Wow maybe I need to do that! I’ve definitely been wanting to keep things a lot simpler, too.
Yes! And this was like 10 years ago before clean beauty was even a thing. No one was talking about natural beauty in the way that they are now. I just slowly over time replaced everything that I had been using through a lot of trial and error. I’m such a geek, too. I read labels on everything. I’ve done this since I was a kid. So I did that same thing with the products that I was purchasing. And through this process, it really sparked in me this passion of wanting to do better for myself—I still wasn’t thinking about a business yet. That didn’t really happen until the first clean beauty shop opened in New York, I think it was in 2016 and I had a really unpleasant experience there to say the least. I won’t go into too many details, but that was what planted the seed. I was like, “This is BS. I can do exactly this, but I can do it in a way that’s much better.”
I wanted to do it in a way that was more welcoming, friendly, authentic, and transparent. I didn’t do anything yet. It still took me a few years before I really got to that aha moment. That process actually happened by starting an Instagram account for Pretty Well Beauty. When I started the Instagram account, I still wasn’t intending for it to be a business. I was really intending for it to be a place for me to talk about clean beauty from my perspective and to talk about the brands who I felt were really getting it right, and going above and beyond. They were the brands that I trusted and had seen positive results from. Through that exercise of building an audience, that’s what made me realize I needed to make it a business. So that’s what I did later in that same year.
I really love that Pretty Well also aims to democratize beauty. There are so many cool new clean beauty brands popping up that actually cater to the specific needs of people of color and ones that just feel more authentic in their approach. What is the most important thing that you want consumers to take away from Pretty Well Beauty?
I want people to know that Pretty Well Beauty isn’t like any other retail establishment in the sense that you have no idea who’s behind it. That’s why I make sure that I’m very front and center on my Facebook page and website, because I want people to feel like they’re shopping with a friend and not just going to some digital mall where they have to self-navigate. I make myself very accessible to people. In fact, I’ve actually made friends with a lot of my customers at this point! I really want it to be a place where they’re not going to be overwhelmed with too many options. Because, what happens when you have hundreds and hundreds of brands, is a lot of the times you get overloaded and end up not making a decision. If something’s on Pretty Well Beauty’s site, it’s because it’s unique, special, and it delivers in performance.
I want people to know that when you make that investment in yourself and in Pretty Well Beauty, it’s something that you’re going to receive a positive return on. It’s because of all the time that I’ve spent talking to these founders and getting under the hood of just how their entire process works. The way that I vet brands is just a little bit different and I think that’s why we have like a zero percent return rate which is amazing. it’s kind of unheard of in retail and it’s because I want to make sure that anything that goes on there really does deliver on what their promises that they make. I created Pretty Well Beauty not just for me, but for everyone. This is my contribution to try and make things a little bit easier and better for people. I want people to feel like they can be seen, heard, understood, and that their needs are being met. They truly are an extension of this brand when they shop here.
Yeah and I think that’s so important. We’re really moving into an era of conscious consumerism. These larger brands who may leave certain people out of the conversation just aren’t really resonating with people as much as they used to. I think people are looking for a space like Pretty Well where they can get a curated set of products that feels like it’s coming from a real person, and their needs are actually being met.
Right, and I feel like I’m a good person to be able to speak to this type of consumer because I am this person. I’ve been in the same position. Beauty is a very personal thing. It’s very tactile and it has an emotional element to it. When you remove the human element from that equation, it’s very difficult to connect with people and keep customers in that way. I take feedback and try to incorporate it as much as I can. During the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, we saw a lot of performative initiation taking place. I think that this consumer is very aware of that. They can see that [some brands] didn’t have a BIPOC section before, but now they do. I can kind of see both sides of the coin. Now you’re giving a platform to these brands, which is great, but why didn’t you do that before if that was something that was actually important to you, considering the fact that Black women spend more on beauty than any other demographic combined? Now all of a sudden, you want to celebrate them? It just feels a little icky to me.
I totally agree. I feel like that’s a good segway into my next question. As a woman of color, what do you think were some unique challenges you faced when launching Pretty Well Beauty?
One of the biggest challenges was access to information, resources, and support that my non people of color cohorts may have already had just because of their socioeconomic status, where they went to school, or the circles that they’re in. Unfortunately, a lot of people of color, don’t have the opportunity to be exposed to some of these people who can support them. [White people] talk about things like a friends and family round of fundraising, but the average household income for people of color is significantly less than white people. We don’t have friends and family that we can go and get big checks from that helps fund our companies at a seed stage.
We have to bootstrap for a lot longer than a lot of our non-BIPOC colleagues or cohorts. There’s also unconscious bias that happens and assumptions that are made before you even speak. I’ve noticed that it’s just a lot easier to navigate this entrepreneurial landscape when you’re a white man. Because for some reason, there’s a perception that they have more knowledge and experience to be successful, when the data actually shows differently. We’ve seen the data across the board that show that women actually run businesses much more efficiently and grow faster than white male businesses do. I’m still bootstrapping. I’m self-funded and am trying to grow organically as much as I can. It’s definitely hard—especially because I see people who’ve started out around the same time as me who are non-people of color, and they have raised money, have built teams, and have even gotten these incredible partnerships with other well-established brands. I don’t know how to get into that. I don’t have those connections or those relationships so I just have to make do with what resources and information that I have as best as I can. It might take me a little bit longer, but that’s okay.