BY TARYN ST.LOUIS, SEPTEMBER 18th, 2020
Many Caribbean customs were birthed from the teachings and inspiration of our African Ancestors. Anastasha Elliott, affectionately known as Ana, grew up observing her elders use the most eccentric Afro-Caribbean concoctions to cure everything from the common cold to the most troubling skin conditions. Her native island of St. Kitts is a part of the federation of St. Kitts and Nevis, and is well known as the Sugar City of The Caribbean. The island earned its moniker because of its sugar cane plantations which were stationed throughout the island in the early 16th century. The island was formed by now dormant volcanoes, and is also known for its green monkeys and carnival festivities.
Ana enjoys being an island girl and often finds herself hiking through its tropical terrain and sailing the surrounding tranquil waters. She is also an avid reader, and this has been a significant aid in the research she constantly carries out in order to produce the most quality products in her organic hair, skin and nutrition line, Sugar Town Organics.
At the tender age of 12, this now 38 year old inspiring entrepreneur received some life changing news about her mother. She was diagnosed with cervical cancer, and as hard as this news was on the entire family, they all strengthened their resolve to provide healing through the very same natural remedies they had been using within the family for years. Sugar Town Organics was birthed once Ana realized the power that food had on regeneration, healing and empowerment. Call it an obsession if you may, but once you see real results such as those obtained when her mother was healed, you instantly want to help others see the truth behind the power of medicine, natures way.
The family – run business now comprises multiple brands, with products for baby and the entire family:
- Yaphene : The core/starter line which comprises hair and body care products
- Baba by Yaphene : A Baby Care Line
- Marapa Luxury by Yaphene: A Skin Care Line
- Flauriel Foods : The beverage, sauces, treats and vegan wine line of products.
I personally visited their online store at Sugar town Organics, and from the colorful packaging to the beautiful logos, I could tell that this brand is inherently Caribbean! I was especially impressed with the selection of skin care items including soaps that were displayed in a variety of ‘flavors’, to include frangipani/plumeria and silk cashmere. As I wandered through the pages, I noticed a few wines that caught my attention. My eyes landed on Breadfruit Wine! How innovative is that? Needless to say, I am intrigued and will be ordering soon!
Sugar Town organics operates within Caribbean borders but Ana is now in the process of extending her market reach internationally. Selected products from the line will be heading to the USA for retail in October, so for those of you who live stateside, look out for this product line in a store near you! The website will also be opened to receive U.S orders with shipping happening through Miami. The logistics are still a work in progress, but with the present pace of this dynamic innovator, it is evident that Sugar Town organics is set to become a worldwide brand.
Ana has experienced her fair share of obstacles as a black business owner, from financial difficulty to persons undermining her concepts, and even personal issues that threatened to derail her and question her own ability. Ana recalls a meeting at a national bank where her hopes were dashed and she was told by a banking official that her business could not work on an island. She could have conceded to fear and heeded this ill-advice, however she persisted. She credits her strong family support system for her tenacity. They have supported her in any way the could from assisting her in marketing campaigns to driving her to far-away pop up shops. She is grateful for an amazing network of women who saw her vision and helped to multiply her dream.
She shared some invaluable advice for other business owners like herself. She believes that there are many instances where we begin our entrepreneurial journeys at a disadvantage, however, if we are willing to do some honest and unbiased introspection, we will be better able to spot our shortcomings and improve. She also advised that it may be difficult to find assistance, but never give up! Help is out there if we just search for it. Finally, don’t be afraid to start small. “Take it step by step, we have a saying where I am from, ‘likkle likkle mek plenty ..”
I have just outlined some major positives about this black owned business, but wait! There’s more! Sugar Town Organics gives back! Once a year, Ana works with new startups by either mentoring or coaching. Her last mentee was Argrow’s House of Healing and Hope for Survivors of Domestic Abuse, run by Dr. Kit Ford Davenport of Iowa. Ana is quite proud of what she has accomplished over the last year in aiding female survivors of domestic violence to earn a living, become empowered, and learn marketable skills that enable them to chart the way forward for themselves and their families. Giving back to your community while building your own brand may seem a daunting task, but it is with this ethos that we open our enterprise to universal blessings. With all she does, Ana still finds the time to educate her customers about the herbs around them and how they can be used. “It is a knowledge we seem to have lost in many ways and as an integral part of our culture as people of color it is important for us to rekindle this knowledge in each other.”
Ana’s Mission as CEO of Sugar Town Organics is to engender a love of our blackness in our people by crafting products that bring out the beauty of who they are, encouraging them to relearn love of self and all it entails from our kinky coily hair, to our beautiful melanin skin. She does this one product at a time, one customer at a time. With her business acumen, tenacity and support system, I am encouraged to believe that going forward her black owned business will not only survive, but thrive!