Saturday, February 21, 2015

From Mali to Maryland: Shea Radiance is everywhere!


Photo from the Global Shea Conference in 2010
In March 2010 I attended a global shea conference held in Bamako, Mali (hosted by the West Africa Trade Hub and the Global Shea Alliance). One woman I met during the conference was Funlayo Alabi who owns a shea butter business called Shea Radiance. I was excited to meet her because my host mom, Annie, and I spent a lot of time talking about shea butter - from how to make it to how to sell it to how to use it. 

After I learned more about her product line, Funlayo and I started talking about our origins and she told me she was from Nigeria. She asked me where I was from and I said Virginia Beach, VA. Now how many people do you think have heard of Virginia Beach outside of the United States? Or even outside of Virginia? Funlayo had not only heard of Virginia Beach, she had lived there! She told me that she received a degree from Regent University and that now she was based out of Maryland and traveling back and forth to West Africa for her shea business. I thought, wow, what are the odds that at this conference in Mali I would meet someone from Sub-Saharan Africa who had not only heard of my hometown, but had lived in it?

Flash forward five years later. I left Mali. I got married (twice!). Abdoulaye and I bought a house in Hyattsville, Maryland and we had a baby! Our baby girl is what brings me to this blog post today. While Abdoulaye and I share many of our parenting ideals, there are a number of ways we're approaching this new adventure that are different simply because of where we grew up. And while I love shea butter as much as the next Returned (Environmental) Peace Corps Volunteer, I hadn't considered it as a staple for my baby's medicine cabinet.
Keeping my baby's nose clean since 2015
Abdoulaye, on the other hand, saw shea butter as a non-negotiable and so I began my search for some. But I didn't want just any shea butter - I wanted the good stuff. No additives. No perfumes. No chemicals. No words I couldn't pronounce. All those requirements led me to Yes! Organic Market in downtown Hyattsville, a short walk from our home. While searching the aisles, I found what I was looking for and picked up a small tub. I looked at the label to make sure it was 100% shea butter and imagine my surprise when I saw the name of the brand, Shea Radiance, Funlaylo’s company! I made a noise to match my surprise and told a man who worked at the grocery store standing nearby the story of how I had met the owner of the company. He nodded and said, oh you know Funlayo? I said, do you know Funlayo?? He nodded his head and kept going on with his business - I kept standing there letting my head shake with my jaw dropped.
The face of a happy shea butter baby
From Mali to Maryland - it looks like shea butter is here to stay in my life and I couldn't be happier!

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