A Thurston County company, founded on the bedrock belief that private enterprise alleviates poverty, is being held up internationally as a model for social enterprises.
Alaffia co-founders Olowo-n’djo Tchala and Prairie Rose Hyde delivered a number of high-profile addresses to U.S. and African officials at a 38-nation trade summit in Togo, West Africa the first week of August — even hosting U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer at their cultural center in Lome, Togo. Alaffia has been able to accomplish the herculean feat of blending a great product, fair trade and wages, gender equality practices, environmental stewardship and sustainability, and economic stability for impoverished communities.
Founded in 2003 by the husband and wife team in their garage, Alaffia formulates and creates popular skin and hair care products. The enterprise impacts more than 14,000 people worldwide. About 135 employees work in their 100,000 sq. ft. Tumwater headquarters where the body care products are finished, packaged and shipped all over the world. This location was identified with the help of the Thurston Economic Development Council.
In the nations of Togo and Ghana, 750 women are directly employed by Alaffia, and another 13,000 work as contractors who provide shea nuts and shea nut butter, grass and baskets for the company’s products. Alaffia was created to help West African communities become sustainable through the fair trade of indigenous resources. The company provides a means of reducing poverty and advancing gender equality in Tchala’s native country of Togo.
“The EDC has been an integral piece in Alaffia’s success,” said Tchala. “They connected us with critical financing and helped us grow in an organized way.” “The EDC staff was helpful, creative and a critical step in our success,” says Hyde.
“Alaffia’s focus on fair trade principles has created employment opportunities and supported self-sufficiency — even prosperity — for villagers in Africa and Americans in Washington State,” shared Hyde.
Much like the support Alaffia has received in Thurston County, Tchala and Hyde help women entrepreneurs in Africa with training and support in identifying and adapting to American market trends. They provide support in understanding how and when to scale up and how to maintain market position through relevant innovation.
“Alaffia” is a greeting in central Togo that means “peace and good health.” Alaffia returns a portion of its profits to fund vital community investments like maternal health, school-building, bicycles to support girls’ access to education, and reforestation that protects the natural assets women in Togo rely on. Alaffia – through economic opportunity and community investments — has certainly lived up to its name.