Alaffia is a beauty brand that's unlike most others. The fair-trade company, which is Black-owned and specializes in hair, face, and body-care products that incorporate handcrafted African ingredients, defines itself as one whose success is not measured by profit, but rather by empowerment.
"We founded Alaffia as a means to empower my communities in West Africa; our social mission came first," founder Olowo-n'djo Tchala told POPSUGAR. "It was not developed as a marketing tool to sell our products."
Taking inspiration from his mother, Ina, Tchala founded Alaffia as a way to pour back into the community in his home country of Togo. "Ina taught me about the importance of community," he said. "When I was young, she always found ways to share whatever we had with those around us, and this is a critical part of what Alaffia does."
Alaffia's products, like unrefined shea butter and African black soap, are handcrafted by women's cooperatives in Africa using traditional methods before being finished at Alaffia's US headquarters in Olympia, WA. Once the products are sold, the proceeds are immediately returned to Togo to help fund a number of initiatives like maternal health, education, reforestation, and sustainability. The goal is to alleviate poverty, encourage gender equality, and ultimately protect women, whom Tchala said are the backbone of West African communities.
"Their skills and knowledge are consistently undervalued," he said. "I created Alaffia as a way to change this, to give real value and awareness to the knowledge and resources of these women."
Togo is one of the poorest countries in Africa. According to research from The Borgen Project, just over 80 percent of the country's rural population lived below the poverty line in 2017. A big step that Alaffia is taking to alleviate poverty is ensuring the women harvesting these ingredients are being paid livable wages and working in healthy environments.
"[Women's] skills and knowledge are consistently undervalued. I created Alaffia as a way to change this."
"Not only are we creating natural products with sustainably harvested and crafted resources from one of the poorest countries in the world, we are paying community members fairly for their goods and services and providing healthcare, paid time off, and other benefits," Tchala said. "There is a reciprocal relationship where the funds from the sales of our products go back into the communities. They go to the places where they are desperately needed, which the community members have identified themselves. Empowering Togo to rise out of poverty puts humanity at the center—basic needs, not profit."
The company boasts a lineup of several products like shampoos, conditioners, body washes, and body butters — check out the brand's bestsellers ahead.