This week, we’re talking to Chinonye of Ilera Apothecary who along with her sister Nneji, are creating non-toxic products that are directly inspired by the vibrant culture and traditions of their parents' hometown in Nigeria. Learn more about Chinonye & Nneji's mission and brand, below!
BLK + GRN: Introduce yourself & why you do what you do.
CHINONYE: My name is Chinonye Akunne and I am the co-founder and maker behind ILERA Apothecary. I and my sister, Nneji Akunne, ILERA’s creative director, joined forces to create the brand.
The name ILERA comes from the Yoruba tribe in Nigeria which translates to “health” and apothecary is an old term for “pharmacist” that is used because we were brought up in a pharmaceutical household.
BLK + GRN: Describe the inception of your brand. When did your vision start to manifest?
CHINONYE: As first-generation Nigerians, our parents would take us to our hometown of Awo-Idemili, Imo, Nigeria on holidays and we’d be inspired by the vibrant culture and traditional approach to personal care needs.
We were inspired by our youngest brother who made a commitment to limit the use of non-organic personal care products, so we began researching more on the native fruit okwuma (the Igbo term for shea butter) found in our parents’ hometown of Imo State, in southeastern Nigeria.
We discovered that the majority of skincare products being manufactured by companies around the world had traces of shea butter in it. Knowing that shea butter comes from western Africa, we decided to manufacture our own products and educate our customers on the traditional practices of different African cultures. Our goal is to take our customers on a journey through Africa, even if they have not yet experienced stepping foot on the continent.
BLK + GRN: How is your brand green? Why was this important to you?
CHINONYE: Our brand is green because of our transparency. The majority of our products from the African continent, with some ingredients coming from local farms and cooperatives. This was important to us because we wanted our customers to understand the lifecycle of their products from sourcing to production and finally when they receive them in their homes.
BLK + GRN: Why do you think it is important to buy Black?
CHINONYE: Buying Black brings the power back to the people who hold the highest buying power in the USA and empower the world’s most important group of innovators.
We believe that Black people hold the key to all thing’s innovation. If we start from Africa, we are traditionally resourceful people who are known to produce something out of nothing.
A lot of the worlds most used inventions were created by Black people and by supporting Black-owned businesses, we are putting more resources back into our communities which will result in an abundance of wealth.
Learn more about the Black-women creators and makers that make up the BLK + GRN Artisan family at www.blkgrn.com/collections.