For Martika Jackson, starting a business was an extension of community outreach, beginning with her own children, son San’Maurii Dickerson and daughter Ti’ana Mills.
“I wanted to find a way to empower them,” she said. “There are not a lot of ways to represent us and our culture, to inspire them to know that they are kings and queens.”
Jackson launched SheaButter Empowerment in January 2020 toward that very goal. The Augusta-based online boutique specializes in Afrocentric products and apparel. Its inventory includes natural grooming products such as body scrubs made of refined coconut oil, sugar and fruit flavorings; and, of course, whipped African shea butter, often used as a skin moisturizer.
The shop also offers purse sets, décor and clothing designed under the SheaButter Empowerment label. Among the most popular items, Jackson says, are its line of dolls, including the Ballerina Plush and SheaButter Baby collections; and the Young Kings collection, which includes shoes, bedding, backpacks and other accessories depicting young Black boys as kings.
“It embraces who we are,” said Jackson. “It helps build up the youth. Say if a little girl comes and sees a purse, and she sees the little girl on it and says, ‘hey, she looks like me.’ I love it. I love to see it every time. It’s a beautiful representation of who we are.”
While Jackson does aim to acquire a brick-and-mortar location, as she looks toward the future of SheaButter Empowerment her priority is expansion toward more civic support and outreach, in the form of a non-profit organization under the SheaButter Empowerment brand.
“I wouldn’t call myself a community activist or anything,” said Jackson. “But I do a lot of things in the community.”
Jackson is already used to coordinating networking events to encourage and uplift the Black community, and SheaButter is now a central means by which she continues those social upbuilding projects. In 2021, she hosted a Juneteenth event and will be doing so again this year, called the We Are Our Ancestors Back to School Bash. In February, she will be hosting a Black History Month event at Pendleton King Park, featuring live entertainment and guest speakers.
Jackson has even worked with Mercy Ministries, a homeless shelter on Fenwick Street.
“I helped Miss Franny,” she said, referring to Mercy Ministries executive director Fran Oliver. “We feed the less fortunate; you know, I do a lot of that work. So I feel like it’s time to get my nonprofit up and running, and I have a big plan for the youth when I get it done.”