A Zimbabwe-born father of four who settled in the West Midlands has won £300,000 worth of orders for his homemade shampoo and skin oil.
And that could be just the tip of the iceberg for 45-year-old Wellington Chaparadza, who arrived in this country in 2002 and had been unemployed for years.
He also has kitchen and bathroom cleaners waiting to go on sale, which are biodegradable and 100 per cent green, with plans to mass produce soap made with goats milk.
Chaparadza, from Wolverhampton, was brought up by his grandmother and has her to thank for the astonishing success story.
He won a scholarship for underprivileged children run by the Zimbabwean President’s wife, which allowed him to study in Cuba, Russia and the UK and saw him start a chemistry PhD at Keele University, which could not be finished through lack of funds.
Down on his luck, he recalled seeing his grandmother use Maheu – a natural non-alcoholic drink made through the fermentation of maize and popular in Southern Africa – to clean pots and pans.
He decided to use his chemistry skills to investigate the phenomenon.
He used some of its contents, such as lactic acid, and added others while developing a personalised fermentation process in a bid to develop environmentally friendly natural shampoos, soaps and cleaning products.
Chaparadza mixed a string of different formulae at home before accidentally hitting the jackpot by spilling some of the latest concoction onto the kitchen floor.
When he wiped it away he realised the dirt had disappeared with it. He recalled: “It was trial and error. From that moment I knew that I had cracked it but had no business experience.”
He contacted Wolverhampton-based employment and skills charity Access to Business.
Their advisors gave him assistance on development, branding, marketing and dealing with distributors.
They introduced him to Jay Patel from Wolverhampton Growth Hub, which is supported by the city council and Wolverhampton University.
He helped with product trial runs, pricing structures and marketing strategy, while also helping him to find a unit on the Sunbeam Industrial Estate under the BC AIM Project and will now assist Wellington apply for a Black Country Gold grant to mechanise the plant.
Patel said: “He was using natural materials and once he dipped a dirty coin in the solution and it came out shiny clean I knew he was onto something big.
“Once he starts getting regular orders he can begin taking people on.”
Councillor John Reynolds, Wolverhampton council cabinet member for economy, said: “We are extremely proud of Wellington.
“With continued support from advisors he received two huge orders from major London distributors who now want his products in London and other European stores. Another great business achievement for Wolverhampton.”
Wellington, who lives in Ettingshall, said: “It has been hard for the past few years but now I am very happy. They have all been very helpful. Without them this would have been a dream lost.”