Eu'Genia Sheaand now sister-company Mother’s Shea prove that business can be socially responsible—and successful.
By Catherine Risling
When Naa-Sakle Akuete was studying at Wellesley College, she had a never-ending supply of shea butter. Not because she wanted it; her mom manufactured and sold the product.
Little did she know that one day she’d trade in her MBA and Wall Street career to live and breathe this moisturizer. And improve the lives of women in West Africa.
Naa-Sakle’s parents hailed from Ghana while she was born and raised in Maryland. Mom Eugenia had started a wholesale business when she saw a need for turning shea nuts in her native country into shea butter to sell globally—at a fair price.
Eugenia had no experience in manufacturing or sales, just like Naa-Sakle years later. But like her mom, Naa-Sakle jumped in and figured it out.
Before that point, Naa-Sakle enjoyed a lucrative career in finance. Then her mom got sick. Naa-Sakle gave up her job and took over her mom’s business.
That was five years ago. Naa-Sakle has since started Eu’Genia Sheaand she’s happier than ever. Eugenia is cancer-free. The company employs about 50 Ghanaian women full time and provides them with much-needed financial and healthcare education.
“One of the things I realized in business school was that I was not familiar with how social enterprises work in a practical way,” says Naa-Sakle, 32. “Today, I understand that you can have a business that makes a profit and is socially responsible. It has created an awakening in me.”
Eu’Genia Sheahas been featured nationally, from Vogue to Business Insider. Tory Burch Foundation selected the company as a Seed Box entrepreneur, a curated selection of products designed to empower women business owners. Retailers Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters carry the brand.
Then the email from Target dropped.
“I am proud to say (retail offshoot) Mother’s Shea is now in 900 Target stores nationally at an accessible price,” says Naa-Sakle, referring to the beautifully packaged 2 oz. tins of shea butter. “My mom started with 150 pickers and manufactured 60 tons of shea butter; today we have 7,500 pickers and manufacture 200 to 300 tons a year and a growing retail business.”
Family-owned and New York-based Eu’Genia Sheais one of the largest manufacturers of unrefined shea products in the world. Its retail and wholesale products boast 80 percent pure shea butter. The company stands by its promise to provide fair wages and opportunities to women in Ghana and also donates 15 percent of its profits to an educational fund for them.
And at the heart of the business is one of the healthiest, all-natural solutions for dry skin.
Referencing the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” Naa-Sakle says, “My mom approaches shea butter like Windex—it’s a cure for everything.”
For our February Giveaway we've combined the goodness of sweet, sensual, and sustainable! One lucky winner will receive this cute 4-piece tin gift set of Eu'Genia multi-purpose shea butter moisturizing balm along with a 5-pack of our LooHoo Wool Dryer Balls with reusable cloth bag.