Meet Ashley Guinn of Natural Nana + Vegan Eatz
Today we’d like to introduce you to Ashley Guinn.
Hi Ashley, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
The most important contributors to who I’ve become and where I am now was my pursuit of higher education and being vigilant/making connections while traveling. I commingled the two and put together something I’m passionate about that benefits others as well. In essence, becoming a self-taught product manufacturer and holistic health practitioner was the outcome of my academic and travel experiences over the past ten years.
I was raised in Fontana, but I moved to the South Bay in 2011 when I got a job with LA County. I started hanging out and meeting people from all around the world. Then I realized I’d have to start traveling the world to visit my new friends. My first trip was to Europe where I linked with some friends from Germany I’d met here in the States.
We met up in Greece, did some island hopping then drove through Italy, Austria and ended in Germany, where they started. Next, I started to travel to Latin American and Caribbean countries, which was a different kind of culture shock. When I started to stay in Airbnbs and hostels in the barrios instead of tucked off in all-inclusive resorts, little things like water quality and access made me think about resource allocation and a plethora of other social and economic disparities I’d been learning about. These experiences left me with a ton of questions that really piqued my interest and led me to my passion and field of study, international trade and development.
I attended a few different community colleges until I finally transferred from Santa Monica College to UCLA, where I received an academic scholarship that waived all tuition fees. I was serious about making a difference and even though I didn’t know exactly what to do at that time, I knew educating myself was the key. After five years of working with LA County, I quit my job to fully immerse myself in academia and figure it out. To start, I secured internships with the Port of Los Angeles and the U.S. International Trade Administration to gain experience in my new field. During this time, I was beginning to become more passionate about natural health and skincare. I’d been battling my own issues with acne and eczema for quite some time. I was finally beginning to see results in my skin when I began using African skincare products, like shea butter and black soap.
During undergrad, I had the opportunity to study abroad, and I selected Ghana after learning of the rich and royal history of the Ashante Kingdom. It was my first time in Africa and, again, I experienced culture shock, but on a whole ‘nother level. Fall of 2017, just one semester at the University of Ghana, Legon changed my life and my perspective on life, family, tradition and nature. I began to see nature as an ecosystem effortlessly and sustainably providing everything we need for survival: shelter, clothing, food, medicine, etc. My faith in nature’s ability to heal magnified after my own encounter with illness in Ghana and having successfully healed myself with herbs.
Additionally, there was a project that my agricultural economics professor, Dr. Irene Egyir, assigned where some colleagues and I did research on shea. Based on the data we gathered and my interviews with key players in the industry, I felt compelled to start my own shea business. The inadequate financial support, rigorous production process and the gender-skewed value chain were enough fuel for me to take action to support the women and the industry in my own capacity. This also aligned with my passion for international trade, as I began to import raw materials directly from the farm in Ghana to the U.S. I knew about importing and exporting theoretically. When it came to real-life application, I was slightly clueless, learning along the way with the help of my former classmate at Legon, now good friend and Natural Nana’s purchasing director, James Zogli. I’ve been running Natural Nana since 2018 handling all the operations here in the U.S. and Zogli handling the affairs in Ghana.In 2020, my calling for holistic health started getting stronger, especially after witnessing the number of people falling victim to covid. My black seed products were doing a great job at fighting the virus, but I wanted to explore more avenues for healing. That summer, I got certified as a holistic health practitioner and wellness coach through Queen Afua’s Wellness University. Her teachings took on a holistic, African-centered, traditional approach which really aligned with my soul and my beliefs of addressing health holistically and using food and herbs as medicine. For my most recent venture, I’ve been working with my brother on our family business, Vegan Eatz, where I’m combining Queen’s teachings with my love for cooking to curate detox meal kits for our clients. This has been particularly fulfilling as we’re able to provide incredibly delicious meals to our community that are also incredibly healthy as well.
Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Building a business from the ground up definitely comes with its challenges. Some were due to things outside of my control, but I’ve also had my internal struggles that were hindrances as well. In 2020, covid revealed the importance of having a reserve supply to mitigate shortages. With the global flight and importation restrictions and our raw materials coming from Africa, we went months without shea butter and black seeds. Then there’s my own personal struggles I have with procrastination and staying consistent. I’m also a bit introverted so sometimes showing up consistently on social media can be a lot and I find myself needing a break.
Thanks – so what else should our readers know about Natural Nana LLC and Vegan Eatz?
Natural Nana is an African holistic health and beauty brand, well-known for our best-selling Black Seed Oil and Whipped Shea Butter.
We specialize in 100% natural handcrafted self-care essentials gentle and pure enough for everyday use. Natural Nana was created in the spirit of the African traditional lifestyle: of being one with nature and using nature to nourish the body.
At Natural Nana, we’re proud to provide toxic-free natural alternatives, but we’re also keen on making a global social impact. One way we do this is by buying directly from Pan-African farmers and producers, mostly women. We also make monthly contributions to two grassroots organizations in Ghana, HETAC and Little Tokens Foundation, who are both on a mission to improve the quality of education for our youth. HETAC, Help Educate the African Child, embarks on annual projects in rural villages to provide holistic educational services for underserved youth. Little Tokens Foundation’s mission is to improve educational systems in underserved communities as well as promote literacy. We understand that children are the future and education is the gateway to success. So every day, every purchase is an investment back into our global community and into our future.
At Vegan Eatz, we provide fresh, organic plant-based meals for health-conscious individuals who do not want to feel like they’re on a diet. We understand people may not want to give up their favorite meals, so we put a healthy spin on classic favorites like fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, fettuccine alfredo, nachos and more. If you’re cleansing, our detox kits provide raw food alternatives to nourish you throughout your cleanse, like salads and fresh-pressed fruit juices.
So, before we go, how can our readers or others connect or collaborate with you?
How can they support you?
To collab, reach out via email at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. To support, share our info and shop with us.
Instagram: @naturalnanaco, @veganeatz__
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