A Tumwater business with African roots got a visit from the U.S. ambassador to Togo Wednesday.
Olowo-n’djo Tchala started off selling soap out of his trunk at Bumbershoot, and nearly 15 years later his company, Alaffia, is a multi-million dollar body care product company.
Alaffia’s soaps, shampoos, and lotions are made in Tumwater, with Shea butter from Togo, Tchala’s home country in Africa.
The U.S. Ambassador to Togo, David Gilmour, toured the Tumwater headquarters Wednesday.
“This is a special occasion for me,” said Gilmour.
Ambassadors don’t typically travel outside of their assigned countries.
“I’ve been so impressed with the business (Alaffia),” said Gilmour. “It’s such a model of really the best of American business. Really high-quality produce and done with a social conscience.”
While 120 are employed at the Tumwater headquarters, a company spokesperson said several thousand workers in Togo, mostly women, harvest and process the Shea nuts used in the products.
The company also sends about 10 percent of proceeds to Togo to build schools and to provide maternity care for expectant mothers.
Tchala was honored to have the ambassador visit his company.
“It means what we’re doing in Togo is important for the interests of America,” said Tchala.
His company has more than doubled in the last four years, but Tchala said there’s no reason to stop growing.
“There’s no limit,” said Tchala, “Because the suffering for the people have no limit.”