As the beauty industry starts to become more health-conscious we would like to highlight the simplicity of this shea butter-based company, Nekawa Beauty. Launched in 2018 by the co-founders Awa Diaw and Chelsea Trotter, these women specialize in bringing minimalism to your daily beauty routine. Their shea butter moisturizes both the skin and hair, reducing the amount of time and items you need for your beauty regimen. Currently, Nekawa Beauty sells shea butter from 2-8 oz in the scents of original (unscented), honey vanilla, and lavender. Diaw & Trotter recently debuted their newest product, the Awaken serum, a combination of Baobab oil and other organic oils.
The roots of this business start with Awa Diaw, who was born in Senegal and moved to the United States at the age of 6. She and her family settled in Harlem, New York. During her childhood, Diaw’s mother often used shea butter on her and the rest of her siblings. Shea butter is a fat extracted from the nut of the African Shea Tree, scientifically known as Butyrospermum parkii or Vitellaria paradoxa. This tree is commonly found in Senegal, Mali, Ghana, and other countries across West Africa. Diaw has mentioned that shea butter serves multiple purposes such as moisturizing dry skin, healing bruises, and preparing food. For Nekawa Beauty, the shea butter is best used to nourish dry skin and hair.
It was during Diaw’s business venture class at Kelley School of Business in Indiana that she decided to use her family’s recipe as an idea for an assignment. She collaborated with her friend and business partner, Chelsea Trotter, for this project. After the completion of the course, Diaw and Trotter decided to turn this class project into an actual business. For over a year Nekawa Beauty has been operating in Seattle, Washington.
The beauty of this brand is within the name. In Swahili, Nekawa means choice, immaculate, and pure. These are the traits that Diaw and Trotter embody through their work and value for their customers. Diaw’s first name, Awa, is included in the title of her business, representing her personal touch and identity in the products that she sells. Diaw receives unrefined shea butter from a company manufacturer that imports the butter from West Africa, thus obtaining a high quality of the product rich with nutrients. She wants to share her family tradition of using this product to maintain healthy skin. Nekawa is the word awaken backward, and that’s what shea butter does to the body. This one product provides various benefits, it heals and protects the skin and hair which awakens from the potent ingredients in the butter. Once Diaw and Chelsea receive unrefined shea butter, they include additional ingredients such as aloe vera juice and rosehip oil, to increase the range of nutrients in the product. Diaw mentions the importance of choice and access to all-natural ingredients. She says that “The ultimate goal is for us to be the choice that people want to go to and buy if they’re looking for natural products that are based off of traditional African ingredients.”
Diaw’s connection to Senegal has a tremendous influence on her business and life. She’s deeply passionate about women empowerment in Africa. For Diaw, empowerment starts with an individual’s health. Nekawa Beauty donates 10% of its proceeds to Amref Health Africa, a nonprofit that works on improving the health development on the continent, especially for women and girls. Their proceeds go to the work that’s being done in Senegal, which is also where the organization’s West African headquarters are located at. Diaw informs us that in various African countries women are often the breadwinners of their family. She mentions that “Women tend to really be the ones to lead the forces and specifically with Senegal it’s a very maternalistic country, and so there is a huge focus on mothers. Sometimes they’re not necessarily given the right tools and skills to help their families move forward.” Diaw regards this partnership with Amref Africa as one of her proudest achievements for the business.
The co-founders Diaw and Trotter want to encourage customers to become more mindful and intentional about the cosmetic products that they use. They believe that your skincare routine can be minimal, while also using natural ingredients that sufficiently moisturizes your skin and hair. You can view the current product line of shea butter and serum that Nekawa Beauty offers here.