When Clarity of Purpose Emerges from Struggle

2016 was a watershed year for us at Shea Radiance. We gained more clarity about who we are and why we exist. All our activities and struggles over the past years make sense as we move into the new year.

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Shea Radiance exists for one very simple reason: To influence the way women care for themselves, and for each other.

During the past nine years of traveling between the US and West Africa, I’ve looked for ways to add value to the lives of women shea producers. It was clear to me from the beginning that the women were not looking to be a charity project but wanted the dignity and opportunity to provide economic security for themselves and their families. Creating economic opportunity by working directly with the coops was one way I knew we could have a small yet meaningful impact. My focus was not only on the the producers in our supply chain but potentially the 16 million African women involved in the processing of shea nuts and butter.

So, how do you prioritize building a successful beauty brand in a very competitive market while balancing that the demands of direct sourcing? I would argue that the common sense view would be to focus on the former, building a strong and successful business and pursue the latter once profitability goals are met. My struggle was that I could not prioritize the business over the mission. The two were irrevocably intertwined, I couldn’t have one without the other. Out of this struggle came the beautiful realization that we are not a typical business. We are a beauty brand built on mutually beneficial and caring relationships between our suppliers, our customers and our other business partners.

Our artisan beauty solutions handcrafted to meet your body and hair care needs are only the beginning of our story.

The decision to source our butter from only women run supply chains meant that from the very beginning we would not be purchasing this ingredient from middlemen, US or European based suppliers. This decision comes with benefits and costs and the benefits far outweigh the costs. Some of the many benefits are Traceability, Quality and Relationship – we know most of the faces and the hands that process our shea butter and they know us. This mutual knowledge means that we are able to source the best quality shea butter from our suppliers. We know that care and love have gone into every stage of processing, from the sorting of the nuts to the processing and filtering of the butter.

The reason we continue to pursue this course of sourcing is because we believe that the business we do in communities in Northern Ghana and Nigeria is economically meaningful to the women. Even in the early years when our process was not efficient and we probably spent way more than we should in local capacity building, we felt very strongly that it was the right thing to do.

At Shea Radiance, we choose to positively affect that global legacy of womanhood through beauty.

This clarity of purpose gives me confidence and strength in knowing that our priorities are not in conflict but in perfect harmony. We can build a successful business and support the women in our supply chain at the same time.

What inspires me as I continue to build Shea Radiance into a global beauty brand, is the knowledge that our success has a direct impact on the lives of other women. The more retail doors and distribution channels that open up for us, the more economic access we provide to our suppliers. Our success means that we have the opportunity to work with more groups throughout West Africa and bring economic opportunities to more communities.

Here’s to a Happy and Prosperous New Year

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