning, those are all vital. I had to oversee staff, manage monthly expenses, budget effectively, and, above all, make a profit. These skills were entirely foreign to me at the age of 45, as my prior career was focused in the entertainment industry. It required a shift in perspective and a willingness to embrace new challenges.
Q: With your background encompassing both the pharmaceutical industry and natural healing, it seems you lean towards the natural healing side of life. What drives this passion?
N: I’ve personally experienced the true healing power of nature and plant medicine, thanks to my upbringing with my father. I have a keen interest in alternative medicine, reiki, reflexology and gut health. The brain-gut alignment is vital to overall health.
In today’s world, there’s an overwhelming emphasis on synthetic solutions in medicine, skincare, and personal care, as well as food filled with growth hormones, addictive refined sugar, artificial additives, and inhumane treatment of animals. This has led to a pandemic of health issues, skin disorders, addictions, and depression. We, as individuals, possess the power to reject mass consumption and take control of our well-being. I find the gentle, kind nature of plant healing to be so profound, so much better for one’s health and something that is incredibly sustainable for animals and the earth that it makes so much more sense to balance these two worlds instead of just choosing one way. My hope is to spread positive change and empower people to heal themselves without harming other living beings and taking care of the earth. My co-host at the Gigaton Awards José María Figueres put it perfectly; “There is no Planet B.”
Q: Can you tell us a bit more about Eco Diva Natural and the ethos and practices behind the business.
N: Eco Diva Natural – Superfood Skincare offers an holistic approach to skin health. With biology smart, functional skincare, gut balance and make-up born in Africa. Every product is manufactured with impeccable organic superfood ingredients that not only creates a radiant complexion, but also provides the skin with the nutrients it needs to self-heal from all skin conditions. I believe the high vitamin, antioxidant & omega count in every product is the key to skin re-balancing, necessary to heal & calm skin irritations like eczema, dermatitis, rosacea and psoriasis, dark marks and pigmentation as well as acne. The primo healing factor is the powerful plant superfoods that re-balances the skin pH, creating a harmonious skin microbiome. Our daily ethos and practice is clean, kind and ethical. Meaning kindness to people, planet and animals. The products are eco friendly, organic, non-toxic, chemical-free, paraben-free, sulphate-free, cruelty-free, vegan, Beauty Without Cruelty Certified and proudly made in South Africa.
Q: Who is the range target for, are the products made in a GMP lab and what makes the range earth-friendly?
N: The Eco Diva Natural range is gender inclusive. For all skin types and all humans. It’s also super safe for pregnancy and for babies and kids because of the gentle, kind, 100% natural ingredients. All products are ocean and river safe too.
Our packaging is either fully biodegradable, (can be thrown onto a compost heap), or recyclable or upcyclable. We never test on animals, only on willing humans. Our ingredients are all impeccable in the harvesting and manufacturing of our products through our GMP, eco-certified laboratory partners.
Q: What’s your secret to living a happy, fulfilled life?
N: For me, at 54, it’s about being mindfully present every moment and consciously choosing joy and passion throughout the day. Staying in a joy-frequency attracts more joy and I really believe it’s the answer to health and happiness. Not allowing annoyances, whether they be people, places, situations or my own impatience to creep in and throw me off balance. They say ‘what you feel you attract’ and I completely agree with that. It’s important for me to imagine and create the ‘feelings’ I want to feel once I’ve decided on a certain goal that I’ve set. Then I only focus on those lovely feelings and let life take care of the details.
I try to lose the clutter, not only in my physical environment but in my head space as well. To be free of the human ‘doing-ness’ of life and embrace a peaceful, kind human being-ness. I also find choosing a state of gratitude to be very powerful as it focuses on the cool things in life instead of the lack. I also find living simply to be one of the biggest joys in life. Tending to my own veggie garden, walking in nature, playing fetch with our scruffy dog Bugs, enjoying great food with friends and most importantly spending quality time with the love of my life Roy and my step-kids Neve and Molly. Those are happy memories being created.