Hanahana Beauty Founder, Abena Boamah on Building a Brand and Launching in Ulta

Abena Boamah is a lot of things — The CEO of Hanahana beauty, proud Pisces, and never-ever-ashy Ghanaian American visual storyteller. She does everything with intention, and that exact holistic business acumen helped her to launch her shea butter products in Ulta early this week on March 5.

Their products range from different body kinds of butter like the top-selling amber vanilla and bamboo coconut to the after shower 2-in-1 moisturizing and exfoliating body bar. Ulta launched larger-sized body butters exclusively with new packaging. And yes, they will eventually be available on the Hanahana beauty online store.

Hanahana beauty is a part of Ulta's Sparked collection that launches emerging brands in-store for the first time. "Abena's passion and approach to developing consciously clean skincare products sourced directly from women in Ghana deeply inspired us, and we knew the brand would be equally as exciting for our Ulta Beauty guests to discover," says Muffy Clince, director of emerging brands at Ulta Beauty.

More than just another beauty brand, Hanahana beauty works within the shea butter trade to bring autonomy to producers and make a tangible change. Monthly educational programs, biannual healthcare days, and an initiative to provide easier access to clean water to the Katariga community,  are just a few impactful actions Boamah and Hanahana beauty have led. Working with Ulta, the future will be ripe with even more opportunities. Teen Vogue spoke with the rising beauty mogul on her journey to such a major moment and her plans for the future of Hanahana Beauty.

Photography by Deun Ivory
Photography by Deun Ivory

Teen Vogue: When starting the Hanahana beauty brand, what intentions did you set?

Abena Boamah: Being Ghanaian, I've used shea butter all my life, but I still wanted to learn how beauty products were produced, the amount of energy, the amount of work, and how much money was made. The whole intention honestly was to expand my knowledge and create new experiences in the beauty space.

TV: What was the journey like - from just an idea to launching in Ulta?

AB: I decided in 2014 to start making products for myself. I had no intention of selling at all. I would give it to my friends and family, and every time I would make it, my friends and family were always begging me to make more. I had no intention of starting a business.  I was a teacher who had just started grad school during that time, and my focus was my Master's in Counseling Psychology. But my friends and family kept encouraging me to start a business. I created products in my kitchen after grad school, and before I went to teach school.

It wasn't longe before I went back home to my parents in December 2016, finally ready to start [a business]. My dad suggested that I call it Hanahana. Hanahana is a slang word that means smooth, malleable, and flowing, and it just made sense. It was perfect.

That summer, I went back to Ghana for the first time in a while, to meet producers of the Katariga Cooperative. They welcomed me with open arms, and allowed me to come in and learn from them. I was shocked by how low the price was then. We began by paying twice the asking prices for the raw materials. So that was the start, and we would do activations from there. We've honestly grown organically.

Photography by Deun Ivory
Photography by Deun Ivory

TV: How does it feel now, looking back?

AB: It's been a journey, especially being a bootstrap brand and not investing in funding.  I look at the brand, and we're only about to turn six years old. I see longevity in the brand and I'm excited about our growth thus far. I love how we've been able to simultaneously be authentic, creative, and strategic.

TV: Since the launch, how are you feeling?

I'm feeling great. We launched on my birthday, which is kind of crazy. There's been a great response. People seem very excited. We're launching the SPARKED program with Ulta too. I've always wanted to be in a big beauty retailer, so it's a dream come true. Especially with the larger bottles and everything,  I wanted us to be able to launch with a level of newness.

Photography by Deun Ivory
Photography by Deun Ivory

TV: Happy belated! Sounds like quite the birthday gift. How do you wish Hanahana to be received by the masses?

AB:  Being Ghanaian is more than just my identity or my blackness. My parents have always been around intentional impact and community. I knew when I created this brand that it couldn't just benefit me, but everyone else as well.

TV: Now that it's said and done, what was your favorite part of this major launch?

AB: This launch helped us deal with our packaging issues. We used to speak to our vendors about glass jars but they just weren't realistic. Beyond glass being expensive, we also had to take into account carbon emissions, freights, and the weight of our product. So we moved to recyclable plastic, which allowed us to play around with our aesthetic more and they didn't even weigh half as much. This new look we made exclusive to the Ulta launch.

TV: What was the process of deciding on the different flavors of body butters?

AB:  I started out with my personal favorite, Lavendar, because it's calming. And Vanilla, was an obvious choice. Everyone loves vanilla. I wanted the scents to be subtle, not overpowering. I wanted to launch sandalwood and vanilla. But I was making it at home and realized I was allergic to sandalwood. It's been a process but I made sure to have a good few to choose from just incase you might not like lavender, but you like eucalyptus and lemongrass.

TV: Ah, so no sandalwood huh?

AB: I started breaking out, so we launched amber instead.It worked out. Thus far, amber vanilla is so is our top seller. It feels warm, like a hug.

Lavendar Vanilla Shea Butter

$32.00, Ulta

2-in-1 Body Bar

$15.00, Ulta

Amber Vanilla Shea Butter

$32.00, Ulta

TV: What would you say your first memory of shea butter was?

AB: Oh my goodness, I have a lot… I suppose it's my mom either bringing Shea over from Ghana or  just the memory of us having to slather it  all over ourselves daily before school. I also have a lot of memories of my mom making it herself. She would bring the raw, add cloves and another oil and mix it.

It's best to use it on damp skin after the shower. If you're doing an entire routine from Hanahana, use our two-in-one bar in the shower prior to the butter for the ultimate exfoliation and moisturizing.

TV: What are your plans for Hanahana moving forward?

AB: Moving forward, we will continue to create result-driven products, for daily use. Definitely looking to create more bath time products. Hoping to grow globally. Ulta is just the beginning.

Photography by Deun Ivory
Photography by Deun Ivory

Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue