She Leads Africa

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Swaady Martin launched the SWAADY Group in December 2012 to reverse Africa’s commodity trap. The group houses socially-responsible brands that locally process raw commodities into high-value, consumer products distributed globally. YSWARA is one of these brands.

YSWARA produces and retails high-quality African teas and teatime accessories, like tea-ware and candles. All YSWARA products are created with ingredients sourced from the continent. 88% of their suppliers are spread across Africa, with their key products being “made in Africa”.

The SWAADY Group is also home to AKRAFO, the organic gourmet brand. Both AKRAFO and YSWARA operate in the speciality food industry. They offer original African delicacies, at home and abroad, that are beautifully packaged.

What was the inspiration behind the name of your brand, YSWARA?

The YSWARA name is a combination of TY WARA + SWAADY = YSWARA. The Ty Wara is a West African mythological hero who came to earth to teach mankind social values, as well as agricultural techniques.

SWAADY comes from an Arabic word meaning Happiness.

[bctt tweet=”Swaady Martin: Our high-end products are forward-looking & rooted in African heritage ” username=”SheLeadsAfrica”]

You grew up in Ivory Coast, Liberia, Senegal, France and the UK. How have each of these places and your multi-ethnic background influenced YSWARA?

Our teas are grown solely on African soil. They are blended and packaged to the highest international standards at our factory located in the Cradle of Humankind, UNESCO World Heritage site outside of Johannesburg.

The location of our factory was thoughtfully selected and in keeping with my philosophy of maintaining a deep connection to Africa, its people and its heritage. Our factory, which overlooks the Cradle of Humankind, with expansive views over the Magaliesberg, symbolises YSWARA’s commitment to Africa and the development and progress of Africans.

The unique alchemy of YSWARA is the blend of an authentic African essence; a wholesome caring spirit, a soulful contemporary aesthetic and a selective international distribution. Our high-end products are desirable, forward-looking and rooted in my rich African heritage. They celebrate Africa’s renaissance and togetherness.

How has YSWARA been able to overcome the challenge of exporting outside Africa?

Our products pricing is competitive. We are in the ballpark of all our international competitors, both in terms of pricing and margins. However, the cost of logistics to and out of Africa, as well as inflation and currency fluctuations remain challenges.

That said, we have successfully tested our concept and have been received positively by Africa’s leading luxury and premium brands. Our major clients include Selfridges, Woolworths, The Four Seasons, St Regis, Radisson Blu among others.

Our brands are present in 16 countries in Africa, USA, Europe, Middle-East and Asia with approximately 25 retailers.


How does YSWARA ensure standard procedures are being followed at every stage and that every product reaches customers in perfect condition?

We have a world-class operations team and strong processes in place. Our operations manager, Karen oversees our operations team, including blender and packaging and warehouse inventory.

She has over 38 years of experience in all aspects of production planning, inventory management and control as well as MRP and ERP systems.

You mentioned in an interview two years ago that one of the challenges YSWARA faced was the fact that Africa lacked many high-end outlets necessary to reach consumers and share your brand experience largely.

Do you still find this to be the case, and if so what can be done?

It is still the case. Our strategy is to expand our direct retail presence and not rely only on the development of high-end retail in Africa.

We believe YSWARA has a compelling story and is well placed to develop a viable franchise business which will attract entrepreneurs and help expand our retail footprint. We have developed a retail concept that can be easily, but reliably duplicated. All our store elements are uniquely conceived and manufactured in Africa using materials from Africa.

[bctt tweet=”Swaady Martin: Africa lacks many high-end outlets necessary to reach consumers” username=”SheLeadsAfrica”]

Besides opening more stores across Africa, what does the future hold for YSWARA?

The future is really about expanding our retail presence in Africa and abroad mainly through franchising. We believe our businesses have a compelling story and are well placed to develop a viable franchise business which will attract entrepreneurs.

As an entrepreneur, I am passionate about contributing to the development of more entrepreneurs, especially women. Franchising is a great opportunity to support women entrepreneurs, setting them for success with a proven model and strong on-going business and training support.

[bctt tweet=”@SwaadyM is passionate about contributing to the development of more women entrepreneurs” username=”SheLeadsAfrica”]

We’ll be building capacity and networks across the continent, breaking intra-African trade barriers, mentoring women in business through product and skills acquisition in ways that are sympathetic to womanhood, elevating their social position and expanding the discourse.

If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here.

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