Have I ever mentioned how much I adore Africa? As a little girl, I was transfixed by my grandmother’s stack of National Geographic’s and the images of people so different than everything I knew. In high school, I dove into studies in African culture via my sociology classes. And I thought my heart might explode as I stood in the customs line to gain entry to Egypt in 2009. That was my first time on African soil, though it certainly wasn’t my last. Throughout 2010-2011, I traveled to Morocco five times and onto Mali, Ghana and Uganda in some of my most cherished travel adventures. But it’s been eighteen months since I found myself on the continent, which is why I am delighted to share that I’ll be heading to Nigeria in less than two weeks to attend the Global Shea Conference.
“The sixth annual Global Shea Alliance international conference will bring together hundreds of business people representing every aspect of the shea industry. Attendees come from over 35 countries and include CEOs of major corporations, investors, financiers, transport and logistics service providers, as well as shea nut and shea butter producers, exporters, wholesalers and retailers. This year’s conference will spotlight the economic, social and environmental impacts of shea that lead to success in the 21st century marketplace. Shea 2013: Global Perspectives will take place at the Sheraton Hotel in Abuja, Nigeria on March 4-6, 2013. The conference will feature experts and industry leaders facilitating a variety of workshops and training sessions.”
I first attended a shea conference in Mali in 2010 as a featured speaker to tell the story behind my cosmetics company. That conference led to so many great things: an important private label partnership, key contacts for African botanicals I later incorporated into my African Adventures collection and an opportunity to teach cosmetic workshops throughout Northern Ghana. I’ve been eager to get back to another conference and the stars aligned for 2013! This year I’ll be wearing a few different hats:
1. At the request of conference organizers, I’ll be sitting on a panel exploring shea sustainability, as well as serving as a small business development resource for various startups. I’ll have the opportunity to review business plans for African entrepreneurs who are looking to launch their own beauty empires.
2. Funlayo Alibi of Shea Radiance is coordinating an ambitious slate of trainings and she’s graciously invited me to lead a two-hour workshop. My focus will be teaching attendees how to bring their cosmetic products to market…from concept to launch. It’s a lot of ground to cover in 120 minutes but I’m up for the challenge!
3. Donna Maria Coles Johnson, president of the Indie Beauty Network (IBN) has been named the 2013 Global Shea Conference Social Media Liaison. Donna Maria has asked me and fellow IBN member, Stephanie Craig of Embodico, to assist her efforts to empower attendees to use social media to support their conference experience and boost their business networking goals. I’m excited to serve as a set of boots on the ground on IBN’s behalf, to rally the local troops to use Twitter and Facebook at the conference.
I’ve got a great traveling companion, too. The aforementioned Stephanie and I are meeting up on a layover in Frankfurt and heading to Africa together. It’s not our first collaboration- we traveled together to Morocco in 2011 to distribute educational tools to a rural school through my nonprofit. While there, Stephanie led a soapmaking workshop for indigenous Berber women and she’ll be busting out those skills again as she leads a series of soapmaking workshops at the Global Shea event. I’ll be there to cheer her on and I’m eager to watch the controlled chaos of teaching soapmaking in multiple languages to a few hundred women from across the continent!
My mister is a bit unsettled by numerous travel warnings for the area, so he’s submitted a specific request for extra good juju as make the journey. Stephanie and I covet your good thoughts and encourage you to join us virtually on the trip. I’ll be posting pictures and updates via my Twitter account and I hope you’ll follow along. On March 7th, we’ll be heading out to visit local shea cooperatives and you won’t want to miss those images. The “field trip” day of the conference is always my favorite!