OLYMPIA, Wash. - It all started with a jar of shea butter made in an Olympia trailer. Ten years later, Olowondjo Tchala's company is in a 10,000-square-foot warehouse. He plans on expanding soon.
"We need to do more and we must do more," said Tchala.
The company he and his wife founded, Alaffia, employs 63 people at its Olympia location. But Alaffia also has 500 women working for it in Tchala's home country, Togo, in West Africa.
The women make shea butter, out of shea nuts, grown in Togo. The butter is shipped to Olympia, where it is turned into soap, shampoos and oils.
The Olympia staff also bottles the product before shipping it to natural food stores around the country. Alaffia makes a profit, but it's where the profit goes that Tchala is most proud of. Ten percent of all proceeds support community development projects in Togo.
The company pays for maternity care, helps pay for school construction and provides bikes to African children.
Tchala is glad he has found a way to help employ and help people in Olympia and Africa.
"You feel very grateful in the sense that you can have somebody here earning an income and supporting their families," said Tchala, "But you also feel what you're doing is right for your home."