I love finding companies that not only fit into my desire for fair trade and ethical purchases, but are also affordable and offer really amazing products! In the early winter I discovered Shea Butter Market and I knew I was going to need their products.
My skin gets really dry over the cold, winter months and I struggle with keeping it hydrated and not cracking. We make our own hand soap, which helps a bit since we’re eliminating many of the drying chemicals, but it can still get pretty bad. I come by it honestly, my mom has the same struggles! This winter was especially bad because of how deeply cold and dry it was. But with Shea Butter Market’s products I was able to keep my skin in pretty decent shape.
There are a number of different products available, and all of them contain pure, natural shea butter. Now here’s where it gets even better: the shea butter is purchased from the Tapko Widow’s Group, a group of widows from a northern Ghana village who joined together to help each other provide for their families.
The women pick the Shea nuts and make them into Shea Butter, which Gifty, the founder of Shea Butter Market, then buys directly from them. There are no chemicals or additives in the Shea Butter, and it is one of the purest forms available anywhere in the world. Gifty also pays more than “fair trade” for their Shea Butter, giving them an amazing opportunity to grow their own businesses.
Shea Butter Market is about creating and sharing value. At Shea Butter Market we believe in doing business so that the bounty of the Shea Tree can be widely and fairly shared. We pay a premium price to producers and donate 2% of the net profits back to the Tapko Widow’s Group.
Finally and perhaps most importantly, by helping the women of Tapko and northern Ghana to receive economic sustenance from the fruit of the Shea Tree we encourage them to protect the trees and allow the trees to do their part, removing carbon dioxide from the air and helping in the battle against greenhouse gases and global warming.
Life for these women and the villagers in Tapko is very hard – what economy that supports them comes directly from them growing and harvesting enough food and supplies to last them through the long dry season. Hence the types of needs that are being met with the Tapko Widow’s Group are many!
I spoke with Gifty about her vision for the future of Tapko and Shea Butter Market, and how this all came to be:
How did Shea Butter Market get it’s beginnings?
The business was inspired by a group of women in my home (in Ghana) who wanted me to give them jobs. I thought at the time they asked that it was impossible. I had been carting lots of trinkets from Canada for them whenever I went home to visit. It was obvious that having sustainable employment was more important than anything I could give them.
After a few years of this conversation, I noticed that shea butter had become popular in North America, and a light bulb went off. If I sold shea butter in North America, which they made (in Ghana) I would answer the question of how I might help create employment for the women in my home. That essentially was how the business came to be.
Who exactly makes your Shea Butter products? Can you share a bit of the process of harvesting and producing Shea butter?
The finished products are made in Mill Bay (Vancouver, BC – yes my Canadian friends, they’re a Canadian company!) in our facility. The raw, unrefined shea butter is made by the women’s groups in Northern Ghana. They pick the seeds of the shea fruit when the fruit is in season in May.
The fruit is a favorite of most of the communities in Northern Ghana. After the fruit is eaten the seed which has a husk around it is sun dried, de-husked and toasted over wood fire in large vats, then pounded in a mortar with pestles, and ground into a paste – usually at the grinding mills. The paste is mixed with water, churned and finally cooked till the oil is derived and cooled.
What is the direct impact of sales from SBM products?
We have been able to give the women an opportunity to earn some money in the way that selling small amounts of shea butter in the market does not offer.
We have offered financial assistance to 16 girls from the community, some of them children of the women in the group for their education.
We helped train the widows collective to develop 5 small scale enterprises – they were trained by a trainer whose fees we paid to develop those businesses. They developed businesses in bread making, soap production , a catering business as well as the creation of soda drinks made with hibiscus flowers/tea.
We also help raise money for a tree them to grow Moringa plants (an edible plant rich in nutrients with many uses).
What is your desire to see happen and what goals do you have for the future of SBM’s work with the Ghanian families and your customers?
We would like to continue the scholarship programs for girls, and would like to support the women to get to the point whereby their businesses are self sustaining in such a way that they can become trainers to other women in nearby communities.
We would like to see an expansion of their micro credit projects. There is a strong need for the expansion of their agricultural and farming activities- e.g. help with micro irrigation projects, help support them access agricultural extension experts as small scale farming is their first passion.
Just hearing the amount of progress that’s already being made and seeing how the Shea Butter Market products are impacting these families is so amazing!
You’re going to want to check these guys out! They so graciously sent me a number of samples of their products to try, and there hasn’t been a single one I haven’t liked.
I use Shea Hands every night – it’s pure shea butter and soaks right into my dry, cracking hands, soothing and hydrating them. It contains a heavenly citrus-vanilla scent, vitamin E and beeswax (both of which are very moisturizing).
I also use the Shea Butter Savannah face cream, which is like a whipped butter, for my main moisturizer.
It’s so light and refreshing, yet very moisturizing without leaving me with dry spots or grease after. My skin is combination, so in the winter very dry, and in the summer very greasy. I can see this being the perfect balancing moisturizer!
The Shea Butter foot cream contains eucalyptus and I LOVE it! It’s so refreshing, and the perfect amount of moisture and leaves my feet feeling soft.
For the times I don’t want to use the straight up Shea Butter for hands, the lotion is the perfect option. It’s rich in Vitamins A and E and just as moisturizing as the butter.
My girls promptly claimed the Shea Lav as their own, and it stays in their room. Miss E often asks for it on her hands in the morning (poor girl, she inherited Mama and Nana’s dry skin!). We all love the soothing scent of lavender!
If you like simple, then Just Shea is straight up Shea Butter, nothing else. Just melt in your hands and apply!
Last but not least we have Shea Lips – because we all know our lips need a little babying sometimes too ;0) Such a yummy flavour, err, I mean scent in this citrus shea product, and it works to keep your lips hydrated and smooth.