SheaMoisture: A Truly Better Way to Beautiful

Here on the blog, we’ve been fans of SheaMoisture for over 3 years. Until some months ago, I was familiar with the brand’s story after reading it so many times on product labels, but I didn’t think it was a REAL story. You know what I mean?

“Our Story

Sofi Tucker started selling Shea Nuts at the village market in Bonthe, Sierra Leone in 1912. By age 19, the widowed mother of four was selling Shea Butter, African Black Soap and her homemade hair and skin preparations all over the countryside. Sofi Tucker was our Grandmother and SheaMoisture is her legacy. Through Community Commerce you help empower disadvantaged women to realize a brighter, healthier future.”

Even after learning that Sofi Tucker was a real person, meeting actual Sofi Tucker grandchildren who run the business today, and reading about their Community Commerce in Ghana, I just felt, “Oh, that’s nice!”

I still didn’t get it.

Until last week, when I visited 2 communities in Northern Ghana with the SheaMoisture and SheaMoisture Nigeria Teams, Umy- the winner of the Young Sofi Tucker competition, and blogger boo, Tosin of Africanism Cosmopolitan & Naija Naturals.

Shea Moisture Community Commerce Tamale

All the Shea butter used in SheaMoisture products is sourced directly from 15 women’s cooperatives in Northern Ghana. We visited two of them, the Bognayili and Gupanarigu Cooperatives, less than an hour’s drive from the city of Tamale.

Shea Moisture Community Commerce Tamale
Driving through Tamale.

So. SheaMoisture buys the shea it needs to make products from these women in Ghana. Why is this special?

Sure, like any self-respecting business with Shea in its name, SheaMoisture needs to buy Shea butter to make products. Duh.

What matters, what makes the difference, is HOW they do it.

Buying the Shea somehow, anyhow, would satisfy their production needs. From a capitalist standpoint, the market should drive the cost and in this case, it would be too easy for SheaMoisture to buy Shea from these women in vulnerable communities, at little to nothing.

Inspired by their grandmother, the SheaMoisture family IS doing business differently, as corny or cliché as this may sound. They use a Community Commerce business model, where they source their Shea in direct partnership with communities, and this is changing the lives of women who are doing today what Sofi Tucker was doing back then in 1912.

Shea Moisture Community Commerce Tamale
A woman kneading Shea butter. Shea butter kneaded by hand is richer than Shea butter extracted by the use of a machine

How Shea Moisture’s Community Commerce is Impacting Lives

The women used to be at the mercy of middlemen who would refuse to buy their Shea at the offered prices. This was a deliberate tactic, because after holding out until the Shea butter is just about to spoil, the women would eventually be forced to cave in to sell at a ridiculous price, just to get something for their hard work.

Now, under SheaMoisture’s Community Commerce programme, they have eliminated the middlemen. With their partners on the ground, SheaMoisture purchases all their Shea directly from women in 15 cooperatives, at an ethical wage- which is 2 or 3 times more than the price at which their Shea is traded in the market.

They trained the women and continued to train them on best practices to obtain and preserve the Shea butter. Not only is the Shea butter good enough for SheaMoisture, the women are at an advantage because their Shea is also sought after by other buyers, who recognise the good quality.

Shea Moisture Community Commerce Tamale
Best practices for producing Shea Nuts

Shea Moisture Community Commerce Tamale
Best practices for producing Shea butter. These guides are pasted on the wall for everyone to see and follow.
Shea Moisture Community Commerce Tamale
These open spaces are for spreading Shea nuts out to dry.
Shea Moisture Community Commerce Tamale
Roger Mooking would LOVE this! Before, the women would have to boil the Shea over firewood, but now, with this oven, the heat is better contained, wood lasts longer and women can stand close to the oven without feeling uncomfortable
Shea Moisture Community Commerce Tamale
Tosin doing her vlog thing in the room, where dry Shea Nuts are ground with the blue machines

Shea Moisture Community Commerce Tamale

Of course, as big as SheaMoisture is, it cannot buy all the Shea butter in Northern Ghana. If more companies would source their ingredients like this, communities like these would be much better off.

Shea Moisture Community Commerce Tamale

You are a part of the SheaMoisture story

Whenever you buy a SheaMoisture product with the Community Commerce label, know that you are a part of the story, because 10% of the profits gained from the sale of Community Commerce products is donated back to these communities.

Shea Moisture Community Commerce Tamale
Access to clean water used to be a problem, but now the women don’t have to go far to get the water they need in production, thanks to this borehole donated to the community. This is Eric Banye of SNV, one of SheaMoisture’s partners on the ground, giving us a tour.

Honestly, I did not expect our day in Tamale to go as it did. We were warmly welcomed in each community, with song and dance. It was evident that the SheaMoisture Team were not strangers, as they make periodic visits to the communities to see how things are going, and how else they can help.

Shea Moisture Community Commerce Tamale
Greeting the Bognayili Chiefs
Shea Moisture Community Commerce Tamale
SheaMoisture donated mosquito nets to each community, and had doctors show the people how to set them up.

Shea Moisture Community Commerce Tamale

While we were taken round, to see the process of how Shea butter is made, my favourite part was sitting down in each community, and with the aid of translators, listening to the conversations between the SheaMoisture team and the women. The women told us how SheaMoisture’s partnership was changing their lives. They also made sure to talk about their issues.

Shea Moisture Community Commerce Tamale
A Bognayili woman with Emmet Dennis, Chief Community Officer at Sundial Brands (SheaMoisture)

The Bognayili women want to develop a new land at a location closer to the main road, and erect a building with a grinding machine, so that they can expand. Because the roads in their communities are bumpy and untarred, they experience great difficulty in getting their product to the market, especially in the rainy season. They also asked for training, so that they can properly discharge or process the by-products of shea butter production, as they realised that just dumping them was offensive to the environment.

Shea Moisture Community Commerce Tamale
This lady is the highest Shea producer in Gupanarigu Community!

The Gupanarigu women expressed great pride in the fact that they are now business women. While before, they were just making shea butter because that is what they could do, now, they have business sense. They have also developed a savings scheme for the members of their coop, to encourage each woman to save, and not spend all her earnings.

Leading Women!

Truly, truly, empowering a woman is empowering the community. There are 141 families in Bognayili, and 150 members of the cooperative. This means that, each family in the community is impacted by working with SheaMoisture. The women are breadwinners, and they make sure their kids are in school.

Shea Moisture Community Commerce Tamale
School in Bognayili
Shea Moisture Community Commerce Tamale
Joy <3

Most of the men are engaged in agriculture- growing potatoes, yams, but this isn’t as lucrative as selling Shea butter under the Community Commerce model. They are also happy that the women can provide at home. 

Still, There’s So Much More to Do!

There’s a lot of work to be done, of course. One company cannot be everything to a people, and is definitely no substitute for government.

I’m deeply inspired that SheaMoisture is out here, choosing to be driven by something more than dollars and cents.  I love that the brand is not just about providing us consumers with hair, skin and beauty products with cleaner, more natural ingredients (which is great), but that the women at the heart of the production process are also benefiting from it. It truly is “A better way to beautiful”.

I am usually overwhelmed by the thought of doing something that seems “little” in the grand scale of things, but this experience is a lesson to me that the little one chooses to do, is not little at all, and can go a very long way!

Shea Moisture Community Commerce Tamale
SheaMoisture Team with women of the Bognayili coop.
Shea Moisture Community Commerce Tamale
Moussa and his baby girls

On our way back to Tamale, we noticed some big electric poles that looked new and shiny, but they were not connected by cables. Because these communities do not have electricity, the people have no choice but to cut their Shea trees to make firewood. They are already dealing with the effects of deforestation and if they don’t get their power situation sorted, their present source of livelihood (Shea butter) could be threatened.

Shea Moisture Community Commerce Tamale
Tora dancing. Please watch Tosin’s vlog to see how the dance is done!

I’m back in Lagos now, but I will not forget these memories. It’s crazy that I was in Ghana for four years, and in one day, I experienced the culture like never before (yes, one of the many cultures!) It was all so vibrant and beautiful.

Shea Moisture Community Commerce Tamale
Damba Dancer

Shea Moisture Community Commerce Tamale

Shea Moisture Community Commerce Tamale

Shea Moisture Community Commerce Tamale
Texture! Another Damba Dancer

The Tora and Damba cultural dances were LIT. You NEED to see them. See Tosin’s vlog from the trip down here:

When members of our group joined in the dancing, they were sprayed with money! I thought that was just a Nigerian thing lol apparently not! In Gupanarigu, the Chief gave us yams and 2 guinea fowls!

Shea Moisture Community Commerce Tamale
Mr Chinedu Okoye, CEO Perfect Trust Cosmetics, the official partner of Shea Moisture in Nigeria, with the guinea fowls, gifts from the Gupanarigu Community Chief (in the funky glasses)

Lest I forget, the Bognayili women gave us a bowl each of fresh shea butter. I will cherish mine with my heart.

Shea Moisture Community Commerce Tamale
Umeadi Blessing Odega, the Young Sofi Tucker, receiving the presentation of Shea Butter in Bognayili
Shea Moisture Community Commerce Tamale
Smells amazing!

Thank you, SheaMoisture Nigeria for this truly special experience! <3Shea Moisture Community Commerce Tamale

You can shop SheaMoisture products at the best prices, directly from their official Nigerian partner- Perfect Trust Cosmetics; with 5 stores in Abuja, and online, they deliver nationwide.

Love,

AB,

xx

6 Replies to “SheaMoisture: A Truly Better Way to Beautiful”

  1. Wow. What an enlightening and inspirational read. Well done to Shea Moisture for the great impact they are making. Also well done Ekene for the fantastic reporting.

  2. Heyy Ekene.. Just read your Shea Moisture post. Who knew that buying organic products would be this deep? Just received one of the Shea Moisture products *gift*, read the Sofi Tucker story on the pack & dismissed it as a marketing ploy. Now, I know better. Glad companies are considering ethical business models in Africa – Ghana in this case.

    Well done, Keks!!.. 😊😊..

  3. Thanks for sharing your experience. It really is a privilege to meet and witness the intensive manual labour it takes to grow, harvest and process ingredients we use in everyday products –with little thought about the people whose hard work makes our lives a little easier. It is humbling to be reminded that so many hands, hearts and minds have direct input into a single jar of hair cream or a bar of soap . This is the type of message that connects with customers and supporters of the brand; an authentic firsthand account from the pov of women closely connected to the cultural heritage of the brand.

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