How a Skincare Company Is Creating Jobs in Africa and Ending the “Thatchwork Ceiling”
Monday, December 21, 2015
On a drive down the Pacific coast from San Francisco at the height of the first tech bubble, Magatte Wade had a sudden epiphany. She had a successful career, but she couldn’t stop thinking about friends and family struggling to find work back in Senegal, where she’d grown up.
“I just basically lost it,” she says. “I was no longer able to reconcile the discrepancy between the type of life that I was afforded to live, and for those who stayed back home.”
For years, she’d heard the stories of friends or acquaintances heading for Europe in tiny fishing boats, desperate to find work. “You’d get the news that the boat didn’t make it,” she says. “And there’s nothing you can do.”
She decided to change careers and work on the heart of the problem: creating local jobs so people didn’t feel forced to leave home. The answer, she thought, was social enterprise.
Her first attempt at a startup—a beverage company making a drink based on a traditional recipe from Senegal—quickly grew, though it ultimately folded. Now Wade is growing a new business building on the lessons learned the first time around. Step one: creating a market in the U.S. Step two: taking production back to Senegal, where she wants to create meaningful jobs.
“A lot of us in the West have created I call it a ‘thatchwork ceiling’ instead of a glass ceiling,” she says. “We’re excited buying from co-ops in the developing world. But no one is pushing it further. We’ve got to move things vertically so that people can learn better skills that have more value.”