August 31, 2022

Milk goats and soaps

Me Sovu Supporting Female Goat Farmers

From her garage-turned-lab, entrepreneur Beatrice Nast is creating Fiji’s first soap made from pure goat milk.

The current president of the Society of Fiji Travel Associates, Nast has worn many hats during her tourism and entrepreneurial journey. 

Prior to COVID, she was visiting Natabe Retreat in the Yasawas when she had an epiphany. Already a successful businesswoman, she was swimming in the lagoon: “I was thinking where to go next in my life. I wanted to do something for myself, and I always liked to be creative.”

Gazing across to Tavewa island, Nast says she saw a sign. “When I looked up, I saw the silhouettes of some wild goats walking up the mountain path. And then, I’m like, here we go, goat milk soap! This is what you wanted to do, so just give it a go!” 

A visiting American friend had earlier gifted her goat milk soap and Nast says she thought at that time, she would someday try making similar soaps herself.

When Fijians think of goats, generally we reach for the masala. Many farmers breed goats, however they are mostly meat goats, destined for the curry pot. Milk goats are a different breed, says Nast. 

That became her biggest challenge. “I had big hurdles to climb,” she said. However, a visit to the Fiji Ministry of Agriculture proved serendipitous.

Nast said, “I met a lovely lady there and she said, “God must have sent you!” The officer was charged with overseeing goat farmers and had been counting goat stocks around the country for the last two years. “I’m being told to look after the goat farmers and your project just fits in so well,” the officer told Nast. “’[In] this section, we’re now starting to get funds from the ministry to build breeding stations and feeding stations and support the farmers with shade, fencing and water in the dry season.’

“So, I figured, that’s where my product comes in… at the breeding station,” says Nast. 

Initially her enthusiasm was not matched by goat farmers. Then a female goat farmer approached Nast and said, ‘Beatrice, I can supply the goat milk.’ 

“I thought, why didn’t I think of this before? The females, of course,” Nast said. Quickly approaching a couple of other women farmers, Nast says the supply of goat milk started to flow immediately.

Me Sovu sources milk from three female goat farmers, who Nast says, understood what she was trying to do, and have stepped up to the challenge. 

 “We also partnered with the Fiji Ministry of Agriculture to bring in milk goats into the country. They have tested the two goat breeds for over one year on their farms, and they’ve been good so far.

“Two of the female goat farmers are currently changing their herds from meat goats to milk goats, which is amazing. Eight weeks ago, our first Fiji milk goat baby was born. So that’s a milestone.”

Nast seeks to build a sustainable business and Me Sovu has been certified as 100% Fiji made. “The goat milk soap is organic as everything is from Fiji, even the packaging which is made out of craft paper and green ink, hence no carbon footprint.” 

Me Sovu currently has four varieties of goat milk soaps in different sizes: original, spearmint, sea minerals, and green tea and lemongrass. The soap is now stocked at local boutiques and high-end resorts around Fiji including Natabe Retreat, where it all began. It has also been included in corporate gift bags and sourced for wedding favours.

“I’m just going to proceed, slowly but steadily,” Nast says.

She says the feedback has been good, including from people using Me Sovu to treat eczema and other skin irritations. 

“We are spreading slowly to the tourists and the farmers are happy, they’re already working on other products, for example goat milk cheese. This basically has a snowball effect and more people in the rural areas are getting employed. It’s really amazing to see a new industry branch evolving.”

Nast invested her own funds and secured a US$5000 grant from the Global Green Growth Institute’s Greenpreneurs program, which she said she used to trademark her company and buy equipment which was donated to the goat farm. She says soap is just the beginning.

“Me Sovu cult, that’s what I call it,” Nast said proudly as she explained that she is already working on other merchandise. Me Sovu recently launched its first piece of jewellery, a stainless-steel ring, handmade by a metal designer in a little workshop in Sovi Bay.

“I’m very proud of the rings. People like it too, they buy it on the market, especially people from Kadavu,” she laughs. 

Nast hopes in ten years’ time, her daughter will take over the business. “I see Me Sovu growing every day and hopefully, the lab/garage will expend somewhere in a warehouse or in a new production building and then go into export so we can see Me Sovu on the world map.”

“It’s a product that fits the time,” Nast says. “I just think the product ticks every box right now. It supports women, COVID hand washing, 100% Fijian, and organic. I’m very happy that it took that turn, especially to help and support a lot of people.”

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