ALAFFIA How one couple started their own business—not to make money, but to stop poverty in Africa
From the outside, the offices and factory of Alaffia, one of today’s fastest-growing natural companies, might seem ordinary. But one step inside the beauty manufacturer’s corporate offices in Olympia, Wash.—adorned with brightly colored walls, one-of-a-kind art, and beautiful teak wood from Africa—and you know that this isn’t your run-of-the-mill American business.
In fact, from the very start, the story of Alaffia has been an uncommon, albeit exceptional, one. It began with love in the small West African country of Togo. During the 1990s, Rose Hyde, an American from rural Washington, was working as a Peace Corps volunteer in Africa, teaching locals about sustainable farming practices. Tere, she met Togo native Olowo-n’djo Tchala. Tey were from opposite ends of the globe and completely different cultures, but the two connected instantly. Te pair loved having long talks together, and spent hours lost in deep conversation about everything from global politics to philosophy. Tchala grew up in a 2.5x3–foot room in Central Togo with his mother and seven siblings. By the age of 5, he was working on his mother’s farm, and by the 6th grade, he dropped out of school to work full time. Tis included collecting shea nuts to sell at market. He couldn’t have known then, but shea nuts would come to fgure prominently in Tchala’s life.