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June 15, 2018

Alaffia recognized for the successful intersection of business, fair trade and social good

By: Bobbi Cussins   Comments: 0
Olowo-n’djo Tchala, founder and CEO of Alaffia. (Photo courtesy of Alaffia)

Alaffia’s husband and wife founders, and the company’s entire workforce in Washington state and in West Africa, had a remarkable week.

Olowo-n’djo Tchala, CEO and co-founder of the Tumwater-based fair-trade manufacturer of skin- and body-care products, was honored with an EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award during a gala event Friday evening.

Earlier the same week, Tchala was appointed by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to serve a four-year term as a member of the U.S. Trade Advisory Committee on Africa (TACA).

Composed of 22 members who have expertise in U.S.-Africa trade, investment and development issues, TACA provides general policy advice and guidance to the U.S. Trade Representative on trade policy and development matters that have a significant impact on the countries of sub-Saharan Africa.

“It is an honor to serve alongside other TACA members to help thoughtfully guide U.S. trade policy related to sub-Saharan Africa,” Tchala said in a press release. “Trade between the U.S. and Africa is vital to helping people on both continents rise up out of poverty through fair private enterprise, something we work on every day at Alaffia.”

As a long-time advocate for fair trade as a way to grow private enterprise to lift families out of poverty, Tchala is a good fit for TACA. In fact, Alaffia was honored by the state Senate on April 13, 2017, with Senate Resolution 8645, encouraging trade between Washington state and Togo.

Alaffia's success is dependent on the fair trade of raw materials like shea butter and coconut oil the companies uses to manufacture their products from Togo, West Africa, Tchala's home country.

He and his wife, Prairie Rose Hyde, have worked over the years to overcome the export and import challenges presented when working with a developing economy like West Africa.

To raise awareness to good that fair trade brings to Africa and the U.S., Tchala hosted Ambassador Lighthizer at Alaffia’s cultural center in Lomé, Togo, last August during the African Growth and Opportunity Act conference in Togo. And, that U.S. Ambassador to Togo David Gilmour and Acting Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Donald Yamamoto, who leads the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs, also visited Alaffia’s headquarters in April, 2017 and March, 2018, respectively.

Their effort has made Alaffia one of the largest private employers in West Africa, employing as many as 14,000 women, paying wages four-times that of the average wage in Togo, and using a portion of their sales to fund Alaffia's Empowerment Project, which is at the core of the company's mission: To alleviate poverty and promote gender equality.

Alaffia's non-profit empowerment initiatives have resulted in 59,775 trees planted, 34,640 school supply recipients, 8,253 bikes distributed, 25,588 eyeglasses donated, 12 schools constructed, and more than 4,800 babies safely delivered in West Africa.

It’s these efforts and others that landed Tchala in Seattle June 15 to receive an EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award in the “Mold-Breaker” category. The award recognized Alaffia for its role in social good here and in Tchala’s home country of Togo, West Africa.

In his acceptance speech dedicating the award to his mother, Tchala, one of eight children, credited her for teaching him the value of hard work and instilling in him an entrepreneurial spirit at a young age as they sold goods at the local village markets.

In a moment of levity, Tchala said of his mother: “She taught me early on … she said, go to old ladies, they will feel sorry for you, so she taught me how to know my audience. And that’s why I chose the co-ops and the Whole Foods to sell natural product.

“So, on her behalf, I will continue to do what I have always done, to empower women in West Africa through the private enterprise, and at the same time creating jobs here in the state of Washington so that the families in America, they too, can feed their families.”

Tchala said he will place the award on his mother’s grave during his next trip to Africa.

GeekWire covered the awards and the Thurston County Economic Development Council has more on the TACA appointment. Alaffia’s press release on the trade committee appointment can be found here and the company’s release on the award can be read here.

Alaffia's compelling story was shared in AWB's 2017 Grow Here multi-media ad campaign and featured in Washington Business magazine.