Lehigh Student Startup Kickstarts Ghanian Shea Industry

lehigh startup shea

When it comes to startup companies, often the best route of success means going right to the source. For Lehigh University College of Business and Economics grad Miles J. Davis’ (’16), that meant traveling all the way from Bethlehem, PA, to West Ghana for the purest shea butter in the world.

Shea butter is famous for its cosmetic and skincare applications, as well as its uses in waterproofing waxes, cooking oils, wood preserving, toilet tissue, and candle-making. Shea butter is produced by extracting fat from the nut of the fruit of the shea tree, which is indigenous to the dry Sahel region of Africa, which spans northern Ghana, Senegal, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In his master’s thesis, Davis outlined a plan to develop an ecologically, agriculturally, and financially sustainable production system for shea butter processing in Ghana.

“My dream for this project is to help develop a permaculture system that will have a collective positive impact,” Davis tells Lehigh. “Permaculture is a whole functioning system where everything coexists in balance. It requires a lot of observing and listening to learn how natural systems work and how to make human systems function just as organically and just as naturally.”

Davis’ research focuses on land-use policy. “Who owns the land? Who can get access to shea trees to make shea butter from the shea nuts? What policies are in place to protect these forests so people don’t cut down the trees to get firewood for their cook stoves? How do we develop better roads and transportation methods for people living in this region so they can get to the main market and sell their stuff?”

Superior Shea is just one small step in Davis’ vision for an economically emerging Ghana.“Ghana has one of the strongest economies in Africa. It is definitely on the rise. There’s a lot of potential for growth, in terms of sustainability through business, improved infrastructure and sanitation.”

You can read more of Kurt Pfitzer’s in-depth interview with Davis here and get more familiar with Superior Shea on Facebook.


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