Shea butter and black soap are the stars at Kaeme. The cosmetic brand from Ghana reinterprets in its soaps, creams and lotions what women in West Africa have always used to care for their skin and hair.
Freda Obeng-Ampofo, a political and economic scientist, is the founder – and as she calls herself “Chef Mixer” – of Kaeme. In an interview with ‘Manuyoo’ Freda tells how she came up with the idea for Kaeme, why women are better entrepreneurs and where Kaeme products will soon be on the shelf.
What is the story behind Kaeme, why did you start the brand?
Freda: I grew up with four older brothers like the fifth boy. Cosmetics were not important to me, for my face and body I only used shea butter and black soap, a homemade natural soap made with ashes from banana peel or palm leaves. I also made my personal care products during my studies and my first jobs in Europe and the USA. However, in a different recipe. The old products were hard to spread and didn’t smell good, so I mixed the ingredients more intensively and added natural scented oils. A few years ago, as a wedding present for a friend, I made a cosmetic set that was tailored to her needs. Other female wedding guests wanted it too, I was producing more and more and suddenly I realized that my products had business potential.
What were the challenges for you on the way to your own company?
Freda: Ghana doesn’t have a startup culture. The government wants to support founders, but there is no state funding or any advice. Getting certificates for products takes forever, the processes are not transparent, most of it only happens through relationships. Finding good employees wasn’t easy either.
How is it that women in Ghana and other African countries often found startups? Is Entrepreneurship Female In Africa?
Freda: Entrepreneurship is a risky thing. The men here want a secure job with a regular income. Women are used to taking risks. And it’s okay for us to make mistakes. We make it, learn from it, carry on.
Why are there no global brands ‘Made in Africa’?
Freda: There are several reasons. For one thing, it is historically the case that international corporations see Africa as a supplier of raw materials. For a long time it was no different with shea butter from West Africa, large cosmetic brands have been making a lot of money with it for a long time. But it’s also up to us. Our education systems don’t teach critical thinking, so there is a lack of creativity. When someone makes shea butter, the next one doesn’t come up with a bigger idea, they just do the same thing. In addition, for a long time people were not proud of their identity, their origins, their traditions. But you need that pride to develop a strong brand.
That seems to be changing. At least in the cosmetics industry. Kaeme is not the only African manufacturer of high quality, modern shea butter products. What makes Kaeme different from the competition?
Freda: We are firmly anchored locally.Our products are 100 percent ‘Made in Ghana’, my team makes everything themselves, all raw materials come from a women’s cooperative in the north of the country.
What is your vision for Kaeme?
Freda: It is not foreseeable what long-term consequences the Covid19 crisis will have for us. But something in me tells me that the crisis will make us even stronger. In the next three to five years, I want to establish Kaeme in West Africa, and then on the whole continent. And one day Kaeme will be a world-famous brand that will be on the shelf alongside all the global cosmetics brands. Kaeme will be a success story that will change the image of Ghana, even the image of all Africa, for the better.
We love telling the KAEME story because we believe it reflects the true Ghanaian spirit of ingenuity, courage and perseverance
Kaeme products contain no preservatives, additives or colorings. They are not tested on animals and are paraben free.
Kae.Me is an expression of the Akan language and means “remember me”.