Opportunities Business Best for 2007

For some entrepreneurs, hanging out a shingle marks an opportunity to build wealth or live out a lifelong dream. But for Osyris Uqoezwa, starting The Raw Choice, an innovative lifestyle management company that promotes natural and healthy living through organic products and performance-enhancing workshops, has meant something entirely different.

“When my wife, Mweia, and I founded the company, it was based on my personal life and the transformations that I made. I was 320 pounds and I tried a lot of different things to lose weight. I was a vegetarian for 13 years, but the weight never went down because I was making unhealthy choices,” Uqoezwa says. “So we came up with The Raw Choice as a reminder of the power in all people to make better dietary choices, but also to inspire, support, and educate them in lifestyle changes that they can make on a day-to-day basis.”

Uqoezwa, 29, did his research on health and nutrition and became completely dedicated to living an organic lifestyle. As a result, he lost 120 pounds in seven months. In 2003, he left a position as vice president of business development at Excel Personal Development and started The Raw Choice.

Using $160,000 in personal savings, Uqoezwa began holding one-on-one classes and small workshops to teach people about making healthier lifestyle choices. He also introduced three organic products: Natural Regenerating Green, a green food supplement product, Agave Nectar, an all-natural organic sweetener extracted from the Salmiana Agave Cactus plant found in South America, and Himalayan Crystal Salt, imported from the Himalayan Mountains.

Today, the 10-employee company has an estimated $1.2 million in revenues for 2006 and 18 products, including Tibetan Gogi Berries, Monukka Raisins, Turkish Mulberries, and Peruvian Raw Chocolate. The products, which range in price from $5.99 to $17.99, are all certified organic and imported. They are sold in more than 1,000 retail stores nationwide, including Whole Foods and Wild Oats, and on the company’s Website (www.TheRaw Choice.com). “The size and diversity of the market is bigger than ever before, so the opportunity to go into multiple markets is greater,” says Uqoezwa. But one of the biggest challenges has been importing product. Sometimes it takes six months to bring a product to the marketplace.

Uqoezwa is capitalizing on a strong health and wellness industry that is emerging as one of the hottest sectors for business opportunities in 2007. Today, a growing number of health-conscious consumers are making smarter food choices and discovering that proper diets will lead to happier and healthier lives. “The outlook for our business and the industry as a whole is definitely positive,” says Uqoezwa. “As we approach 2007 and begin to look beyond that, we see that people are more aware that a change is needed now if we want to enjoy better health in years to come.”

The Raw Choice is positioned for growth in one of five sectors that BLACK ENTERPRISE has pinpointed as the most promising industries for 2007. These categories are all poised for fast growth due to high demand