No one should feel shame about their skin, no matter their pigment and no matter their race. That is precisely what Grace Amey-Obeng believes.

Amey-Obeng is the founder of an extremely successful cosmetics company that aims to help women feel confidence and accepting of their natural beauty. She began her business in Ghana after going to college for beauty therapy in the UK. She loved the way women glowed when they got dressed up, and had their makeup and hair done.

Gaining success in Ghana was not an easy road for Amey-Obeng. When she returned to Africa after college, she had to figure out how to work around the demand for skin-bleaching, which is quite common in certain countries in Africa.

“[Women] associated being light-skinned with being affluent…and I thought that I can do something about that by going on an anti-bleaching campaign,” stated Amey-Obeng.

The process of skin-bleaching has been found to be harmful and risky to the body, especially to those living in area with lots of sun. Bleaching, which requires chemical usage, strips the layers of the skin causing unnatural exposure to the harmful ultra violet rays. The process can range in side effects, including acne, skin cancer, exposed capillaries and easy bruising.

In some countries, selling creams that should require a prescription are sold over the counter, where they are easily accessible to women and often times extremely popular.

When these prescriptions are not available, some women will go so far as to concoct their own cream “using perming creams and all kinds of chemicals to bleach,” says Amey-Obeng.

Amey-Obeng endorses a healthy glow, one based on exercising, eating healthy and sleeping well. She promotes her concept through an educational program that she set in motion. In order to discuss natural ways to take care of one’s skin, she gives advice through a newspaper column, which is published on a weekly basis. She also trains students about skin care at her beauty school, one of the three branches of her cosmetic foundation known as FC (Forever Clair) Group of Companies. Her company also includes a cosmetics line and a few clinics.

The FC Group of Companies goal far surpasses the campaign against skin-bleaching. It also advocates for pride in one’s natural beauty not limited to skin color, but mainly one’s ability to accomplish and succeed. Since the launch of the FC beauty colleges, more than 5,000 students, the majority being young women, have been able to graduate and become beauticians.

“On the day of graduation, I always cry because I see the joy in their faces that they have accomplished something. They’ve been through challenges,” Amey-Obeng says.

And although Amey-Obeng went through her fair share of challenges and struggles as an aspiring businesswoman, she always shares her own story in hopes that it will help another young woman find the confidence she needs to reject harmful beauty standards and embrace their own natural beauty.

You can watch a video about Grace Amey-Obeng by Ghana Culture Politics here.

– Becka Felcon

Sources: Ghana Culture Politics, The Voice, CNN, The New York Times
Photo: Sankofa Online

Most people have heard of TOMS shoe company, or even own a pair of TOMS themselves. The shoes are comfortable and casual as well as fashionably cute for everyday wear. In addition, for every pair of shoes purchased from TOMS, another pair is given away to someone in need.

The company has recently been criticized for hurting economies struggling against poverty by taking away business with their shoe give-aways.

A for-profit company, TOMS’s mission is to help societies that are lacking in basic supplies such as shoes. They have announced their plan to produce one third of shoes in the countries in which they donate the extra pair.

Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS shoe company, has stated that the company is looking forward to helping solve more global issues such as clean water, nutrition and education. The company is examining ways to expand their product lines and business model to help further improving the quality of lives of those suffering from poverty around the world.

TOMS website shares how providing shoes to children helps give them the ability to go to school, to work and to participate in their communities without fear of injury and illness that can easily happen with bare feet.

Shoes are a basic need for everyone, and having kids in school, working and being healthy is a huge factor in breaking societies out of poverty.

The TOMS team calculates how many pairs of shoes they sell and match that number in pairs that they will give away.

Partners that operate community health programs in foreign countries work with TOMS to figure out sizes, quantities, and delivery costs. TOMS covers all of the shipping and distribution, and corrects their methods based on feedback from their ‘giving partners’ that are actually working in the societies TOMS donates to.

More and more companies are beginning to realize that making a positive difference in the lives of others is actually a very profitable venture. More than a billion people are living on less than two dollars per day, and that is a huge customer base for a company to cater to.

Viewing the world’s poor as a market share is an innovative and successful way to start a business and simultaneously free people from the cycle of poverty.

The cycle is often perpetuated by illness, malnutrition, unemployment and lack of medical care; these are problems that businesses can solve with new products and services. TOMS is only one of the companies that is thriving in the business world and helping people who really need it every step of the way. Additionally, TOMS personalizes their shoe donations for the different countries they assist. In January 2014, members of the company visited Tanzania and learned that almost half of the residents are under the age of fourteen years old.

This helps them decide types and quantities of shoes to distribute to Tanzania versus another country with alternative statistics. The more successful TOMS becomes, the more people across the globe are receiving shoes and the ability to walk to a better future on their own.

– Kaitlin Sutherby

Sources: The Huffington Post, Toms, Toms Stories
Photo: Forbes