In a world increasingly oriented towards sustainability, the search for high-quality natural ingredients for the production of goods has become not only an act of care and respect for the environment but also a practice of global interest. In the field of cosmetics, among the most valuable and sought-after natural ingredients is shea butter, a product that plays a central role in the story of our #E4ImpactEntrepreneur Mary Magdalene Vikuba Anwabiri and her business.

North Gold Organics, founded by her in 2017, is a social enterprise that aims to promote the abundant natural resources of the northern region of Ghana, using them to enhance the health and beauty of the population, while simultaneously contributing to the livelihood of the most vulnerable local producers (usually women), by marketing their products in various parts of the country and creating connections with other social development entities.

By initially supplying shea butter, followed by Baobab seed oil, Dawadawa powder, and eventually Smock cotton fabrics, Mary Magdlene has succeeded in establishing a virtuous cycle of economic and social empowerment for women. She expanded operations from cosmetics to fashion, with Vikuba Designs, targeting the indigenous fashion market, and has created new jobs and fulfilled the demand for high-quality natural ingredients for many families.

With the goal of becoming one of the leading suppliers of selected organic products in Ghana and beyond, the entrepreneur enrolled in our Global MBA in Impact Entrepreneurship ad Accra in 2023, a program financed by MAECI through the project Socio-Economic Stability Action in Ghana. She was confident that this would allow her to grow her business, improve her strategy, and create a greater impact in her community.

Thanks to the MBA program, I acquired useful skills for managing a business and its finances. We can say that I am now well-equipped and capable of running my business as a social enterprise. But that’s not all: in addition to these valuable technical skills, I also had the opportunity to expand my network, which is another crucial element for entrepreneurship”, Mary Magdlene stated.

Let’s take a look at the interview we’ve conducted with her:

1. How was your business idea born?

My business idea was born when I had to leave my job due to some personal issues. During that time, I had visited the northern region of the country, which is rich in high-quality natural resources, and a friend asked me to bring her some shea butter because she wanted to sell it. I decided to take the opportunity to buy a bit more and try selling it myself, using my personal contacts as a test to gauge the product’s market potential. Appreciating the quality of the product, my friends began ordering more and recommending that others buy it from me for both cosmetic and culinary uses. Besides shea butter, they also started asking me for other organic products from the North, such as Baobab seed oil or Dawadawa, which I promptly began to source. Since these were everyday items, I decided to package them for sale and start advertising to attract more customers. Over time, people appreciated my products due to their accessibility, availability, and excellent quality-to-price ratio.

The relationships with my suppliers have also been a great source of motivation from the start. My professionalism, punctuality, and payment methods provided them with support for growing their businesses. Seeing vulnerable people, especially women, progressing in their work, made me realize that I was on the right path.

2. What services and solutions has your company provided to the community in recent years?

From having just one customer in 2017, I now have over 50 loyal customers who buy my products at least once a month, and I am in contact with 10 suppliers (5 of whom are women) who consistently provide me with the high-quality products that I sell.

Additionally, I outsource the production of fashion items to 7 external professionals. Currently, we only sell in Ghana, but I also receive occasional orders from the UK, Canada, and South Africa.

In practice, to date, thanks to the work done with North Gold Organics, new jobs have been created, especially for suppliers of raw and processed materials.

3. What are the main achievements of the past 3 years and the goals for the next 3?

In the past 3 years, the main achievements have been the formal registration of the business, the consistent supply of organic products to over 50 families per month, the acquisition of business development skills, and the establishment of an online presence on Instagram. For the next 3 years, my goals are to export shea butter, start a business coaching program for startups and a mentoring initiative for young people, and launch an online store.

4. What are the main challenges you had to overcome in your entrepreneurial experience? 

I have mainly faced challenges in finding funding to allow me to expand my business, as well as in finding a sufficiently large space for my operations. Currently, I still occasionally have to dip into my personal funds, although on a smal scale.

Additionally, I have had issues in finding suitable materials for packaging my products, as these often involve imported materials, and what I need is not always available.

5. Can you tell us about a particularly satisfying moment in your entrepreneurial journey?

I don’t have one specific moment, but what drives me every day is being able to meet my customers’ needs, especially when I receive positive feedback about my products.

6. Can you tell us more about the impact you are creating?

The greatest impact my business has had so far is that of contributing to the economic empowerment of my female suppliers.

In the future, I hope to provide them with a safe production space, a steady income, and social services such as personal care, health checks, and alternative livelihoods, as they are mostly farmers who depend on the rainy seasons for their sustenance.

7. In your opinion, what are the main qualities an entrepreneur should have?

Passion, commitment, resilience, innovation, knowledge, and a willingness to learn.

8. Is there a person you admire, for instance an entrepreneur or a specific mentor?

Odelia Ntiamoah, Global Director of the Oxford Institute for African Women’s Leadership.

9. Finally, what advice would you give to a new entrepreneur?

Pursue structured entrepreneurship training, maintain proper and effective documentation, and build a strong network of contacts.

Learn more about North Gold Organics:

Instagram Account: @northgoldorganics22