For Naa-Sakle Akuete, the transformative power of shea butter is deeply rooted within her ancestral infrastructure. Back in Ghana, the sub-Saharan African nation and homeland to the Akuete lineage, shea butter is commonly referred to as “women’s gold”. Her grandmother, a midwife in the colonial regions of the country, would use this luscious substance on pregnant women in order to help treat stretch marks, as well as on newborns to relieve nettlesome diaper rashes. Eventually, Akuete’s mother would go on to establish the Global Shea Alliance at the turn of the millennium, which advises international governments on standards, the industry, and ethical cultivation practices for this wonder salve. These deep familial ties have certainly been imparted on Akuete, who recalls her entire adolescence was spent “swimming in shea butter.”
Naa-Sakle Akuete photographed by Matthew Mindlin for The Detox Market
With some guidance from her mother’s non-profit organization, Akuete established Eu’Genia Shea, a company offering optimal quality emollients formulated with this key ingredient. Working with 10,000 female pickers within Ghana, Eu’Genia Shea harvests from organically grown, sustainable crops, with each fruit undergoing a rigorous selection process to ensure excellence. What differentiates Akuete from her competitors is an emphasis on formula, wherein all of their products are comprised of at least 80 percent shea butter, as opposed to the relatively scant two percent from her peers.
Eu’Genia Shea offers three lines of moisturizers, Everyday, Pregnancy and Dermatological. The Everyday formulation contains additional oils including shea, moringa and baobab to create a creamier consistency that melts effortlessly into the skin. Market research revealed that customers were interested in a lavender scent infusion, while Akuete also devised a grapefruit offering to complement shea’s natural chocolatey aroma. The Pregnancy blend features 90 percent shea butter; the Dermatological option, 100 percent, which is suitable for very dry skin, as well as epidermic conditions including psoriasis and eczema. Because of its uniquely thick consistency, Akuete recommends scooping out a small amount of the Dermatological balm, rubbing it in the palms of your hands in order to melt it down to a more spreadable state, and then apply to any desired area. With shea, a little goes a long way.
When starting Eu’Genia Shea, Akuete was interested in establishing a philanthropic endeavor that promotes socioeconomic stability for the residents of Ghana. Recognizing that a plethora of women are the sole providers to an average of five dependents, in an area with rampant illiteracy, 15 percent of each sale from the company’s range of products will be put towards an education fund. A vertical integration system has also been organized to teach financial literacy when selling shea butter nuts to buyers, whilst also providing quality health insurance and parkland management.
In an effort to illuminate African-made products without “beating the consumer over the head,” Akuete manifested her cultural and family lineage in subtly impactful ways. Housing the salve in chic cubical gold tins harkens back to the lore of shea butter being touted as women’s gold. Meanwhile, the brand’s name is derived from Akuete’s mother Eugenia, which in Greek denotes the origin of goodness, a convergence of genealogy and etymological associations to describe the genuine essence of this wonder fruit.
Altruism and reverence are the guiding principles of Eu’Genia Shea, a brand whose interests transcend capital endeavors in favor of elevating a rich cultural history authentically. For each tin that is sold, a significant heritage is sustained responsibly, nourishing an individual’s skin, as well as a community of assiduous workers. In an age of conscious economics, it doesn’t get more sensible than Eu’Genia Shea.