I should have started this long ago. In the 8 years that we’ve been in the frankincense business we have discovered so much, met so many people, experienced countless highs and lows, traveled the world, changed our lives, changed other people’s lives…so now where do I begin? I guess the most logical place is at the beginning.
When my husband Mahdi and I decided to start a business selling frankincense resin as incense, our goal was to do something that would help Somaliland and allow us to give back to the people there. Mahdi came to Montreal as a refugee in 1988. He left his parents and beloved country behind because his parents wanted a better life for him and his brothers. At the start of the civil war between northern and southern Somalia, they scrounged up just enough money to send Mahdi and his brothers out of the country to safety. Mahdi wanted to stay behind and fight for his country, but his parents would have none of it, and he reluctantly began his journey to a foreign land.
Mahdi worked hard, put himself through college, and eventually ended up in Portland, Maine, where we met. Although at that point he had been in North America for 10 years, the sense of obligation to his country was as strong as ever. He had a keen awareness of the opportunities that he was afforded, which his fellow Somalis who stayed behind were not. That was (and still is) his driving force for starting his own business–a business that had ties to Somaliland and would be profitable enough for him to invest back into his country.
And so, with the first kilo of resin that his mother sent him from Hargeisa, we began a business. At first, we figured we would sell frankincense resin as incense. That’s really all we knew of its use at the time. But upon further research, we realized that frankincense was actually a popular essential oil–and so it began. We purchased a small still and began experimenting with making the essential oil.
The smell of the oil was heavenly when we got it right…and not so much when we got it wrong. Distillation is a science as much as it is an art, and through trial and error, we were creating this amazing essential oil, perfecting the clarity and scent with tweaks to water volume, amount of resin, and temperature each time. After 8 years of distilling frankincense, we’ve gotten quite good at it, as one can imagine.
So in a nutshell, that is how it began. But early on, we decided that we had to travel to Somaliland and meet with the harvesters to build the relationships vital to the success of our business model. More on that in my next post…