First Senegalese entrepreneur Magatte Wade co-created the multi-million dollar U.S. drink company Adina World Beat Beverages, which is a manufacturer of coffee, tea and juice drinks based in San Francisco, California.
Now she has turned her eye to a high-end skin care line based on traditional Senegalese recipes. Her new venture is Tiossano. Based in New York, the company sells skin care products based on traditional Senegalese recipes, using natural ingredients indigenous to Africa.
“The traditional Senegalese ingredients in Tiossano products provide an amazing combination of nurturing and healing for the skin, while the French artisanal scents delight women as they discover new dimensions of their femininity,” explains Wade, who is founder and CEO of Tiossano. “I also believe there are many people who are eager to explore an unknown, sophisticated side of Africa. And finally, the fact that 50% of our profits go to support innovative schools inspires everyone who understands what we are trying to do.”
Currently, the products are made in the United States although Wade plans to eventually move production to Senegal. Wade says she decided to launch the company not only to promote Senegalese–thus African– innovation but also skin care can be a profitable venture. “I am an absolute skin care junkie myself. At one point I was talking to a prospective investor from Silicon Valley in my home, and he asked, “Do women actually buy skin care products?” I took him to my bathroom and showed him the hundreds of products that I had,” she says. “When I go to skin care stores I always know more about the ingredients than do any of the sales staff. I also wanted to connect directly to my culture’s traditions, and was eager to have an apprenticeship with a practitioner to learn first hand about my culture’s traditional remedies.”
And it seems, once again, Wade’s entrepreneurial instincts are correct. Like Adina, Tiossano seems poised to be a success. “We have many people who have fallen in love with the products and our brand. It has been very gratifying to hear from women who describe our lotions as the most smoothing lotion they’ve ever tried, or how excited they are to wake up each day and decide which femme scent and persona they will be each day. I have many people eager to come to Senegal and help us build the schools and factory there once we are able to get started there,” says Wade, who is no longer actively involved with Adina, which has an estimated revenue of $3.2 million.
Despite this, however, Wade faced initial skepticism from the business world. “The single greatest obstacle is the fact that most investors who want to “help” Africa are focused on “pity” brands: brands that seek to sell products by appealing to pity, “Buy this product so that we can help poor, suffering Africans.” I found it very difficult to find investors who really understood the importance of creating a brand that portrayed a high-end, sophisticated Africa,” she shares. “Even the fact that our philanthropy is designed to develop African geniuses so that the next generation of Africans can be globally competitive shatters existing prejudices around what it means to finance schools for Africans (though Oprah and the African Leadership Academy pioneered this approach).”
Now Wade has big plans for Tiossano. “We are launching several new products, including a perfume, a dry perfume, a bar soap, and a body scrub. We are also in the midst of rebranding (new website and product packaging to come in a few months) and opening up our first Tiossano retail store, in Hudson, N.Y. At the same time I am getting a growing stream of requests for media interviews, and the growth in sales means I’ll need to add several staff members this year,” reveals Wade. “I intend for Tiossano to be a lifestyle brand with many diverse product lines. Fashion accessories are one of the product lines I may launch in the near term. Ultimately I look forward to launching a line of resorts and spas based on the Tiossano brand.”
For Wade, her success can have a far-reaching effect on the way the world views Africa, especially African women. “I believe it is important for women entrepreneurs to think big, and for Senegalese women to think big and to position themselves as cutting-edge in whatever domain within which they seek to achieve,” she says. “I absolutely love the vibrancy and liveliness of Senegalese culture, and feel that Senegalese women entrepreneurs will play a special role in bringing forth new products that combine the excitement of Senegalese culture in ways that are appealing to the developed world. I find that many Senegalese women entrepreneurs find my message to be inspiring in that they can combine the best of their culture with the best of the modern world.”