Guest blog by Analiese Tisa, Marketing & Communications Intern, Beneficial Returns
When Kwami Williams, CEO of True Moringa, saw the $635,000 purchase order he was overjoyed — it was the largest order his enterprise had ever landed. FabFitFun, a lifestyle and beauty subscription box service, requested Shea & Moringa Balms from True Moringa for their Fall 2021 Box. Soon, however, his joy turned to worry — how would True Moringa afford $500,000 worth of costs to fill the purchase order?
Born and raised in Ghana, Kwami emigrated to the US and attended MIT thinking he would work in the aerospace industry. Two NASA internships later, Kwami enrolled in MIT’s D-Lab (Development, Design & Dissemination) where he met his co-founder, Emily Cunningham, a Harvard graduate with a degree in Development Economics. Kwami and Emily knew that poverty in Ghana was highest in rural areas and that any long-term fix would need to focus on community-driven solutions that engaged women. The two homed in on moringa, a fast-growing tree endemic to the region and famous for its high levels of iron, calcium, and protein which makes it desirable for cosmetics applications. In 2014 they set out to launch new moringa farmers and connect them to international markets. True Moringa was born.
True Moringa provides tools and training to smallholder farmers in Ghana and processes moringa seeds and leaves into a vitamin-rich oil. The transformation of crops into high-demand products gives poor farmers access to markets and revenue sources they otherwise would not have. The moringa oil is sold in bulk to skincare companies and serves as the base for True Moringa’s own brand of 100% vegan beauty products. In 2014, True Moringa worked with 100 farmers. Three years later, True Moringa joined the Miller Center family and now more than 5,000 farmers have planted over 2 million moringa trees.
When True Moringa received the FabFitFun order, they needed cash to fulfill the order. The Truss Fund’s $150,000 commitment in June, coupled with $350,000 of short-term loans from investors, gave the enterprise the money they needed to finish packaging the balms. This is why the Truss Fund exists: not only to help social enterprises recover and grow from COVID challenges but also to leverage other capital. Over the next few months, True Moringa filled the FabFitFun order, earned a profit of over $100,000, and successfully repaid the Truss Fund loan, freeing up that capital for the next social entrepreneur.
Photo: CEO Kwami Williams harvesting moringa seeds in Ghana with True Moringa farmers
This article originally appeared in the Truss Fund 2.0 Quarterly Update, January 2022.
The Truss Fund was created by Miller Center and Beneficial Returns, which manages the fund. It provides emergency loans of up to $200,000 to Miller Center social enterprise alumni that are employing market-driven solutions to end global poverty and protect the planet.