Some words of wisdom from Mark Essien, the man who…
African-American entrepreneur Amirah Allen found her niche in Africa with online health and beauty platform Harima Naturals, which she launched after embarking on AB2020’s Ghana Business and Investment Mission in 2018.
Here, she speaks about how our annual mission helped set her on course to build an e-commerce platform for 100% natural and ethically sourced ingredients from the West African region.
You attended AB2020’s Ghana Business Mission in 2018, what made you decide to take part?
To put it in to perspective, I had never traveled to Ghana before and had no point of contact there at all. I have always had the desire to provide and promote Africa’s rich natural health and beauty ingredients. I knew that Ghana was home to some of the staple products in the natural hair and skin industry such as shea butter and black soap as well as superfood powers that were up and coming in the US market. For me, the business mission provided an opportunity to learn more about Ghana’s business climate and connect with key players in my industry. I was also not sure how to go about finding reputable suppliers for my products, and the likelihood of securing all these connections on my own was slim. I felt that attending would point me in the right direction and help take my business to the next level.
How did the mission help you to understand the Ghanaian market, and what were some of the key things you learnt?
During the mission, we attended meetings based on the business interests of the participants in the group. As a result, we visited various Ministries, associations, factories and farms that helped to create a comprehensive view of the Ghanaian market. I learned that there is an overwhelming amount of opportunities across industries, especially in the north of the country. There was also a push to export and add value to local products, as well as engage those in the private sector to help further develop and enhance current industries.
How did the experience contribute to the launch of your company, Harima Naturals?
This experience was monumental to the launch of Harima Naturals and I cannot imagine that I would have been able to achieve all that I did [in only one week] if I had traveled on my own.
How did you facilitate sourcing raw materials for your products?
On the business mission I became connected with a supplier who had experience exporting to the US and other countries. I traveled to the north to meet with them to work out the details of the business arrangement and from there I began importing into the US. I also visited a few shea butter cooperatives and connected with those in that industry.
Congratulations on making your first sale! Is America your target market?
Thank you so much! As of right now yes America is my target market, but we look forward to expanding soon in to other international markets and providing fulfillment for wholesale requests.
What’s your plan for the near future?
During my recent trip to Ghana in January, I was informed that a majority of shea nuts are now being processed abroad. I plan to help facilitate the construction of a shea butter processing facility for some of my current suppliers.
Would you recommend the business mission to?
Absolutely. [AB2020 founder] Akosua and the team have a wealth of knowledge across industries and hold access to virtually any network of people you or your business may need in Ghana. I would also like to add that the team continually followed up with me and shared opportunities well after the business mission too.
Complete this sentence: In 2020, Africa will be…
In 2020, Africa will be at the forefront of everything business so it is best we prepare ourselves accordingly.