Akua Wood, Owner Director of Sheabutter Cottage Ltd

A multi-award-winning fair trade business offering a range of handmade natural vegan-friendly beauty products and toiletries

As a Ghanaian native who had spent a year studying in Italy whilst at high school, I am used to kinder climes. When I moved to the UK in 1994 to settle down and start a family, the British cold, with its damp winters and raw winds, came as quite a shock!

My skin became affected and I tried, in vain, to find a natural range of toiletries to moisturise it. The need to do something about this was my initial inspiration to go self-employed, but my eldest of two children proved to be the driving force behind everything I have gone on to achieve…

In 1998, I gave birth to my daughter. She is disabled and non-verbal, so I gave up working in the construction industry to take care of her full time. Two years later, my son was born and I was there to raise him too. Today, he’s studying Law.

Over time, I understood how important it was to find an outlet which offered a shift in focus from being a hands-on mum of two and a round-the-clock carer for a child with additional needs. I started sewing children’s clothes as a sideline, but then, in 2002, I thought it was time to get serious about making my own beauty products and toiletries.

That year, I founded my first brand, Cioccolatina; then, in 2004, Sheabutter Cottage was born. I’ve ran both businesses side by side ever since until deciding to unify them in 2018.

Last year, I launched a co-op in Ghana which comprises 54 women who make shea butter at home. In my country, women do not have a strong voice when they go to sell their products at market – and it’s very difficult for them to dictate their own price.

The co-op has been created to empower them to have a collective voice and the ability to establish their own fees for the work they put into creating their products. At some stage, I am going to hand the co-op over to the women for them to run independently. In the meantime, I will continue to operate it until they have had the time to be educated to walk unaided.

Sheabutter Cottage