Ghana is one of the largest producers of shea butter in the world. Out of the about 150,000 tons of shea butter exported from Africa yearly, 50,000 tons of that comes from the three northern regions of Ghana. However, most of the 3 million women who make this shea butter live in extreme poverty. Ghana native, Charity Malia Dinko, is working to alleviate the poverty these women face with her venture, Northshea.
Northshea is an all-natural shea butter company that helps to solve the issue of dry skin while supporting less fortunate women in northern Ghana. Charity believes that if the women making the shea butter are driving revenues in the international market, then they deserve higher wages and better lives.
Charity moved to the United States after winning the Diversity Visa Lottery that is operated by the US Department of State. She left behind her parents, four brothers, and seven sisters.
After a year of living in Richmond, VA, with her uncle, Charity was finally able to find a job at McDonald's. "I was so happy. I just was so happy," Charity explains with a huge smile on her face, "I had to beg for that job, but the manager gave me a chance." Charity then started working at Walmart on top of McDonald's and worked two jobs for about a year and a half to save up for a car and college. Charity was able to enroll in a community college in Richmond, and after two years she did well enough to transfer to UVA from where she graduated in May of 2018.
Charity knew she needed to do something to help the people she left back home. At first, this manifested in the form of micro-grants that she gave to the women in her town. Charity sponsored these grants with her own funds and once she was paid back the money went to a different woman in need. "I think only one person paid me back," Charity said, "but I couldn't expect them to use the money to start their own business when their children were starving and also they had no business ownership experience or skills even if they wanted it to work."
So, Charity changed her business model and started Northshea. The most abundant natural resource in Ghana is the shea tree, and Charity wanted to leverage that in her favor. Charity found ten women from her village that are already making shea butter, and she started paying them a wage they can actually live on.
Charity uses the shea butter to create her line of products that are for sale on her website and at various retailers around Virginia. Besides the skincare line, Northshea also offers the shea butter wholesale. While you can purchase shea butter wholesale from Amazon, the quality is inconsistent according to Charity, "You can order once from Amazon and get a high-quality shea butter, but if you order again from the same vendor, it is never the same." Northshea provides consistent, high-quality shea butter directly from the women who produce it.
Over the next month at the i.Lab, Charity is working on the details of shipping in bulk the shea butter from Ghana to the US. Since the shea butter is extremely heat sensitive, shipping Northshea products across the country is harder than it sounds.
I think Northshea has the potential to change the lives of hundreds of women working in Ghana. Earning a stable and fair income will give these women and mothers the ability to care for their families better than they ever could before.
Pictured to the left is Charity Malia Dinko, founder of Northshea. On the right are the ten women who are employed by Northshea.