When Gordon College alumna Freda Obeng-Ampofo ’08 introduces herself, she is very deliberate about her title: she is the chief mixer at Kaeme. “I feel ‘chief mixer’ defines what I do more than CEO,” she explains. From her first custom blend for a friend to her current expansive line that includes creams, soaps and candles, Freda’s heart goes into every blend. And like her coveted Kaeme line, her professional path has been anything but standard. With her background, a unique blend of experiences and a heart to serve God and neighbour, Freda Obeng-Ampofo is like no one you’ll ever meet.
Freda graduated early from Gordon in 2008 as an international relations major. Post-graduation she seized the opportunity to go to Washington, D.C., with the American Studies program. “It provided a segue into the professional world, and what better place to do that than in Washington, D.C?” This experience led to her first job working with water resources for Africa.
As Freda progressed to Capitol Hill to lobby for debt relief in Africa, she also worked for a private firm that sought out markets for consumer products from France and Thailand. She continued on her impressive international path to West Africa before getting her master’s degree in France in public administration. Freda eventually landed an opportunity with the U.S. embassy in Ghana. Having attended high school and college in the US, it was a chance for Freda to get reoriented to her Ghanaian roots.
“While doing all of this, I also had an interest in shea butter. Growing up I was one of five kids, and my parents were always giving me shea butter and black soap because these raw, mature materials are native to Ghana, and they’re good for the skin.” When her career brought her back to France, Freda found that she was continually stopped on the street by people asking what she used on her skin to make it look so healthy. She saw an opportunity to introduce premium-quality Ghanaian shea butter to her network.
Freda started handing out small samples, which led to personalized gifts. As the demand for her products grew, she decided to make her line official. “I sat down and hired a brand strategist,” she explains. “I already knew that the demand was there, so it was just a matter of really bringing [my vision] to being.” In 2015 Freda founded Kaeme, named after the Akan phrase for “forgot me not.” Kaeme is a premium Ghanaian company specialising in personal care products including shea soufflé, liquid black soap, soy candles and African-print toiletry bags.
Like many business owners Freda was not spared from making complicated financial decisions when the pandemic hit just five years into her entrepreneurial ventures. Freda views her employees as an extension of herself, and she was determined to pay her employees while they were at home. “I told them, ‘We don’t have money. . . but I’m going to pay you because I want you to be able to also provide for your family. As long as I’m able to provide for my family, I want you to be able to provide for your family.’” Kaeme remained shuttered for two years, but Freda continued to pay her employees. Despite losing 95% of sales Kaeme survived and continues to source ingredients from a women’s cooperative in Ghana, crafting their products by hand in small batches. In 2022 Freda was named the Gordon College Young Alumni of the Year. She credits her time at Gordon with her tendency to always blend good things together. “Gordon gave me a good basis for…using the talent I have to bless this world that God created,” she says. From international relations to the chief mixer, her mantra has been, “Learn as you go and make sure that whatever you’re learning, you’re using it to bless others and create a path for yourself. Do not be afraid to explore and discover new things.”
Source: The Bell by Gordon College