How One Founder is Bringing Social Impact to Grocery Shelves

The roots of Rhode-Island based brand Kassumay run back to founder Bacary Diatta’s childhood in rural Senegal, where farming was a central part of everyday life. All of Kassumay’s products embrace the delicious hibiscus sabdariffa flower, which is commonly found blooming across the forests and farms of Diatta’s home region of Casamance. Since the brand’s launch in 2020, the line has grown from the original lineup of hibiscus fruit spreads to also include a line of botanical juices and sparkling beverages, all of which celebrate and honor the vibrancy of the West African communities in which Diatta was raised.

Bacary with Kassumay drink
Bacary with Kassumay drink.

“I knew I wanted to find a way to introduce American audiences to the beautiful flavors of West Africa,” says Diatta. “The products we create at Kassumay are all inspired by the traditions of my home region of Southern Senegal, where families transform their harvests into jams, jellies, and teas to preserve it through the year.”

Over the past three years, the brand has expanded to store shelves across Rhode Island, including Whole Foods Market. Customers can also explore Kassumay’s line of natural, hibiscus-based products online, where the brand depends on PayPal to keep its transactions secure.

“Creating a great customer experience is key for us – especially when it comes to new customer acquisition,” says Diatta. “Offering PayPal as an option is important to achieving that. When customers see they can check out with PayPal when buying our products online, they know their purchase will be safe, simple, and fast.”

When building Kassumay, it was important to Diatta to find a way to use the brand to help give back to the people and communities in Senegal that have not only been the source of his inspiration, but also the continued source of many ingredients that go into his products. “Our brand’s goal is to use our success to help create employment and business opportunities in these communities,” says Diatta. “One of the ways we do this is by using natural ingredients, such as hibiscus, that have been grown in the Casamance region.”

Bacary with Kassumay jams
Bacary with Kassumay jams

Kassumay also dedicates ten percent of their proceeds to support local causes in Southern Senegal, with the funding going towards the development of healthcare and educational resources such as schools, health clinics, and more.

“We’ve noticed that beyond the taste and quality of our products themselves, our history and our mission also resonate with our audience and helps us build stronger relationships with people who are discovering us for the first time,” notes Diatta. “We are always excited to share our story with new customers, and for people to discover that we are not only creating products with great taste, but great impact.”

The past three years have brought various challenges to the marketplace for small business owners, including the recent rise in inflation rates. To maneuver around these creeping pressures, the Kassumay team has increased their focus on sales data so they can keep their investments strategic and their cash flow healthy.

“We always want to be showing up and selling where the customers are, so tracking our sales data closely allows us to better identify new opportunities, and establish what areas we need to focus on,” says Diatta. “The actual manufacturing of the products will always be the top priority cost for us. We use the data to make sure that our remaining budget is being spent purposefully and in areas with a good return on investment.”

Bacary Diatta
Bacary Diatta

To keep the retail arm of the brand growing, Kassumay is focused on not only maintaining their relationships across their slate of retail partners, but on also reaching new prospects. “With each new partnership we develop, our goal is to establish strong, regular communication right from the start,” says Diatta. “We really get to know the needs of each of our partners, so we can provide them with custom content that helps them showcase our products confidently to their own customers and drive sales.”

As Kassumay continues to scale, Diatta is committed to keeping the brand values of impact and tradition at its core. The purpose and passion that he finds in this connection to community is an example of the very advice he gives other entrepreneurs.

“I believe that business can connect to a higher purpose, and that doing so helps focus you as a founder,” says Diatta. “No matter what that purpose is – whether it’s helping the environment, or giving back to your community, or having the chance to employ others – that higher goal will keep you passionate and motivated to solve the unanswered questions, shed doubt, and keep going.”

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