Conditioned for Success – Dr. Aba Bowles-Mortley

Dr. Aba Bowles-Mortley’s entrepreneurial journey started with those simple but dangerous words, “let’s see how it goes.”

In 1985, Aba’s mother, Cheryl, gave up her executive job at Nestlé and put her chemistry knowledge to work creating a line of cosmetics in her home country of Trinidad and Tobago. The line would be named, Cher-Mère.

In 1998, Aba moved to Kingston to complete an undergraduate degree at Queen’s University. She later completed both a master’s degree and a PhD in materials and chemical engineering at Royal Military College.

After her studies were complete, and a brief teaching stint, Aba decided to bring the family business to Kingston and to Canada.

“I am proud of the products, which work well and have been successful for more than 35 years in Trinidad,” she said. “I didn’t want Cher-Mère to end with me and a few friends encouraged me to take it on and so here we are, seven years later.”

Shortly after graduating, Aba opened the first Kingston spa location for Cher-Mère Canada and began selling cosmetics. She added another Kingston location in 2018.

Aba is also the Assistant General Manager for her mother’s company, supporting the five Cher-Mère spas back in Trinidad and regularly seeks new opportunities to expand Cher-Mère internationally.

“We plan to start selling our cosmetic products online and we are investigating opening spas in other Caribbean and African countries,” she said.

“We are also looking at manufacturing the cosmetics here to meet demand and possibly opening new stores, kiosks, or spas elsewhere in Canada.”

Underpinning Aba’s success is her community-focused approach. She enjoys meeting people through her business and wants clients to feel like they have a relationship with Cher-Mère and its employees.

Leading her own business has afforded her several leadership opportunities within the community, such as the chair role on the Tourism Kingston Board of Directors and a co-chair spot on the Queen’s University Council on Anti-Racism and Equity. She has also volunteered at Youth Diversion for the past 20 years.

“I think that it is important to be an active member in the community,” Aba said. “I think that every individual can be responsible for making changes within their communities through activism whether it be by volunteering your time or serving on boards to help make decisions that have a greater impact on the community as a whole.”

Aba values the opportunity to give back to the community through her spas. Cher-Mère has fundraised for the Heart and Stroke Foundation, Youth Diversion and for causes such as breast cancer awareness.

These volunteer and philanthropic activities, coupled with Aba’s people-centric approach, helped her develop the network that supported her success in Kingston.

“I grew a base of people who knew who I was before I started,” she said. “There has to be some backing behind your great idea to help you validate that this is the right business. And, as every immigrant does, you need to work hard at it!”

When she’s not in the spa, on a business call with her mother, volunteering, or at a board meeting, Aba spends time with her four children and her husband, who is also an entrepreneur.

“I’d like to be here for many years and continue my family business, if my kids choose to do so,” she said. “I continue to seek new opportunities to learn, meet new people and support important causes in Kingston and beyond.”