From Educator To Entrepreneur: Abena Boamah-Acheampong On Creating A Sustainable Brand With Hanahana Beauty
Sometimes the best solutions aren't found in reinventing the wheel but instead found through getting back to the basics. That is a truth that helped founder and CEO Abena Boamah-Acheampong sow the seeds that would eventually make her clean beauty brand Hanahana Beauty bloom. Birthed from a place of needing nourishing skincare products to combat Chicago’s harsh, cold weather, Abena happened upon a solution for dry skin by turning to a trusted product she grew up on, shea butter.
This time though, instead of just using the raw material, the Ghanaian-American began formulating different products in her kitchen until she landed on three body butters, lavender vanilla, lemongrass, and eucalyptus. And after trying the products on her family and friends, the former algebra teacher said goodbye to education and hello to the beauty space with the launch of her brand, Hanahana Beauty.
Since launching in 2017, Hanahana Beauty and its holy grail Body Butters have become more than a skincare and wellness brand. In addition to providing skincare essentials for melanated individuals, Abena wanted her brand to have a social impact that offered levels of sustainability for not just herself, but for the Katariga Women's Shea Cooperative–where she sources her shea butter–through her Hanahana Circle of Care, an organization that provides healthcare access and education and wellness activations.
Today, Abena is preparing for retail expansion following her recent launches in Revolve and JCPenny, as well as looking for new ways to create access to the brand by listening to her community and focusing on what they want. In this conversation with xoNecole, Hanahana Beauty founder, Abena Boamah-Acheampong talks with us about the importance of creating a sustainable beauty brand, how her time in Ghana shaped Hanahana Beauty, and what advice she gives to the next generation of Black women entrepreneurs.
xoNecole: When did you realize you wanted to go into the skincare and wellness space?
Abena Boamah-Acheampong: In 2014, I was teaching and in grad school, and started making shea products for myself, because the cold weather in Chicago was drying my skin out. I'm Ghanian. So the first thing that I thought about was shea butter. I grew up using it and wanted a better product instead of the raw material.
I became interested in the wellness space, through the eyes of what it would be like as a therapist in beauty. But around 2017, as my parents and my friends began using the products, they encouraged me to start something. And that's when I decided to start a business. But even then, I was more so interested in the social impact.
I felt like the beauty industry was unsustainable, and it didn't make sense to me. I realized how much money was being made and saw how there was a lack of sustainability. So as I started, I became more interested in beauty and wellness as a business and a brand. But all of it came back to me being both an educator and a graduate student, and how to create levels of sustainability through people or whatever I wanted to do.
"I became interested in the wellness space, through the eyes of what it would be like as a therapist in beauty. But around 2017, as my parents and my friends began using the products, they encouraged me to start something. And that's when I decided to start a business. But even then, I was more so interested in the social impact."
xoN: How much time did you spend with the Katariga women in Ghana as you were developing your brand? What did you learn from them? And then how did your time there shape Hanahana Beauty?
ABA: I launched in 2017 but didn’t go back to Ghana until after. There, I met the producers of Katariga Women's Shea Cooperative, and that experience shaped the whole look of Hanahana Circle of Care. After finishing grad school in 2018, I moved to Ghana and lived in Accra. I was going back to the city of Tamale–which is where we source the raw materials–once a month.
And during the first seven months to a year of living in Ghana, the Hanahana Circle of Care began as an initiative surrounding healthcare and access to it. Because the women there felt that that was what they were lacking. So we held bi-annual healthcare days along with monthly health education and just kept growing. During this time, we began to look at what are some things that we, as a brand, have access to. And what can we give access to?
Then, in 2021, we decided that with all of the work that we had been doing–where we were pulling money from our sales to do this work–how do we now just create it, so it's more sustainable and expanding? So how do we look at access to healthcare in a way that we can mobilize it? So that's when we formatted it to become a fiscal sponsor.
We worked with The Body: A Home for Love–a nonprofit founded by Deun Ivory–who is our fiscal sponsor. When I launched Hanahana, being a B Corporation was always something that I strived for and now the Hanahana Circle of Care is moving into becoming a nonprofit.
xoN: How many products did you initially launch and how long did it take for you to develop them?
ABA: We launched with three shea butters: lavender vanilla, lemongrass, and eucalyptus. We also launched the shea balm which, at the time, we called the exfoliating bar. I had been making the products since 2014 and just working on different formulations for myself. And in December 2016, I went home to see my parents and told them that I wanted to start a brand. I already knew the formulas because I was working on them for three years for myself and my friends and family, so it took me three months to launch the brand.
Now, if I was launching a whole brand today, I would think of it very differently. But that time was perfect for me because people got to grow with me as a founder, as a person, and as a teacher who was making products. They got a chance to grow with the brand from the time I was making products in my kitchen to now having a team and doing different launches.
xoN: How was the transition from being an educator to pursuing entrepreneurship full-time?
ABA: My transition came from a place of me having to do it. I was in my second year of grad school and had been teaching for two years. When it came to my third year of teaching, I had to decide to move into finishing my master's program and that’s when I started Hanahana. But when I finished in 2018, I moved to Ghana and was a therapist for maybe six months while still building the brand. And in 2018, I was just doing Hanahana full-time.
I feel like I didn't realize [the career transition] because, for me, it was more so the idea that I wasn’t going to apply to anything else after grad school. I remember talking to my parents because they wanted me to get my license. But I felt like if I couldn’t make it in Ghana, then I would keep doing therapy.
While in Ghana, though, I was inspired to continue taking the creative entrepreneur route. And if Hanahana didn’t work out, then I had already realized how my skills as a teacher and everything that I learned as a therapist worked in the creative and entrepreneurial space.
"I have to prioritize my growth to be able to prioritize anything. A lot of times in this self-care era–and in spaces where you're promoting self-care–people find themselves promoting and centering self instead of growth. And I think when you center growth, you're going to think of how you affect people through work, through your personal life, all those things."
xoN: What have you learned about yourself since launching Hanahana Beauty and how would you use that to inspire the next generation of Black women entrepreneurs?
ABA: I've learned that I have to prioritize my growth to be able to prioritize anything. A lot of times in this self-care era–and in spaces where you're promoting self-care–people find themselves promoting and centering self instead of growth. And I think when you center growth, you're going to think of how you affect people through work, through your personal life, all those things.
So I think that's important because as entrepreneurs, and especially as Black women entrepreneurs, we're told to focus on one thing. But then how do you build this brand if you want to be a mom, or if you are a mom, or if you're just being a Black woman in general? Sometimes capitalism can be very consuming and it really pushes us to a level of self-centeredness and also lack. And I feel like when you prioritize growth, it allows you to see every situation as a new opportunity for yourself to grow.
For more of Abena, follow her on Instagram @beanieboamah and @hanahana_beauty.
Featured image courtesy of Abena Boamah-Acheampong
Racquel Coral is an experienced lifestyle writer focusing on self-love, growth, body positivity, and profiles of Black-owned businesses and community heros. Her work can be found here, and she can be found on all social media platforms @withloveracquel.
How Content Creators Hey Fran Hey And Shameless Maya Embraced The Pivot
This article is in partnership with Meta Elevate.
If you’ve been on the internet at all within the past decade, chances are the names Hey Fran Hey and Shameless Maya (aka Maya Washington) have come across your screen. These content creators have touched every platform on the web, spreading joy to help women everywhere live their best lives. From Fran’s healing natural remedies to Maya’s words of wisdom, both of these content creators have built a loyal following by sharing honest, useful, and vulnerable content. But in search of a life that lends to more creativity, freedom, and space, these digital mavens have moved from their bustling big cities (New York City and Los Angeles respectively) to more remote locations, taking their popular digital brands with them.
Content Creators Hey Fran Hey and Maya Washington Talk "Embracing The Pivot"www.youtube.com
In partnership with Meta Elevate — an online learning platform that provides Black, Hispanic, and Latinx-owned businesses access to 1:1 mentoring, digital skills training, and community — xoNecole teamed up with Franscheska Medina and Maya Washington on IG live recently for a candid conversation about how they’ve embraced the pivot by changing their surroundings to ultimately bring out the best in themselves and their work. Fran, a New York City native, moved from the Big Apple to Portland, Oregon a year ago. Feeling overstimulated by the hustle and bustle of city life, Fran headed to the Pacific Northwest in search of a more easeful life.
Her cross-country move is the backdrop for her new campaign with Meta Elevate— a perfectly-timed commercial that shows how you can level up from wherever you land with the support of free resources like Meta Elevate. Similarly, Maya packed up her life in Los Angeles and moved to Sweden, where she now resides with her husband and adorable daughter. Maya’s life is much more rural and farm-like than it had been in California, but she is thriving in this peaceful new setting while finding her groove as a new mom.
While Maya is steadily building and growing her digital brand as a self-proclaimed “mom coming out of early retirement,” Fran is redefining her own professional grind. “It’s been a year since I moved from New York City to Portland, Oregon,” says Fran. “I think the season I’m in is figuring out how to stay successful while also slowing down.” A slower-paced life has unlocked so many creative possibilities and opportunities for these ladies, and our conversation with them is a well-needed reminder that your success is not tied to your location…especially with the internet at your fingertips. Tapping into a community like Meta Elevate can help Black, Hispanic, and Latinx entrepreneurs and content creators stay connected to like minds and educated on new digital skills and tools that can help scale their businesses.
During a beautiful moment in the conversation, Fran gives Maya her flowers for being an innovator in the digital space. Back when “influencing” was in its infancy and creators were just trying to find their way, Fran says Maya was way ahead of her time. “I give Maya credit for being one of the pioneers in the digital space,” Fran said. “Maya is a one-person machine, and I always tell her she really changed the game on what ads, campaigns, and videos, in general, should look like.”
When asked what advice she’d give content creators, Maya says the key is having faith even when you don’t see the results just yet. “It’s so easy to look at what is, despite you pouring your heart into this thing that may not be giving you the returns that you thought,” she says. “Still operate from a place of love and authenticity. Have faith and do the work. A lot of people are positive thinkers, but that’s the thinking part. You also have to put your faith into work and do the work.”
Fran ultimately encourages content creators and budding entrepreneurs to take full advantage of Meta Elevate’s vast offerings to educate themselves on how to build and grow their businesses online. “It took me ten years to get to the point where I’m making ads at this level,” she says. “I didn’t have those resources in 2010. I love the partnership with Meta Elevate because they’re providing these resources for free. I just think of the people that wouldn’t be able to afford that education and information otherwise. So to amplify a company like this just feels right.”
Watch the full conversation with the link above, and join the Meta Elevate community to connect with fellow businesses and creatives that are #OnTheRiseTogether.
Featured image courtesy of Shameless Maya and Hey Fran Hey
Slow Mornings Are More Than A Trend, Here’s Why You Should Add Them To Your Routine
Living in a world where we’re over-consuming and over-producing information and content, it can feel like some trending topics are complete fads. While that may be true, some of these ideas are helpful and can greatly impact our lives, one being slow mornings. Slow mornings can look different to everyone, but the general idea is to counter the fast-paced lifestyle and create more time for ourselves, lessen anxiety, and prioritize self-care.
I’m a huge advocate for adopting this type of wellness practice into your morning routine. It has completely changed the game for me. Prior to adopting this routine, I’d wake up with just enough time to get ready and go. I never prioritized time to sit and eat, dance a little as I get ready, or any type of wiggle room for the unexpected (I’m sure you can imagine the anxiety that builds when something out of the norm happens). Most times I felt flustered and disorganized, which started to affect my mood, productivity, and my mindset. I knew I needed to make some changes.
I started to incorporate more mood-boosting activities and became realistic about how much time I actually needed to get my day started. If I’m being honest, my slow mornings rely heavily on time management. I try my best to at least get seven hours of sleep and set my alarm early enough to get ready for work at a smooth and intentional pace without interrupting my rest. My work days typically start with music, my favorite podcast or meditation as I get ready, a cup of decaffeinated tea instead of coffee, setting intentions and affirmations, then prayer before my drive to work.
I always get to work early with enough time to sit and eat, review work materials, prep, and brief my colleagues. Slow mornings allow me to gain more without losing anything.
If this hasn’t already inspired you to switch things up, here are six more reasons you should incorporate a slow morning routine.
Slow Mornings Can Work for Everyone
Slow mornings rely mostly on being intentional with what you choose to prioritize and moving at a pace that doesn’t feel rushed. It’s less about the strict routine of waking up at 5 a.m. every day, as that is not realistic for everyone. I have a very flexible schedule so every day looks different and no day starts at the same time. Typically, I think about how much time I have in the morning and prioritize my mornings around that. One thing I do regardless of the time is play something motivational, express gratitude, pray, and say my affirmations. It’s small acts that make a big difference. However, if I start my day a little later, I can do more with my morning like journaling and working out.
Slow mornings allow you flexibility and take the pressure of feeling like you have to do so much with the time you have, to me that defeats the purpose. It’s more about making sure you pour time into yourself without pressure or feeling rushed.
Slow Mornings Reduce Stress and Anxiety
As I mentioned, slow mornings take the chaos, anxiousness, and stress out of planning and getting ready for your day. Slow mornings cause you to start your day in a relaxed and calm way by prioritizing the thing that makes you feel good. Taking the time to physically, mentally, and/or emotionally prepare yourself leaves you better equipped to take on the day.
Slow Mornings Create Time to Pour Into You
I’ve stopped putting myself last. I’ve given up the notion that everything and everyone has to be catered to before I’m able to do that for myself. I remind myself that I can’t give what I don’t have and if I‘m not at my best, I can’t give my best. While I know this, I also needed my actions to reflect it.
Implementing slow morning routines creates the space for you to pour into yourself, fuel yourself, and be more intentional. It makes you examine what your needs are and what focusing on your well-being can do.
Slow Mornings Reduce the Risk of Burnout
Slowing your mornings down will also inspire you to slow down in general. The notion of being busy and glorifying a never-ending workday will seem less appealing. Once you realize the power of being intentional, you’ll adopt this routine in all aspects of your life. This will help reduce your chances of burning out because you have better workload management, a clear mental space, and awareness of when you’re doing too much.
In general, I think we are all overstimulated by our influences and technology, but eventually, the feeling of constant rush and over-exertion will start to fade.
Slow Mornings Increase Productivity
If you take your time to wake up and implement healthy habits, you’ll feel more energized and creative. As I mentioned before, slow mornings allow us to get better at managing time. It helps us focus on what’s in front of us which increases productivity. I used to measure my productivity by how much I can get done, which is a race in itself. Instead, I focus on the quality and intention behind it.
Slow mornings allow you to spend time giving things the time and effort it needs, without falling behind.
It Boosts Your Confidence
If you take the time to affirm yourself in the mornings and do activities that make you feel good, then you’ll do good.
Creating a morning routine that prioritizes time management, peace, and intentional living will make you feel a greater sense of accomplishment and success. It increases our faith and belief in ourselves to do things and do them well.
Slow mornings won’t look the same for everyone, but creating time to prioritize yourself and live more intentionally may be the subtle change you need to improve your well-being. It’s okay to slow things down and get off autopilot. Do what’s best for you and know that you can’t pour from an empty cup.
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