a woman smiling at the camera

At the end of the year we reached out to Aimee Salmon, a former ILI student and Board Member. Aimee is a local business owner and had just recently opened her Positively Africana storefront in the heart of downtown at Thornes Marketplace. We asked Aimee to share some of her story and relationship to ILI, discuss the mission of her work, and share with us what’s next for her. She was extremely generous with sharing her thoughts, and took the time to thoughtfully answer each of our questions. We have loved getting to know Aimee over the years, and we wish her the best of luck with this exciting new venture!

My name is Aimee Salmon, the founder and operator of Positively Africana, LLC, and I am originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I attended the International Language Institute (ILI) in Northampton, MA, where I studied English as a Second Language. ILI played a significant role in my life as it not only helped me improve my English language skills but also provided me with a supportive community and resources to navigate my new environment. I also served on the ILI board of directors for six years. 

 After ILI, I attended Greenfield Community College (GCC) and Mount Holyoke College. These experiences at three different schools greatly influenced my journey as a business owner. At GCC, I gained the skills to attend Mount Holyoke College. Mount Holyoke gave me a strong academic background and a network of inspiring individuals who encouraged me to pursue my dreams. At Mount Holyoke, I also gained valuable knowledge in business management and entrepreneurship, which laid the foundation for my future endeavors. 

The Positively Africana colorful logo.

 Now, let’s talk about Positively Africana and its inspiration. Positively Africana is a business that aims to celebrate and promote the rich culture and heritage of Africa. It was sparked by my personal experiences and the desire to share the beauty of Africa with others. I wanted to create a platform that showcases African-inspired products, encourages fitness and wellness, and offers corporate wellness programs that incorporate African traditions and values. The three components of Positively Africana – the retail shop, fitness program, and corporate wellness program – work together to embody our mission of promoting positivity and wellness through African culture. 

The retail shop offers a variety of African-inspired products, including clothing, accessories, and home decor, allowing customers to embrace African aesthetics in their everyday lives. The fitness program combines traditional African dance and exercise routines, offering a unique and joyful way to stay fit. The corporate wellness program brings elements of African culture into the workplace, promoting a healthy work-life balance and fostering a positive and inclusive work environment. 

 Launching Positively Africana in the local community of Western Mass and Northampton has been a rewarding experience. This community is open-minded and has a vibrant and diverse culture that aligns well with the values of Positively Africana. The community’s support and appreciation for African culture have been instrumental in the success of our business. 

This also allowed us to build strong relationships with our African artisans and suppliers, ensuring our products are authentic and ethically sourced. In addition, 25% of ALL profits of Positively Africana support women entrepreneurs and artists in the Congo so they can produce more of the joyful arts and crafts and so we can share it in the Northampton local community and online across the country through the Positively Africana website. 

 The recent opening of our shop in Thornes Market represents an exciting new phase for Positively Africana. Thornes Market is a bustling hub of local businesses and a popular destination for locals and tourists. It provides a central location to showcase our products and engage with customers directly. We are thrilled to be a part of this vibrant community and look forward to connecting with more people who share our passion for Africa and wellness. 

 The lasting impact and impression we hope to leave on our customers and clients through Positively Africana are: 

(1) we want to challenge and change the narrative surrounding Africa by highlighting its beauty, diversity, and contributions to the world. We want our customers to feel a sense of pride and connection to Africa through our products and programs. 

(2) we hope to inspire and empower individuals to prioritize their well-being and embrace a positive and balanced lifestyle. We want our customers to feel uplifted, motivated, and supported on their wellness journey. 

(3) we want to support a lot of African women makers and artists and we want to see their businesses thrive.  

As for what’s next for me and Positively Africana, we have exciting plans in the pipeline. We aim to expand our reach and impact by collaborating with more local businesses, hosting community events, and partnering with organizations that align with our mission. 

We also plan to develop an online platform to reach a wider audience and provide access to our products and programs globally. Our ultimate goal is to become a recognized brand, not only locally but on a larger scale, promoting African culture, wellness, and positivity. 

Thank you again for the opportunity to share my story and the vision behind Positively Africana. I hope my answers provide insight into my journey and the impact I hope to make.