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.
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Everything Kerry Washington Has Said About Her Husband Nnamdi Asomugha
Actress Kerry Washington and her relationship with her husband, actor Nnamdi Asomugha, is the perfect example of a winning team.
The pair became an item following a chance encounter in 2009, and many years later, on June 24, 2013, Washington and Asomugha would secretly tie the knot. Since then, the high-profile couple has expanded their blended family by welcoming two children, a daughter Isabelle Asomugha, 8, and a 6-year-old son Caleb Asomugha. Asomugha also has a daughter from a previous relationship.
Despite Washington and Asomugha choosing to live a relatively private life for the most part by not sharing images of their family on social media and occasionally attending events together. The rare glimpses they provide to the public showcase that Washington and Asomugha have much in common regarding essential topics.
For example, Washington is highly involved in politics and encourages others to participate by spreading information about various issues and how everyone would be affected.
As for Asomugha, the 41-year-old officially founded the Asomugha Foundation in 2010, years after doing other charity work in Nigeria. According to its site, the organization was created to help "disadvantaged youth and women by providing educational opportunities and mentorship."
Washington's public remarks regarding her relationship with Asomugha and their family may be rare, but when she does speak about their family, it's all positive.
Kerry On Why She Keeps Her Relationship Private
Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Bronx Children's Museum
In March 2016, the UnPrisioned actress revealed during a discussion panel at SXSW Festival that one of the reasons why she is adamant about remaining private about her union with Asomugha is because she doesn't want the public to make any narratives regarding her marriage.
At the time, it was reported that Washington and the former NFL player were experiencing marital troubles and were allegedly planning on getting a divorce. Washington would shut down those allegations by saying she hasn't and will not share any information about her private life.
"Social media has actually been great for [other celebrities'] relationships with the weeklies or the gossip sites because people say things and they say, 'That's not true!' So I'm thinking in some ways, it's been great because people are able to maintain their voice," she explained.
"It's a little different for me because I don't talk about my personal life. That means not only did I not tell you when I was getting married, it also means if somebody has rumors about what's going on in my marriage, I don't refute them, because I don't talk about my personal life."
Kerry On How She Met Nnamdi And What A Normal Day Looks Like for Their Family
Fast forward to October 2018, the Scandal star gave insight into how she met Asomugha and their family life. During an interview with Marie Claire, Washington shared that she and Asomugha met in 2009 while she was working on the Broadway play Race.
The mother of two told the publication that her life has "completely transformed" since their encounter. "The last time I did theater, it completely transformed my life. That's where I met my husband. I love being with my family. My days off look like homework, reading, and watching stuff. Just hanging out, doing things we love to do," she stated.
Kerry On Nnamdi's Accomplishment
Photo by Jeffrey Camarati/Getty Images
But as time progressed, Washington began speaking a little more openly about her man. In October 2022, Washington gushed over Asomugha and his Netflix project, The Good Nurse, which came out around the same time her film, The School for Good and Evil, was released. While talking to Entertainment Tonight, the star expressed how "proud" she was of her husband.
"I'm really proud of him, I think he's doing amazing work. I'm really excited for his film, The Good Nurse," she said. "It's really exciting to both have really important films at Netflix right now, we feel really blessed.”
Kerry On Why Nnamdi Is Her Soulmate
Washington shared how her love with Asomugha goes beyond the surface after spending over a decade together.
In a March 2023 interview with Marie Claire, Washington explained that she and Asomugha are perfectly aligned because she's allowed to be her authentic self with him.
"I'm in my immediate truth with [him]," Washington said. "Those mirrors are important because they help me get back to myself."
Kerry On The Couple's Upcoming 10-Year Wedding Anniversary
Photo by Bruce Glikas/Getty Images
That same month, Washington expressed that in addition to the many years the couple has been together, and their personal and professional accomplishments, she still finds Asomugha "incredible."
Washington shared this revelation while promoting her latest project, UnPrisioned, in an Entertainment Tonight interview.
"I do have an incredible husband," the actress told ET host Kevin Frazier as she disclosed little to no details about their upcoming plans for their tenth wedding anniversary. "Do you remember how secret my wedding was? How private and secretive it was? That's how the anniversary is gonna be too!"
Kerry On Why She Thinks Nnamdi And Their Children Are A Gift From God
Washington's love and admiration for Asomugha and their family grow increasingly each day, so much so that she uses it as inspiration to share positive messages with her fans.
The 46-year-old revealed during a panel with Al Sharpton at National Action Network Convention on April 12 that she sees her husband and their children as "proof" that God exists and loves her because of the great joy they bring to her life.
"Well, you've met my husband, my husband's amazing. I got a good one. We have three beautiful children. And I think, you know, when I look at my marriage, and I look at my kids, fundamentally, they are proof of God to me,” she said. "Because I know that God loves me to have put those people in my life. And that sense of like, knowing that God loves me. That, to me, is so much of how I make the decisions about the activism that I do and the content that I make."
Regardless of what the public may think about Washington and Asomugha's private union, they are proving with each moment that love can conquer all.
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Feature image by Arturo Holmes/MG23/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue