We have previously covered the Leakey Collection’s Marula Oil on SocialBusiness.org, so we were delighted to chat with co-founder Dr. Ashton Kaidi, who partnered with Philip and Katy Leakey in 2009, on the innovative product, its social benefits and where he seeks inspiration.
Inspired by the healing potential of Marula Oil after seeing its affect on his own patients, many of whom had undergone treatment for breast cancer, Dr. Kaidi collaborated with the Leakey’s to market a product that also benefits the lives of those living in East Africa.
1. How did the idea for the business model come about?
I met Philip and Katy Leakey in 2009 and felt an immediate connection. They are very compassionate people and have done some great things to improve the lives of people in East Africa. After hearing their stories of the potential healing effects of Marula Oil, I undertook a clinical study to evaluate its use in treating traumatized skin.
We sent the oil for ORAC testing which revealed that Marula Oil contains higher levels of Oleic, Palmitic and Stearic fatty acids critical for rapid skin absorbency, skin hydration and moisture retention. It traps moisture and provides prolonged hydration, penetrating quickly without leaving a residue or greasy feeling. The oil also contains high levels of important antioxidants including, tocopherol (vitamin E), tochotrienol, phenolic compounds and flavinoids.
I decided to further study the oil because I felt it could help a lot of women here, as well as families in East Africa. I do many surgeries for breast reconstruction on post mastectomy breast cancer patients. Many of them undergo post radiation therapy which exposes them to ultra violet radiation to irradicate any cancer cells left after surgery. This treatment leads to inflammation and free radical skin damage. I undertook a 24 patient clinical study to determine the efficacy of Marula Oil in treating damaged skin following radiation therapy for breast cancer. Patients were divided into 2 treatment groups. Patients in group 1 were instructed to apply the Marula Oil to affected skin twice daily for skin healing, while group 2 patients were instructed to apply a skin moisturizer. The patients were examined weekly for 6 weeks. The Marula Oil treated group had a more rapid resolution of erythema and edema. Patients described Marula Oil as soothing and fast absorbing.
The results were impressive to say the least, and it became apparent to me that Marula Oil was deserving of better recognition. For this reason, I collaborated with the Leakeys to make Marula Oil more widely available.
2. How did you decide to join this sector?
I believe you don’t have to choose to be one or the other, you can incorporate both no matter who you are and what you choose to do as a profession. I was touched and felt a connection to what the Leakey’s were doing in East Africa. I am a plastic surgeon. The word "plastic" derives from the Greek plastikos, and means literally "to change or mold." I carry this into my daily life, and hope to change the lives of others for the better, be it through my work as a physician.
3. How do you get your inspiration?
The testimonials of the women we are helping and furthering the awareness about the oil. Breast cancer is a very traumatic experience for a woman and the healing process is long. The women I treat and their courage is inspiration and their words make all this hard work worthwhile.
4. How do you reset yourself to be creative? Do you have any rituals?
As a kid growing up during the space age, I was naturally fascinated with astronomy and rocketry; the moon landing filled my imagination with an insatiable desire to become involved in the field. I am also an astrophotographer and spend many evenings imaging the night sky. I find this very relaxing.
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