Portrait Bella Oden, researcher and entrepreneur
The promoter of Bellomar, a small chemical transformation company based in Douala, believes in research and development … His passion for chemistry and his uninterrupted research work have earned him the solicitation of many companies to support them in their projects. Forbes Africa is interested in his career and his projects.
Bellomar was born in 2002 in Cameroon in the form of a Common Initiative Group (GIC), a group of students eager to enter working life and tempted by the entrepreneurial adventure. The small community bet its own funds. A few parents gave their support, and even neighborhood leaders supported the initiative by providing a place. The group begins manufacturing soap, detergents, cleaning products and essential oils. Under the leadership of Martial Bella Oden, the activity of GIC Bellomar turns into a practical exercise in applying chemistry lessons to soap making. The team creates its own formulations: “When you are an industrialist and you buy a production line of 2 billion CFA francs, your supplier delivers the devices to you with his manufacturing recipes, but when you start with small means you have to create your own manufacturing formulas, ”says Oden Bella. Today Bellomar boasts 15 years of experience in research and development and dozens of patentable formulas in the field of industrial chemistry.
The company makes essential oils from orange peels, produces bleach and detergents delivered to hotels, hospitals and laundries. Instead of buying them systematically, he designs machines when they are lacking. For example in 2014, he developed a small device allowing him to extract essential oils from certain plants. He was able to develop this device, which he botched “hydrodistillator”, thanks to a Moroccan investor who advanced him 1,500 euros, around 1 million CFA francs. However, the means are lacking to patent these processes and inventions.
Funding that goes wrong
The GIC obtained real financial support from 2006. A loan granted by Piaasi (Integrated Support Program for Actors in the Informal Sector) was followed a few years later in 2010 by a credit of 24 million granted by PAJER- U (Rural and Urban Youth Support Program). But the adventure turns out badly … A little anecdote. During the project selection and review phase, the PAJER-U expert requires the promoter to buy stainless steel tanks, arguing that during a visit by the authorities, plastic tanks would give a bad image. In its request for financing, the promoter nevertheless specified that it needed plastic drums for the chemical reactions. Stainless steel tanks not only cost more, but they can be damaged by the chemicals that will be stored in them. Faced with the insistence of ministry officials, GIC Bellomar finally gave in and agreed to order metal drums: “We were forced to accept because it is this expert who defined the disbursement plans for the project,” recalls Bella. Oden. A decision that will leave a bitter taste: the chemicals attack the metal and the tanks become unusable due to corrosion. The company loses most of its equipment and all of its production capacity. On the brink of the abyss, the company must both rebuild its equipment and restart production, while bearing the credit charges of $ 24 million.
Sell your know-how
To survive the crisis, Bella Oden embarks on training activities. Failing to sell its cleaning products, it organizes itself to sell its know-how. His company operates in Cameroon and in various countries to advise structures wishing to engage in transformation activities. In Cameroon he accompanied Biocaris and Phytorica who produce organic soaps. In Chad he helped Sahela start his production of bleach. He is currently working with Djibia SARL on the creation of an oil mill. In Burkina Faso he hired his services from Zorome who makes soap from coconut and shea oil. In 2015 Bella Oden was called upon in Guinea in the midst of the Ebola epidemic. He comes to help a local structure, Tinkisso Antenna, to set up a factory to manufacture chlorinated water solutions. He is flying to Conakry. The production of the small NGO goes from the artisanal stage to several hundred thousand liters per month. The structure employs 120 people and has started manufacturing other products.
An e-learning platform
Bella Oden is currently working on setting up an e-learning platform. The platform will train the initiators in sectors such as chemicals or agro-food and also waste recovery. Bellomar hopes to support 30,000 people each year. Develop the bleach production chain and create a training center in the field of soaps and detergents and create a national diploma in this field.