To some, it may look like any old seed. But to Tarik Khribech, it’s something that changed his life.
“This is a part of, a big piece of my childhood.”
Argan oil is a moisturizer — rich in antioxidants — that comes from inside this seed.
It is only made in a remote area of Morocco, but it is quickly gaining popularity and is now found in many high end beauty products and salons here in the U.S.
Khribech, a Morocco native, has started a business using the oil to promote his culture and social change.
“It represents my culture, my roots,” Khribech said.
As a child in Morocco, Khribech witnessed the tedious process of creating argan oil, which is often handmade by widowed or divorced women in need.
“That’s the painstaking work,” he said. “That’s when the women have to sit on the ground; they have two stones and have to crack every shell at a time. Imagine this. You’ve got 4 women, 80 lbs. of seed, to make a quarter of a gallon of the oil.”
“The society out there is very difficult. When a woman gets divorced or widowed, she’s basically on her own.”
Khribech wanted to give back to the unsung heroes behind the product used widely in his community.
“So it was stuck in my mind at that time, but I was a kid, and there was nothing I could do about it,” he said.
He held on to this memory as he uprooted himself to Chicago to pursue a college education, a bold move for someone who knew very little about American culture and did not know anyone in the country.
Khribech overcame his fears and started his Chicago adventure at none other than the legendary Billy Goat Tavern, where he waited tables with his brother Bouch.
The Billy Goat became Khribech’s home-away-from home. Longtime owner Sam Siannis and the rest of the crew became his second family.
“He’s a nice guy,” Siannis said. Always smiling.”
The Billy Goat is also where Khribech become accustomed with American culture and mastered the English language.
“There were funny things, I didn’t know anything about drinks whatsoever, so when customers came up to me and asked me to get them certain things, I have to memorize that word, I have no idea what it is.”
After his time at the Billy Goat, Khribech pursued his dream of benefiting the women of his homeland.
He launched L’Or D’afrique, or “African Gold,” a line of beauty products containing 100 percent organic argan oil. Khribech purchases the oil directly from the women’s cooperatives in Morocco, then donates part of the proceeds to them to help them gain financial independence.
“When I got into that business, it was like, that could be my mother. That could be my sister. My aunt, or somebody like that,” he said. “If everyone could do what I do, these women could have a better life.”
Khribech’s business continues to grow. L’Or D’afrique can be found in 400 salons nationwide, and so far he has donated more than $25,000 to Moroccan women.
And his dream doesn’t end there.
“Some people want to spend their 50s and 60s playing golf when they retire,” he said. “I want to spend my 50s and 60s building foundations to help support, build schools around the regions.”
Khribech makes a yearly trip to Morocco to personally deliver the proceeds from L'or D'afrique.
“It feels great to do it, and I want to keep on doing it. And I hope I can do even more, bigger things.”
Tarik Khribech, he’s one of Chicago’s Very Own.
Check out L'Or D'afrique's products at orafrique.com.