L+A: How did you get your inspiration for creating Hanahana Beauty?
Being Ghanaian we’ve always used shea butter but four years ago when I moved to Chicago I didn’t have any and I had to resort to using Palmers. But then I looked at the bottle and I was confused by the ingredients. One day I was just at work and thought to myself "maybe I’ll start making my own shea butter" because I didn’t know what was in Palmers and I should know what I’m putting on my body.
So, I started watching Nikisha Brunson and other you-tubers making their own product and I would try them on my own. I realized it wasn’t working for me so I went on to experiment with other butters and oils. My goal was to not buy products that I was directly putting onto my skin.
L+A: So how did you turn your experiments into a small business?
At first whatever I made I would just give to my friends (They were the ones that said “Girl, you have sell this!”) March of 2017 is when I officially launched – A friend of mine Deune (Art Director for Black Girl In Om) helped me design the logo, we had a launch party and it just took off from there.
L+A: What ingredients do you use?
I use three butters and five oils – Mango butter;cocoa butter; grapeseed oil; coconut oil; avocado oil; hemp; almond; jojoba; and rosehip oil, and everything has shea, because it’s so good for your skin!
I think it’s super important for people to know exactly what’s going into your body, and your skin is the largest organ and it’s the first to take in any energy.
“SKIN IS VERY IMPORTANT FOR BLACK WOMEN (PEOPLE) BECAUSE IT’S BEEN A WAY OF HOW WE’VE BEEN TREATED. SO IF SOMEONE IS IN CONTROL OF WHAT WE’RE PUTTING ON OUR SKIN AND IT’S NOT US, TO ME THAT’S KIND OF WEIRD”
L+A: What else would you like people to know about the story behind Hanahana Beauty?
I would like people to be aware and learn about the process of shea butter and the women behind it. The women of Ghana work tirelessly for 7 days a week making raw shea butter, that’s a 3.5 billion dollar company and these women are getting nothing out of it. Big name companies are coming in and buying it at little to no cost and their resell is crazy! It’s honestly something that has to be talked about. It’s about black women continuously not being appreciated for what they’ve built.
L+A: How did you come up with the name?
I was actually back home and told my parents about my project and my dad was trying to come up with the name for it. He said “hanahana” which means malleable in Twi, which is the dialect that I speak. It was so cute, my dad made a logo for it and later on I changed it to Hanahana Beauty.
L+A: What’s something that you still want to work on or improve?
Not exactly doubting myself, but it’s a very different ball game when it comes to business. So learning the business aspect of it and being comfortable in spaces that maybe I wasn’t so comfortable in before.
L+A: Being in grad school, how do you deal with the pressure or stay focused?
[laughing] OMG it’s so difficult to stay focused! I try not to have my phone around me too much. Social media can be really distracting especially when a lot of what you’re campaigning is on your phone. But I used to teach and I find myself using techniques I did with my students on me. So I set time aside to study and to work on Hanahana.
L+A: As a black woman – have you come across difficulties or challenges in your career either now or in the past?
Always [laughing]! When you’re a minority in general you’re always going to be in those situations, especially if you’re aware of micro-aggression. I worked for 3 years in a charter school where I was one of 7 teachers of color and where I was serving only students of color.
I was once also a program director for a clinic and I was the only black woman. I’ve gotten comments that I was mean – when people have touched my hair and they are in awe of how I reacted.
L+A: How did you deal with those uncomfortable situations?
What I found was helpful is going with my gut and picking and choosing weather I want to give that person a part of my energy (because those situations can be very toxic). So talking about it and knowing that other people go through the same thing and helping someone get through tough situations, because someone helped me once.
L+A: What do you love about what you’re doing?
The beauty of hanahana is that it’s deeper than skincare, it’s about having the platform and voicing it to highlight the women behind the art. Also working with who I want to work with and people that respect me. I made this specifically for black women and anybody can use the product but it’s important for black women to know when things are made with them in mind, because a lot of things aren’t.
L+A: Where do you see Hanahana in 5 years?
I see it any many different ways – I see it in where we expand and you’re able to buy it at different retailers, I see the education of the process of hanahana growing and I would love to turn it into a collaboration with young women of color and teaching them the tools of how to make products for themselves and building off that.
L+A: What advice would you give young girls that want to do what you’re doing?
I’d say start writing it down and work on it. It’s funny that you ask that question because sometimes when we talk to young people of color we don’t always tell them to go for things. But I also think we’re holding our kids back when not only ask what do you want to do but how are you going to do it. Have them think about it – how do you want to get there? And it’s not about killing their dreams but it’s about asking how they will achieve it and how I can help you get there - teaching them about confidence early.
L+A: What’s a piece of advice that you received from a woman?
Speaking things out into existence and if you really believe in it you should be talking about it. Say it out loud, because then it holds you accountable when you tell people and it makes you want to work on it. So talk about it and be about it!