Deborah Pilla, President of Kumani Essentials , shares the journey of Kumani Essentials and her decision to partner with Fair Trade USA  to bring U.S. consumers beauty products that contain Fair Trade Certified™ Shea Butter 
Where do I begin? This has been such an interesting journey. Our name, Kumani is actually an African girl’s name that means “destiny” and is the base of our story and these exquisite beauty care products.
I started Kumani—a line of hair, face and body products using Shea Butter, sourced from a Fair Trade cooperative in Burkina Faso, because it combined two of my passions in life. One—I am committed to helping people and giving my services. I am also a pediatric dentist/dental surgeon and have spent years volunteering my surgical skills to correct facial/dental deformities in underprivileged children from around the world. Two—I am a strong believer in natural products and limit using harsh chemicals. I always try to find quality, natural products that actually work.
Two years ago, I fell in love with Shea Butter after an unbelievable facial treatment, and decided to add it to my beauty regimen. I didn’t even know where it came from or how it was made. I simply loved that it was non-greasy, penetrated into the skin very fast and had immediate, noticeable results—restoring that youthful, glowing look. As I started to research Shea Butter, I was surprised to learn that it comes from a little acorn-like nut and only comes from one area in West Africa, known as the “Shea Belt”. I discovered that making Shea Butter is a tradition that has been passed down for thousands of years and is mostly made by the women of these Shea Belt nations. I couldn’t imagine how much time and hard work it took to get a batch of Shea Butter from all those little nuts! However, I was soon disheartened to learn that because of this rigorous process, the women who make Shea Butter have often been treated unfairly and exploited. Sadly, I felt guilty using it at all.
I had finally found a great natural ingredient with super natural benefits, but it had a negative string attached to it that went against my philosophy of being humane, fair and giving. However, I wasn’t so fast to give up on this remarkable Shea Butter. Through further research, I learned of Fair Trade cooperatives and the Fair Trade movement. I had associated Fair Trade with coffee and food items, and was pleased to learn that it had grown to include beauty ingredients indigenous to third-world countries. I wanted to be part of this growing movement.
One thing lead to another, one contact to the next, and soon I found myself as President of Kumani Essentials , spearheading our efforts to find the highest quality indigenous Shea Butter possible, harvested and manufactured in accordance with the strictest Fair Trade practices. We want our Shea in the right way—it’s as simple as that! Shea Butter is often referred to as “Women’s Gold”, because it represents the only source of income for the African women who produce it.
Through the Fair Trade cooperatives, these women are receiving above average wages for their traditional, hand-crafted work and are able to provide better care, nutrition and education for their family. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that our products are empowering women around the world. I want our customers to know that Kumani’s hair, face and body products are not only created with care, they’re created with a conscience. We feel that the smiles we are putting on the African women’s faces are a secret ingredient that is infused in all our products.
In some ways, I feel that I am meant to create smiles—not only in my pediatric dental work and surgery, but now through Kumani. I guess that’s not a bad “destiny” to have.
Deborah Pilla is President of Kumani Essentials  in New York, NY. Kumani is an exquisite line of hair, face and body care products made from, Fair Trade Certified™ Shea Butter  meticulously sourced from Burkina Faso. It is created by women to help empower women. Kumani is beauty care that puts the caring first. For more info visit www.kumaniessentials.com