WƆ NƆ Ni with Nicole Mensa (’16)
The 21st century is marked by extensive globalization, drawn from an ever-connected and exceedingly flat world. Increasingly, individuals, institutions, and ideas are crossing international borders and taking part in sculpting the future layout of the planet. For some, such as College of Arts and Science’s student Nicole Mensa (‘16), this historical marriage of cultures provided the opportunity to not only create an economic profit, but also a social profit by empowering Ghanaian women.
Officially founded in 2015, WƆ NƆ Ni is a cosmetics company focused on providing organic shea butter products to an international market while simultaneously allowing Ghanaian shea butter producers to capture more value-added. She works directly with rural, female farmers to ensure product quality and is one of few companies to arrange with local manufacturers to keep profits in the local community.
Nicole was inspired to start WƆ NƆ Ni by a natural affinity to the African continent, and Ghana specifically, where she was born and raised before relocating to the United States to attend college. She grew tired of finding so many shea butter products that minimally impacted the “troops on the ground” in her home country of Ghana, where shea butter is primarily produced. The phrase WƆ NƆ Ni is Ga, one of the many languages of Ghana, and means Things That Are Indigenously Ours – a testament to the social nature of her business.
While many of her peers are focused on final exams and making plans for the weekend, Nicole has the additional stress of managing an international enterprise. Nicole’s business began with most support coming from family and friends, but as word spread quickly of a socially-conscious cosmetic company, so did orders. Today she sells WƆ NƆ Ni Shea Gold – her flagship product – in Ghanaian salons, at the local farmer’s market, and online. Over the past 9 months, she has sold over 1,000 units and sees sales increasing steadily.
Nicole has a long history of social entrepreneurship, founding a nonprofit organization that trains underprivileged students in Ghana with computer and technical skills before fundraising and donating computers to their schools. For student entrepreneurs, she says, “Do not despise the day of humble beginnings. It doesn’t have to be a multimillion dollar company, it can be a $500 company. The most important thing is to just start.”
To purchase WƆ NƆ Ni Shea Gold or any of Nicole’s other products, visit her website at www.wononi.com