Naa-Sakle Akuete

My parents and two older brothers moved from Ghana to Maryland before I was born. Despite the move, I was surrounded by Ghanaian culture which values family and education above pretty much all else. And so, I spent most of my days studying and focusing on building a strong foundation from which to support my future family. After graduating from Wellesley College, I moved to NY and started in finance at Lehman Brothers – what better way to save for the future than by working on Wall Street, right? And then we went bankrupt and it got harder to view work as the end-all-be-all. I was 22 years old, living in NY with a steady (if precarious) job, and had next to no real responsibilities. My life was concerts, musicals, friends, and family in a bid to make the most of NY before it slipped away. Ultimately, I managed to hold onto my job and even grow to like it, but there was still something missing.

What ignited you to start Eu’Genia Shea? 

When my mom, who had been producing shea butter for decades and was the President of the Global Shea Alliance (GSA, the org that advises govs and NGOs about shea standards), was diagnosed with colon cancer, I decided to step in to help her run her business and to launch a spinoff with her – Eu’Genia Shea! We are the natural alternative to chemical filled and petroleum jelly based moisturizers.

Shea butter is Nature’s Wonderbalm and the more shea butter the better, but not all shea is created equal. Our organically trained and sustainably paid pickers provide us with high quality shea nuts which we then process into shea butter in-house according to the methods my mother developed as President of the GSA. This complete vertical integration allows us to guarantee the product quality and production integrity every step of the way.

You left a high paying job in finance to become an entrepreneur, was that frightening?

Honestly, leaving finance was a little scary, but potentially losing my mom was a lot worse. Plus, I was lucky enough to have tons of emotional and professional help from past colleagues, friends, and family, which made the transition a ton easier.

What are your top three tips for people with skin issues? 

As much as I think shea butter is the best thing in the world, and Eu’Genia Shea butter is a cut above the rest, there is no one size fits all fix for skin issues. This is super cliché, but sleep well, drink tons of water, and listen to what your body tells you!

Favourite city in the world? 

My brother-in-law is Italian, and he’s from a gorgeous town in southern Calabria called Soverato. It’s the kind of place where families pick olives together on the weekends in exchange for a portion of the resultant olive oil and a basket of ripe tomatoes. Everyone I meet there is kind, welcoming, fun and genuinely full of love for the people around them.

Teetotaler or something stronger? 

In spirit – All the strong things! But, I’m trying to focus on health/skincare from the inside out in 2018…let’s see how long that lasts.

Most recent indulgence? 

Food is almost always the biggest indulgence for me. Knowing how much I love crab, my in-laws made a king crab feast for Christmas Eve and I’m just praying that becomes a tradition.

Walk, bike or drive? 

Walking at a strictly non-NYC pace

Who is the one person in the world you would like to sit beside on a long flight and what would you ask her or him?

My husband. Is that too cheesy? He’s definitely my favorite person in the world, so if the option is to spend time in a confined space with him or with a stranger (even the coolest stranger ever), I choose him.

Best advice for a woman considering becoming an entrepreneur? 

You are so strong and capable, but that doesn’t mean you have to do everything by yourself. Be an asker, the worst people can do is say no. Find your support system and find the things you can outsource before you burn yourself out.

Favourite quote? 

“Let me be me or let me be” – unattributed

Last book you read? 

The North Water, by Ian McGuire. It somehow manages to be incredibly richly detailed and quick paced with a plot (a whale hunting expedition) that wasn’t innately interesting to me, but was still completely enthralling.

Favourite cause, group or activist? 

I’m a bit biased, but Eu’Genia Shea donates 15% of our profits back to our processors in the form of an education fund for their children. As you know, I’m a sucker for educational improvements and the direct impact is really compelling to me.

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February 18, 2018
March 2, 2018