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Abena Boamah's Journey With Hanahana Beauty: From Concept to Ulta


Sep. 5 2023, Published 12:41 a.m. ET

Smooth, malleable, and flowing. That’s the meaning behind Hanahana, and the brand has sure lived up to its name. Growing it from her kitchen to a global beauty brand, Abena Boamah has had a fascinating journey to the top, using shea butter as her holy grail. From her math teacher background, Abena has been all about ratios—mixing ingredients in the right proportions to make perfect formulations to rejuvenate the skin.

The Birth of Hanahana

Growing up, Abena always saw her mom mix shea butter and other ingredients to make skincare concoctions, so she knew a thing or two about homemade skin care mixtures. She also knew that as a Black woman, she needed to keep her skin moisturized due to the cold Chicago climate, but most of the products available left it looking ashy.

What she didn't know was that her passion for skin care could turn her into a CEO of a global-reaching brand, helping more people achieve their dream of vibrant skin. In 2014, she started making skincare concoctions in her kitchen for her personal use while sharing them with friends and family as gifts before she decided to give it a shot on the market. At this point, she had no intention of selling them. She was just focused on her Master’s in Counseling Psychology.

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Trip to Katariga, Ghana

In 2016, after constant advice from her friends and family to turn her hobby into a business, she decided to go commercial but was determined to do it the right way. She returned to her Ghanaian roots, looking for a credible source of shea butter, which would be her main ingredient. Here, she met and developed connections with Katariga Women’s Cooperative, which prepares raw shea butter for industrial use. The group became her official source of shea butter and still is.

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Moved by how low the prices were, she decided to pay them double the market price for a start and devoted to bettering their lives through the partnership. This was just the start, not just of a soon-to-be global brand but also uplifting the producing community on her way up. In 2017, she launched Hanahana Beauty, a name suggested by her father, and started selling body butter made from different scents like lavender and vanilla.

Expanding to a Full Portfolio of Skin Care Products

As the body butters caught the public's hearts, it was time to hit the nail while still hot, diversifying her production to include body scrubs, lip balms, and exfoliating body bars. The brand is now a full-fledged direct-to-consumer skincare brand, making hand-crafted ethical and natural products. Just like her products, Abena has grown her brand organically.

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She hasn’t even undertaken any funding campaigns, building off grants from groups like Glossier Beauty Company and the Cocokind Foundation, which were fascinated by her brand's commitment to consciously developing clean skincare products ethically sourced from Africa.

The brand also grew exponentially during the pandemic as more people paid attention to natural skin care while at home. Also, a series of shout-outs from influencers and celebrities commending the brand for its efforts to clean up the skincare landscape made more people discover it and explore its product line.

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Commitment to Humanity

In addition to producing clean natural products, the brand is also keen on enhancing the lives of the producing communities back in Ghana. It has equipped them with improved production equipment and set up health education initiatives and facilities to improve their access to healthcare.

Through the brand’s Circle of Care Initiative, it has improved the economic conditions of the farmers, enumerating them well above the industry standards to help improve their lifestyle. The initiative has also been on the frontline of promoting environmental sustainability, pushing policies to protect shea trees and proper waste management.

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Launch With Ulta

As part of Ulta’s Sparked Program, which boosts the accessibility of emerging brands, they linked up with Abena, launching her brand’s products in over 400 Ulta Beauty Stores across the US. The products hit Ulta’s shelves on March 5, 2023, as Abena celebrated her 32nd birthday and sixth anniversary since the brand launch.

And no, Ulta isn't the only distributor of Hanahana’s products. The products are also sold on JCPenney, Asrai Garden in Chicago, Revolve.com, and the production site in Chicago. On her brand’s scaling plan, Abena intends to move production to Ghana, partly because it's more cost-effective and to broaden her production team to enhance mass production, as she aims to grow it to a household skincare brand.

Sticking To The Core Values

To think that a brand could grow to national and even global recognition organically in today’s hyper-saturated markets feels like delusional optimism, but Abena has proved it’s possible. Just total commitment to serving humanity and providing pure natural products that actually deliver on their promises has been enough to put her brand on the map. It goes to show the value of transparency and genuineness in business, combined with care for both your product consumers and the production team.

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