Woman's Gold - Eu'Genia Shea Butter Magic
September Set recently chatted with, co-founder of Eu’Genia Shea, Naa-Sakle, a family-run social enterprise dedicated to all natural premium shea butter moisturizers, to discuss this wonderful product that is so useful during these winter months (we use it daily!) and how Naa-Sakle continues her mother’s work in the shea industry in Ghana, having created a thriving business based out of Brooklyn, NYC. We love this product and the mission driven philosophy Eu’Genia practices for the Ghanaian women who produce what is affectionately known as “Woman’s Gold.”
SS: Naa-Sakle, tell us about how you started Eu’Genia Shea.
Naa-Sakle: My mom worked in the shea butter industry in Ghana for 15 years, advising presidents on shea, which is traditionally produced by women and is everywhere in the country. When she became ill with cancer, she couldn’t run the business and I stepped in. We founded Eu’Genia in 2014 together.
SS: So, you went from working in finance to entrepreneurship. Discuss how you made this transition and why a social enterprise dedicated business was important to establish.
Naa-Sakle: Yes, in 2012 I toyed with the idea of a company producing shea because it’s a popular product but most products containing shea don’t contain enough shea to be beneficial. But life happened, and I continued my journey in finance until my mom became ill. My mom worked with the women of Northern Ghana to produce shea butter for years and we wanted to elevate them through the business and give more than a living wage. Many of the women producers have children and don’t have husbands so life is hard for them. Eu’Genia donates 15% of its profits to provide an education fund for their children for school fees, uniforms, books, etc., as well as provide health care and retirement funding. The impact has been close to $1mm over the past few years since the company was established and it’s been great to give back to these women and their families.
SS: How do the women react to the product they produce?
Naa-Sakle: I have showed the women the finished product in its sturdy packaging and it is an empowering experience for them. They see the worth of their labor and are proud of their contributions.
SS: Talk a bit about the history of “Woman’s Gold” in Ghana and Africa, in general.
Naa-Sakle: Producing shea butter is traditionally what many women have done in Ghana throughout history. Shea butter has been seen as a base commodity for a long time and it’s not a fair representation of this African product with so many uses and benefits. Production quality of shea butter is usually also not the best. Through Eu’Genia, I’m excited to show people that high quality shea butter is worth it’s wait in gold.
SS: Tell us about the many uses of shea butter, especially during the cold, winter months.
Naa-Sakle: Shea butter is part moisturizer, part healer and is used for everything, from skin care to cooking. It’s rich in vitamins A, E, F and K. Many clients of Eu’Genia post on the blog how they use the shea butter and its great to see it being used for things like a make-up primer or a deep hair conditioner or to alleviate eczema. And of course, it has been the best kept midwifery secret in Ghana and Africa alike for ages, helping prevent stretch marks and providing healing after giving birth.
SS: You are educating us on just how versatile shea butter is! What sets Eu’Genia apart in shea production to make the shea butter so smooth and never grainy like other shea butters.
Naa-Sakle: During the transportation process from Ghana to the US or other countries, shea butter becomes grainy when it melts and then cools. Eu’Genia ensures this process is done properly so the end product is smooth and not grainy.
SS: That’s the key! What’s next for Eu’Genia Shea?
Naa-Sakle: I am planning to launch a less expensive brand of products that will contain less shea butter to allow for lower costs but the same standard of quality. Soaps and shampoos are also in the mix for the near future.
SS: Can’t wait to try these products! Having grown up in the US, how has the business allowed you to reconnect with Ghana and other African entrepreneurs?
Naa-Sakle: It’s been great to go back and reconnect with Ghana. There is a strong community of African entrepreneurs who share my story of growing up in the US and then starting African-based companies with social missions and I have enjoyed connecting with many of my counterparts.
SS: How is your mom’s health now and what does she think about the business?
Naa-Sakle: My mom is doing well, and she has been very excited about the business and its growth. Both of my parents are back in Ghana now, so, traveling back and forth has been great in terms of spending time with them as well.
SS: Lastly, for budding entrepreneurs, what advice would you give about starting a business?
Naa-Sakle: I would encourage new entrepreneurs to always ask for help and not feel intimidated by asking. Also, to trust your gut and don’t sacrifice things your heart tells you not to sacrifice because you are getting external pressure.
SS: Words to live by!
Eu’Genia Shea products can be found at the following sites:
www.anthropologie.com and in your local Anthropologie stores
*This piece was the result of a phone conversation and not a transcript.