By Keely Brown
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Manny Addo has always dreamed big.
The youngest of seven siblings, he was born and raised in Ghana in West Africa. As a child, Addo dreamed of moving to the United States. His wish came true years later when he traveled to Cincinnati – alone, without his family – to pursue a college education at Xavier University.
After graduation, Addo worked for J.P. Morgan, Duke Energy, General Electric and others. He quickly discovered a new dream: creating, owning and running his own business.
Today, that dream is a reality. Equipped with his work ethic and inspired by his homeland, Addo founded Natural Shea Care, a skincare business that sells all-natural shea butter, lotion and black soap products.
“I’ve always been looking for a business opportunity that would connect Africa to the United States,” he said. “I realized that shea butter is in pretty high demand in the United States, so I said, ‘What a good opportunity to make that connection.’ ”
Addo said his product stands out from other shea butters because of its consistency. Shea butter’s raw state is difficult to use, so he came up with a solution: whipped shea butter.
“It becomes a problem to use in its raw state because you have to put it in a microwave to get it to melt or you have to dig it out with your fingernails,” Addo said. “We found a way of whipping it so that it becomes real soft and very easy to apply. Our easy application is what really sets us apart in the market.”
Natural Shea Care currently sells African black soap, as well as shea butter, in four different scents: original, lavender, kiwi and vanilla. Addo’s products can be found on the company website and in 335 Kroger stores across Greater Cincinnati.
Addo founded Natural Shea Care with the hope that his products would make a difference in the lives of his customers.
“If you have psoriasis, if you have stretch marks; if you have eczema – this product can help with these conditions. It’s a little miracle worker,” he said. “The fact I’m able to help people is really the most satisfying aspect of the job.”
But Addo’s goods aren’t just impacting Cincinnati locals – they’re changing the lives of people around the world.
Natural Shea Care sources its raw materials from socially and economically disadvantaged women in Ghana through a fair-trade compensation commitment, Addo said. They provide him with the product and, in exchange, he offers them steady jobs with livable wages in safe working conditions.
Addo said he pays above market prices directly to the women, cutting out the “middleman” to ensure economic stability. “The fact that I’m able to help the women back in Ghana, it’s huge for me,” he said.
The entrepreneur doesn’t just provide these women with job opportunities – Addo also contributes 5% of his sales to their community development fund, which helps to reduce poverty and improve working conditions.
The fund uses the money to build schools and hospitals, provide clean drinking water, assemble toilets and more.
“We do our best to send proceeds of our sales back to them for community development activities like clean drinking water, which sometimes we take for granted in United States but could be a real problem in Ghana,” Addo said. “We try to show our appreciation for them.”
Natural Shea Care has transformed from a vision to reality. And although Addo has already accomplished so much, he’s still dreaming big – he hopes to sell his products not just in Cincinnati, but across the country, as well.
“We’re in Cincinnati, but we are also in Houston, Columbus and Atlanta, too,” Addo said. “The idea is to grow across the country and get into as many stores as we can.”
The Enquirer is partnering with the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber on this Minority Business Spotlight series and making the stories available to the Cincinnati Herald. This is the second of 12 stories that will appear on Cincinnati.com and The Enquirer. Videos and photos for the series were provided by Rooted Creative for the Cincinnati Minority Business Collaborative.