"It was like I’d given her the keys to her own home."
Social entrepreneur Sophie Amono, the founder of ethical skincare social enterprise PERF, is recounting a moment where she saw skincare transform a homeless person’s life, on the new episode of the Pioneering People podcast.
In search of a sense of community and connection to others, Sophie began volunteering in a homeless shelter in London. She recalls how when she gave a homeless woman some lip balm, ‘it was like I’d given her the keys to her own home".
After moving to Scotland and taking up a volunteer position at the charity Streetworks Sophie started skincare workshops, making organic sun creams and winter balms.
“When you are in the most vulnerable moments of your life, the first thing to go is self care because you go into survival mode," she says.
"I think for people who are facing homelessness, having something they can put on themselves, that feeling of, 'I do deserve to feel great' can often be a trigger that makes them feel like they can escape whatever circumstances they’re in.”
Listen to the episode:
With encouragement and support from Streetwork, Sophie set up the vegan and cruelty-free beauty brand PERF in 2018.
The slogan of ‘go bananas babe’ inspired her first product range, made of 100% organic banana powder. All products are handmade in Scotland using organic plant based ingredients, and with each product sold a proportion of profits goes back to charities that help to support homelessness.
When asked what makes her business different from other beauty brands, she says: “They usually lack that community driven part of it. It’s usually around corporate social responsibility and it’s not embedded in every aspect of what they do.
"The social enterprise centres around this idea of doing workshops with homeless people to give them a greater sense of self confidence and skills and hopefully in time a qualification to get meaningful employment.”
She also shares the moment where she felt the significance of being a black business owner operating in Scotland, when a young black woman reached out to her on social media.
“What it meant to hear that someone has seen me, as a black woman running a business, and it inspired her to now think about her future career path...
"It’s nothing that I ever imagined going into this business world to do but now I see it as a wonderful gift, that a black girl can look up and think one day I can run my own business. I can do that. It breaks down the barriers.”
As for the future, Sophie is planning to study a Masters in Sustainable Food Development and Global Production to make PERF a self-sufficient ecosystem that grows the product in Uganda and holds skincare workshops in places like Atlanta, USA as well as Glasgow and Edinburgh.