When faced with extreme adversity in life it's easy to let negativity take control, but beauty entrepreneur Cashmere Nicole did the exact opposite. Her motto "Better not Bitter" serves as a reminder to deal with life's challenges in a positive way.
Now the founder and CEO of Beauty Bakerie, a cosmetic brand worth an estimated $15 million that recently received a $3 million investment from Unilever, her success did not come easy. A single mother and breast cancer survivor, Nicole first started an Indiegogo page to get her business off the ground back in 2011. Her Indiegogo page caught Beyoncé's attention and in October 2014 as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Beyoncé featured Nicole's story and Beauty Bakerie on her website. After that, Nicole ran multiple Instagram ads, had a website redesign and focused on her whip-lip product — and her business finally took off.
Surprisingly, there are few female-run businesses in the beauty industry, and even fewer run by African-American women. L'Oreal, MAC, and Revlon are all run by men — who essentially control the $50 billion beauty industry. Only 4.8% of CEO positions at S&P 500 companies are held by women — or 24 out of 500.
Nicole had always dreamed of pursing a creative business and being an entrepreneur — but as a teen mom, she needed to make ends meet. After putting herself through college then nursing school, Nicole would continue to build her brand on the side. In 2011, Nicole was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a double mastectomy, but her determination for her brand persisted as she underwent surgery and continued to build Beauty Bakerie. While working as a nurse, she began to question the ingredients in cosmetic products. So, she partnered with factories to develop non-toxic, vegan and 100% cruelty free cosmetics.
Related | Kehlani: the Softer Side of Savage
Beauty Bakerie now offers a diverse line of non-toxic, 100% cruelty free and vegan cosmetics themed around baking and other sweets (their matte Whip Lip comes with a Do's and Donuts guide on how to perfect the long-wearing formula). The brand has garnered celebrity fans like Beyoncé, Cardi B, and Kehlani and generated viral attention earlier this year after they numbered their foundation shades from dark to light, something that had never before been done in the beauty industry.
Beauty Bakerie had a big feat last month, as Nicole's products made their way into Ulta stores across the United States — a significant accomplishment for a brand only seven years old.
PAPER had the chance to chat with Nicole about the importance of diversity in the beauty industry, her inspiration for starting the brand, and some advice for rising businesspeople.
Why Beauty Bakerie? Why did you choose a baking theme for your cosmetic brand?
Well it's funny how that originated. I realized that [Beauty Bakerie] had a three-pronged approach: my love of the arts, my love for pastries — I am definitely queen of the sweet tooth — and my love of giving back and helping other people. I remember even as a young child when the TV would say that I could adopt a child from another country, I would get my allowance and I would try to adopt children from other countries. I was so young, but I really wanted to help other people so much. And I think the name 'Beauty Bakerie' and this idea of the sweet life is a combination of those three things. It's a multifaceted approach to taking care of all parts of the person and beautifying all parts of the person.
So, yes, it's makeup and you're applying makeup and it feels so good when we put our makeup on, but it also feels really good when we take it off, and that's still ok and it doesn't mean that I'm against makeup. And it also feels really good when I don't wear it for a few days. We've been dubbed the 'social activists in makeup' because we also like to stand up for anyone who has been left out or mistreated or anyone who has just been forgotten about in society. And I thought that creating a brand that has this overarching theme of sweetening the lives of others would encourage others to do the same.
And that's where your "Better Not Bitter" motto comes from?
Yeah! Everyone is going to have challenges in life that are going to make us bitter — we're upset, we're angry. Whether being diagnosed with cancer or being a teen mom and realizing that as much as I want to bring my child into this world, I felt bad [when I thought about the state of the world and bringing a child into it]. Instead of harboring all of that and internalizing it, my way of liberating myself from that was to say I'm going to be better about it instead of being bitter, because being upset about it or being bitter or even sad is not good. It's not healthy. I wanted to teach our customers a different way of dealing with life's challenges.
More and more brands are expanding to include more shade ranges or are becoming more accepting of men in makeup — your brand receives a lot of credit for pioneering that inclusivity.
Yeah, my perspective of being inclusive goes back to that mission of taking care of everyone. In doing that you would surely take care of the people who have been left out. I'm happy that it worked so well with our foundations, and we did the same thing with our concealers, but I think it was a huge moment in the makeup industry when we numbered our shades the way we did — from dark to light. It spoke to black women because normally things are only directed for white people, but for dark skinned women, how does it feel to have to always reach to the back of the shelf? To have to bend down when we go to Sephora or Ulta or when we're on a website and we have to keep scrolling to the bottom to find our shade. And it's not technically my experience — I am a light skinned black woman but it's the experience of my daughter, tons of people in my family and it didn't take me being my daughter's mom to realize that this was an issue [when it comes to] the purchasing of makeup.
I think that if a brand really wanted to take care of 'all' then it's important to have 'all' at the table. It's important for you to bring decision makers to the table that can really cater to the needs of the diverse and broad range of customers that are out there. I don't think it's challenging — it's delightful. I love doing it, I enjoy doing it. Let's just take care of people so that we can change the conversation!
Yes! That's so inspiring! Do you have advice for rising businesspeople going into the beauty industry?
I would say try to have access to diverse people on day one. For a lot of people, it's not that they're trying to exclude all the time, it's just that people are comfortable in their own circles. I do think you have to infiltrate other spaces that you typically wouldn't and that's how you can invite those other people to the table. But going further to answer your question about advice I would give other people who want to come into the makeup industry — you're going to fall! You're going to get burned! You are going to realize something too late after you didn't read the contract properly. Or you will pay your money to someone and they don't deliver — all of those are honestly things that you need to [have] happen because it's not as if you can go to a school and get all those lessons. You're going to need those things to happen so that you can become better at what you're doing.
Shop Beauty Bakerie at one of 350 Ulta stores nationwide, or at www.beautybakerie.com.
Photos courtesy of Beauty Bakerie