In by Sheela Sharma

If you’ve not yet heard of argan oil, then Dana Elemara’s company Arganic is working to make sure that you soon will. Argan oil is made from the fruit of the Argan tree and has been used in Morocco since time immemorial, especially by the Berber people. In modern times it’s used both as a cooking oil and in the preparation of cosmetic products.

After a successful internship at Goldman Sachs while she was studying maths at King’s College London, Dana was offered a job there when she graduated. “I worked there for a year to fulfil my contract with them,” says Dana, “but after the year was up I resigned. I got lots of incredibly valuable experience there, but the corporate life was not for me. There were too many rules and I found it a bit claustrophobic, with little room for creativity.

“I wanted to have my own business and to actually make an impact. The idea of a business based on argan oil came from my own family – I had relatives who had told me about it and its special qualities.

“Obviously I needed some money to get started so I worked in sales at Hamleys toy shop and managed to save £5,000. I realised that I knew next to nothing about how to run an import and export business, or indeed about the everyday running of any small business. In 2011 I contacted the Portobello Business Centre, and Colin Rutt was assigned as my business advisor.

“Colin was incredibly helpful right from the start. His first advice was to have faith in myself. I had been thinking of looking for a business partner, but he encouraged me to go it alone, which I’ve never regretted.

“He told me to slow down, to set myself achievable goals. He gave me incredibly practical help with all the mundane but essential things that you need to get right in a successful business. He also really helped me to clarify the direction I wanted to go in.

“I launched the business in January 2012, and we’ve been going from strength to strength. I’ve now visited Morocco several times and have secured a top-quality supplier. That was made easier for me because although I was born and bred a Londoner my parents are Iraqi and I speak Arabic. Now I’ve got an exclusive supply deal with a company that I consider to be the best producers in Morocco.

About half the business is now wholesale to cosmetics producers and the other half is producing oil for the retail market with outlets such as Selfridges.

“I want to make Arganic the market leaders in argan oil,” adds Dana, “and along the way I want to promote healthy, natural eating and ethical business. The Portobello Business Centre has played a key part in what I’ve achieved so far and I’m sure they’ll continue to provide excellent support as the business grows.”

Arganic website: