By Faisal Masood and Sabiha Ansari
Born in Senegal and raised in France, Magatte Wade is currently Founder and CEO of her second company, Tiossan, “the only US brand that is inspired by medicinal secrets of the ancient Sufi healers,” Magatte, who identifies as a Sufi Muslim, proudly states.
She has been named Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum at Davos and one of Forbes’ 20 Youngest Power Women of Africa … not bad for a tomboy that was fond of climbing trees and didn’t start her schooling until she was 8 years old.
We had the absolute pleasure to sit down with Magatte and discuss her company, the aims for her brand and the vision she ultimately hopes to recreate of Africa throughout the world.
“Tiossan” is a play on words that ultimately means the origins of culture and the origins of humanity in Wolof, the main indigenous language of Senegal, where the natural ingredients consisting of various essential oils, including black seed oil are sourced from. This organic luxury skincare line can be found in spas, specialty boutique stores, and Nordstroms.
“I have a three-fold goal. First of all, we are the only company in the world that devotes 50% of the profits to education, second, we want to create entrepreneurial schools back in Senegal, and third we want to have a campaign around #skinskool. The African approach to skincare is practicing rituals every day to achieve optimal health for your skin. Our approach is not only to take time out for the ritual, but raise awareness that skin is the largest organ on the body and that what you put inside is not that different from what you put on the outside. This is the school of skincare. With Tiossan, we want it to be a place where for once, the African woman is positioned as the teacher, as someone who will be sharing good new practices with her American sister. As we help educate people about how to take care of their skin, we hope that they learn the simple fact that skin is skin, just in different colors. If done right, this really could be its own answer to #blacklivesmatter and help people move beyond the notion of race which can be so dividing,” Magatte shares passionately.
With such lofty goals, what are her current challenges?
“I want to change the negative perception of Africa. There’s more to Africa than earth colors, sunsets, tribal culture, safari and poverty pity. The challenge that brands like ours face is how to create an identity when for hundreds of years others have decided what it is to be “you”. This is why I have taken almost three years to focus on the direction and voice of my company. When my first company, Adina World Beverages, also based on indigenous natural Sengalese recipes, brought in $30 million dollars of venture capital money in 2004, it came with a lot of strings attached. The direction of the brand changed and I eventually stepped down in 2009.This time around, I brought in very few outside people and invested my own money,” she adds.
What keeps her up awake at night?
“There is a sense of urgency in me. I have a problem with the fact that my people are dying on a constant basis, especially from this migrant phenomenon. The world is just beginning to wake up to this by seeing pictures and videos, but I have grown up seeing this. We need to create jobs back home. That’s what I do with my companies. There is a lack of cultural confidence. I build companies and products in which are embedded the very parts of my culture that I would like to survive and expand. In a nutshell, I don’t do anything by chance. Everything is linked, although it might not always seem that way. I just happen to be an African person who has spent my time in the western world, but never quite left my roots,” she states.
With such strong ideals and passion, who does she credit as the greatest influence on her life?
“My grandma. From a very young age, she made me believe that I was special and I had a special destiny. And I think that changed everything for me.”
In her free time, when she isn’t traveling across the globe, Magatte likes to relax in her home in Austin, TX with her husband Michael Strong, who himself is an accomplished entrepreneur and one of her strongest mentors.
Magatte’s advice to budding entrepreneurs, “Be well-fed, well- rested, and hopefully well-loved and everything else will fall into place.”
Editor’s Note: Faisal Masood is the Founder and President of the American Muslim Consumer Consortium Inc. He has more than 20 years of management consulting, business management, entrepreneurship and sales management experience. Currently he works for JP Morgan Chase in New York. Sabiha Ansari is Co-Founder and Vice-President of the American Muslim Consumer Consortium, Inc. (AMCC). She has a degree in Psychology, is a Certified Empowerment Coach, and a consultant with Canavox, a program of Witherspoon Institute dedicated to promoting family and marriage values. The views expressed here are their own.