Teresa Mabel Kyei-Mensah or Abena as I affectionately called her when we were growing up has worked as a Project Manager in the past with her engineering background. She is currently a Business Support Services Manager for a Salt Mining Company in Ghana’s capital city Accra. The BSc Civil Engineering graduate of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology who also mastered in Development Finance at the University of Ghana Business School is a childhood friend whom I finally run into early in August 2021 during a business trip to Ghana.
It was great to catch up after a little over 20yrs and good to see Teresa who I thought was enjoying her career as an engineer. Well, it was not surprising to discover that she had also engineered another interesting passion that had bloomed into what she now calls Le’Chi.
Le’Chi was born out of a passionate global perspective and desire to illuminate the melanin skin
Like you, I too became excited about what Le’Chi as a brand was all about. So Teresa spilled the beans and gave me the 4-1-1. “Le’Chi makes soaps that are formulated and produced under room temperature, thus ensuring that the natural composition of the ingredients is preserved,” she simply put in a nutshell.
In case you are wondering, Le’Chi is from the word ‘Letsi’ which among the Ewes of Ghana means ‘to bath’ but since Teresa was thinking global right from the go, she knew it will be difficult for most foreign tongues to pronounce the ‘ts’ so she engineered (pun very much intended) a solution for that as she revealed to me: “I had to modify it to Le’Chi. The apostrophe was introduced by my brand consultant when he was designing the logo — he needed somewhere to place some leaves and bubbles (organic+bath) and boom, it came to us just like that,” she said with a smile.
As a woman of color, Teresa’s understanding of the care needed for the melanated skin is what drove her to research and start her soap brand. On the inspiration behind her brand, Teresa says, ”Over the years, I have seen women (and sometimes men) of color battling with various skin ailments such as acne, eczema, razor bumps, extremely dry and patchy skin, extreme oil skin and so on and I have always thought that the solution lies in the abundance of organic kinds of butter and oils that can be found on our local markets.“
Soap product samples in photo courtesy of SnapSpree
I personally believe that the quality of your skin goes beyond making you look beautiful, it goes a long way to boost your confidence. So when I discover my childhood friend is now a ‘soaper’ too and sharing her gifts in the process to make the melanated skin glow in all its glory I really become proud and wanted to learn more, she was more than willing to share, hence this blog piece. “My inspiration stems from the need to make organic soaps and body butter that combines both luxury with medication to help solve various skin ailments associated with people of color.’‘
The entrepreneurial journey for a woman of color is meant for the bold woman of determination
Teresa believes the life of an entrepreneur demands specific attention to detail and very intentional actions based on seeing the steps even before your feet attempts to climb them. This is why she recommends that anyone intending to walk the path to be very ”passionate” about the field they choose and know that the difficulties associated will only make you stronger if you hang in there longer with a purpose that sometimes only you seem to see.
She understands that the tough times are inevitable but determination, passion, and consistency will help the entrepreneur to keep the business alive. ”Personally speaking, I spend at least 2 hours each day working and researching and reading customers’ feedbacks. This helps me to improve the products and create new products that would be beneficial to our customers — for me this is all about them, making clients happy is where I feel accomplished in the process of giving back!”
COVID-19 has been a blessing in disguise for Teresa. This pandemic offered her the time to put the plan and research she had been doing into action. ”Our brand was actually born out of the pandemic’‘ she says. ”It was a push, and a good one for that matter, COVID gave some of us the opportunity to think outside the box, to discover the time we thought we never had, and to become innovative in the process. And if you have an entrepreneurial mindset as an African woman, you will always find a way in harder times, just remain bold and focused.“
A valuable associate makes it worthwhile — Teresa applauds her husband as she looks to the future
Teresa’s husband has been very instrumental in the running of the business. He handles the financial aspects and lends a helping hand wherever there’s the need. ”My husband is my most valuable associate… in order to meet our goals, he serves as my right-hand man,” she disclosed.
‘‘It can be tough running a business like this and raising four kids as well as running a home. Doubling all of this with a regular 9-5 as well as pursuing a master’s degree can make it quite tough too” Teresa told me. Some of the challenges she’s faced while running her business however get her working harder, and one such challenge she’s making an effort to surmount is “for my products to be available in every major city in Ghana and beyond.“
As Teresa admits the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, she also believes the pandemic allowed her to pursue her dream of starting her business. And as the pandemic lingers ”nothing matters but making sure each family member is kept safe, my husband has been a pillar of inspiration helping to ensure just this.”
So what’s in the future for Le’Chi then? Well, Teresa first wants to go nationwide and then across Africa, “I see us becoming a continental brand with a global appeal” she confidently alluded. Now I can’t wait till our next encounter Abena, and no it won’t be in 2 decades this time, but sooner…
Oh and I already can’t wait to try my assortment of Le’Chi, this brother must look good too. Thanks for sharing Teresa, and dear reader be sure you check them out on Facebook (Le’Chi Organics) and Instagram ( @lechi_gh ) and when you make orders, tell her I sent you.
Written by Oral Ofori