It’s Cool to Be Kind: A Chief Exec’s Take on Entrepreneurship

true moringa emily cunningham kwami
  • Share

Want to know what’s cooler than starting a conscious business that economically fosters a community?

I’ll tell you: starting a business that develops aforementioned community (cough cough: 2,500 Ghana families) AND solves a skincare problem for health-conscious consumers (cough cough: those of us who want effective but non-toxic skincare).

I had the chance to chat with Emily Cunningham–the co-founder and COO of that hella cool brand called True Moringa and one of Forbes’ 30-Under-30 social entrepreneurs.

What I quickly learned about True Moringa was that its co-founders didn’t initially set out to start a clean beauty brand, or a business for that matter. They set out to solve a problem… for a school project!

What started as homework

Emily was studying Development Economics (at Harvard, nbd) with a focus in agricultural and rural development. It was during an MIT workshop where she met Kwami (now co-founder and then-NASA aerospace engineer) who was rediscovering his connection with his birth country Ghana.

During a trip to Ghana to assess the economic landscape for their lab development project, they learned of the moringa tree. I’m about to nerd out for a second so brace yourselves…

It’s no wonder the moringa is known locally as the ‘miracle tree’ because gram for gram, their leaves contain more iron than spinach, more protein than eggs, and more calcium than milk, and are used locally to prevent malnutrition. The trees can be planted alongside other food crops to help them grow better, and they thrive in arid climates and require very little water. Then when you combine that with the fact that the cold-pressed oil is effective for anti-aging and deeply nourishing for hair, face, and body, you start wondering why we aren’t using moringa trees all the dang time!

true moringa
The cold-pressed face oil from this conscious beauty brand.

They found that even though the tree was virtually miraculous in what it could produce and the problems it could solve, the local farmers didn’t have the physical resources or infrastructure to take advantage of the tree’s economic potential.

“Originally we were just a tech collaboration trying to give farmers the right machinery to harvest these trees” says Emily. And then it became apparent that if “we really were going to help this community then we needed to fill in the gaps all along the supply chain. That’s when we decided to create the True Moringa skincare brand.”

If we really were going to help this community then we needed to fill in the gaps all along the supply chain.

– Emily Cunningham
Co-Founder + COO of True Moringa

Keepin’ It Real

What I love about this Boss Girl is how apparent her desire to be of service is; she is an entrepreneur with the goal to empower other people.

I also love Emily’s go-getter attitude. While Kwami is now based in Ghana to oversee the operations of what will be the largest certified organic moringa tree farm, Emily has dug into the entrepreneurial logistics of running a skincare business back in Boston. Learning about branding, distribution, and sales, she is a testament that perhaps it is not what we learned, but that we know how to learn that is so important in running a business.

True Moringa conscious consumerism
Co-Founders Emily & Kwami hanging out with the children of Ghana families who True Moringa employs.

Business Advice from Someone Who’s Been There

I asked her what she could share with the Like A Boss Girls community about business wisdom she wish she’d known sooner.

Without hesitation she said:

“YES. Develop a basic understanding of how fundraising works. It’s not all a race to get venture capital….And talk to other founders who are further along than you.

“The worst thing you can do is say ‘Hey can I pick your brain about business?’ Instead, go in and say ‘these my very specific questions.’ Things like ‘who did you use as a manufacturer? What were you deal-breakers in a distributor? How’d you navigate your second round of funding?”

Goals on Goals on Goals

The seedling of one moringa tree planting

So what’s in store for Emily and True Moringa in 2017? Planting 1,000,000 more trees in Ghana by the end of 2017! This will make it the largest certified organic moringa tree farm in Africa! And more importantly, will help to improve soil quality, prevent the spread of brush-fires, and empower thousands of small farming families with food security and a sustainable income.

They’re launching this effort with their 1 Million Moringa Trees campaign where they are planting a tree in the name of every customer.

So with that I say let’s be conscious consumers make a difference with our pocketbooks and make our skin look good to boot!


The following two tabs change content below.
I went to NYU for Film & TV and had the entrepreneur’s spirit since being a tot when I contracted chores out to my older sister for a profit (ha!). I run Hello Lucy Design (a web management and design biz) full time as well as Editorial Direction for As a full-of-energy go-getter, my motto is “Why the heck not?”. I'm a mid-western girl who has worked for the BBC in London, Nickelodeon in NYC, and Jazz Aspen Snowmass in Colorado. One of my proudest accomplishments was serving as Co-Director for three consecutive years for the Fusion Film Festival of NYU, celebrating women in film, TV, and new media.
  • Share