by Emeline Nsingi Nkosi
A Cosmetic Scientist, Founder of Cherry Coco (a natural skincare company) and Black Beauty Communications ltd. Cheryl Jumbo, one of six children, was born in Glasgow to Nigerian parents. She recently announced the UK’s first ever beauty industry awards event for Black Beauty products aptly named the “Black Beauty and Fashion Awards”.
We spoke about her experience in the beauty industry, BBFA and what she plans on achieving …
“Black Beauty and Fashion Awards is a movement, I am set on advancing the industry.”
Today I am someone who loves business and empowering people; I think it’s important to leave a legacy. I find much satisfaction in supporting individuals in pursuing their dreams; I believe you can accomplish anything you commit yourself to!
My entry point to the beauty arena was most unexpected, around the age of 19, I had intended on purchasing a premium foundation from a company called fashion (there wasn’t much else available), whilst I was browsing I was approached by one of the beauty consultants. We started talking, she enquired about my skincare regime, my interests and asked me what I was doing for a living. I explained that I was studying to become a Sound Engineer. She scoffed lightly and said “no no no my darling, YOU belong in the world of beauty. I can see you now with your silver Hitachi case going to a business meeting”.
As a student of sound engineering, I was the only female in my class, which I didn’t mind much at all. I needed a part time job so I decided I’d explore a little, I sought employment with a cosmetics consultant agency to find out more about the world of beauty.
I had assumed it would be very superficial but being creative and technical I excelled. As I began to consult and sell cosmetic products to consumers, I yearned to understand why people were buying from me besides my selling technique. What was so good about these products? What made them so effective? Were they truly beneficial at all? I wanted to learn the science behind these amazing pots of promise.
Fortunately, around that time The London College of Fashion, had recently introduced to the UK a new BSc (Hons) Cosmetic Science, I secured a place and eventually, proudly graduated whilst maintaining employment throughout my studies.
Since then, I have gained a broad experience of the industry, working in various capacities from setting up a beauty business, working as an expat in Africa, providing skincare workshops, brand development, consulting, working in regulatory affairs at QVC UK, product design and formulation of skin care at E.C Dewitt and Manufacturing at Barry M Cosmetics.
In the UK, I have found myself working in places where I am the only black person in the entire organisation. This has presented some great advantages and in some cases disadvantages, I am keen to see more of us in this arena, our contribution is necessary in a multicultural society.
Sadly, BBFA was born from a feeling of social exclusion. Every single year, we have beauty industry awards that celebrate the great product offerings available from various brands across the UK and further afield. This is great until you realise that none of the products spot-lit with adulation cater to your needs. One particular year as my colleagues and I geared up to attend the latest installment of beauty awards, I pondered on this fact; I have contributed hugely to the UK economy via my hair and beauty needs and wants. I pondered on the fact that at age 19 my only choice of foundation was an expensive premium product, which as a student cost me a small fortune.
I decided that I would become the change that I wished to see. It was at that moment, 6 years ago, that I knew I would create the Black Beauty and Fashion Awards! It would be a celebration of diverse black beauty and culture. However, it would have been seen as too Afrocentric, and so I decided to wait until the right time, which is NOW!
Our event is divided into two halves, firstly, the public voting poll which lasts approximately 4 months from March 2017, followed by the corporate end which takes place later in November.
BBFA seeks to empower BMR* consumers’ voices to express their passion for the products they enjoy using or want to support, and exercise their unassailable right to inclusion. Black males are for the most part ignored in advertising of grooming products. Women of colour spend on average, six times more than their counterparts on hair and beauty products. It is about time to acknowledge this significant contribution to the economy.
Advancement is taking place within the industry concerning black beauty, hair and fashion and it must be acknowledged. There’s a great range of products available for BMR people, but a ‘disconnect’ exists between brands, retailers and consumers. Often people can’t find what they want, although it exists…somewhere.
BBFA seeks to promote, encourage and celebrate producers of high-quality BMR products and build bridges to prompt greater inclusion via mainstream channels. This is all towards bringing about the growth that our communities will also benefit from.
My dream is to see Black Beauty and Fashion Award-winning products made available to the public in mainstream stores across the UK
My vision is to celebrate the diverse beauty and see greater representation in mainstream media. To acknowledge the brands that have over the years, diligently catered to our ever-changing beauty needs. To support entrepreneurialism. In a multicultural society, I would like to see more BMR individuals as manufacturers, retailers, wholesalers and being part of the supply chain of this industry. After all, we are the ones using the products! It would be great to have a hand in what’s being added to these products created to care for our unique beauty.
My mission is to advance the beauty industry, impacting it positively. To celebrate the diversity of black hair and skin and our beautiful culture. To make BBFA a global entity as we expand our Industry award to the Continent and the Caribbean.
All winning products and brands have the right to carry the BBFA winners’ seal created to be displayed on company websites, marketing literature, and products, visible to consumers at the point of sale.
BBFA is the people’s choice award! We are here to elevate to empower the voice of consumers, to alleviate social exclusion and to carve out a space for our beauty products in mainstream outlets. We hope to see Black Beauty and Fashion Award-winning products available online and in high street stores.
Black Beauty Communications’ BBFA has amongst its aims, to be the go-to marketing and quality assessment vehicle to help both lesser-known and readily recognisable businesses gain greater brand awareness within Black and Multiracial client groups. In so doing, a more mutually beneficial exchange emerges, wherein BMR people, with a predicted £100 million 2016 hair and beauty spend, shall notice better representation in mainstream channels. This leads to greater opportunities in employment. Brand loyalty, improved market segmentation and CSR fulfillment are just some of the elements available to participating businesses at the other end of the exchange.
Yes, indeed they should be. So many elements of our culture are used and adopted in the mainstream, from our hairstyles and fashion to music and dance. I believe our ingenuity, success, creativity and innovation need to be acknowledged mainstream also. It’s a known fact that we tend to be products of our environment, witnessing achievements mainstream provides aspiration for peers and following generations.
To some extent yes. I believe that these organisations have missed a trick when it comes to black beauty and fashion. For decades black and multiracial individuals have engaged these brands frequently only to feel a sense of exclusion and being overlooked. Perhaps their lack of offering comes from a lack of understanding of our hair and authentic beauty.
The inaugural Black Beauty and Fashion Awards is a Red carpet affair. it will be a stupendous night of beauty and style on Friday 3rd November 2017. The venue of choice is the beautiful Porchester Hall; I adore its classic art deco design. Amongst others, in attendance will be manufacturers, retailers, entrepreneurs and industry professionals. The evening will include a fashion show, 3-course elegant dining experience, live entertainment, award ceremony, charity auction for Lupus and Alopecia UK and much more.
There will be various voting categories, such as Best shampoo, Best hair treatment, Best Foundation etc and we have a number of special awards including Beauty entrepreneur of the year, Fashion entrepreneur of the year, Best new business venture, Best new beauty tool/appliance as well as honour an amazing individual with a Lifetime Achievement award for their Contribution to the Beauty and Fashion industry.
Voting is easy. Simply visit www.bbfawards.com/voting-online. All voters are automatically entered into the BBFA cash prize draw and the opportunity to win some amazing goodies. Prize winners will be selected randomly and announced via our social media platforms later in the year.
[BMR* – Cherry’s own acronym , Black Multi-Racial]
Post by Kay and Rose
While en route to a shoot for EX1 Cosmetics yesterday with ‘Our Girl Friday’ Rose Miyonga, she turned to me and said “I’ve never really worn foundation.”
She went on to say, “As a mixed race teenage girl growing up in white, rural England, there wasn’t really much on offer when I first wanted to wear make-up. It was pretty much Superdrug. There was nothing for my sisters and me in the beauty department.”
Sound familiar? This is echoed by so many women and we all wonder- when is this going to change?
When friends came to visit from London, they would bring gifts for my Mum in the form of shampoos and conditioners from Afro Hair/Beauty Supply Stores to help her manage our hair, so different from her straight, blonde bob.
Suffice it to say, it was not a good look, and once I realised that, I decided it was better to just go barefaced.
EX1 Cosmetics is part of the shifting landscape of skincare and beauty products emerging to provide quality cosmetics that a wider spectrum of women can enjoy. It specialises in foundations and concealers for brown and olive skintones
Around my teenage years, mostly driven by my own insecurities. I desperately wanted to cover my blemishes and it was then that I realised that the mainstream self selection cosmetics industry didn’t seem relevant to me.
EX1 is dedicated to women with yellow/golden undertones to their skin. Although premium lines existed for women with my skin tone, I wanted to create the first affordable line of cosmetics exclusively for women with olive skin, yet which has all the hallmarks of a luxury brand in terms of formula quality.
Our pigments. As a biochemist, I started looking carefully at olive skin tones, creating a unique blend of pigments designed to mimic the natural pigments found in olive complexions.
When I created the line I could have never imagined the products would be worn by some of the world’s most iconic celebrities or that we’d get such great press reviews. But the real highlight will always be the heartfelt messages we get from every day women who have previously struggled to find an affordable foundation that perfectly matches their skin tone. I was that woman, and getting such incredible feedback from the very people I created the products for makes it all worthwhile.
Posted by Emeline
What does it actually take to start your own beauty brand? With the growth of beauty social media entrepreneurs, it would be easy to imagine one merely attends an evening course, bank loan in tow and fiercely pushes forth on their social media strategy to become a success. Social media aside, it’s got to take more than that, right?
It was held at Town Hall Hotel in Bethnal Green and we were joined by Emily Maben – marketing Director for Sleek MakeUP, Liha Okunniwa & Abi Oyepitan – founders of Liha Beauty, Melissa Sinclair – founder of Big Hair Beauty, and Stephanie G-M – founder of Ouli’s Ointment’s.
It felt fitting to compile the breadth of information shared into tips on starting your on beauty brands and on what to look out for.
These go hand in hand. Make sure to back up your passion with market research. Sharmadean – founder of WAH Nails – built up a community and whilst she knew that nail polishes were going to be huge. WGSM (the trend forecaster) backed up the trends and she built a business case to strengthen her product. Research can never be underestimated and passion will keep you going and bring gravitas to your brand.
It’s so important to research the name of your brand and product names – IPO.gov.uk – is a great place to start, and after doing so, to Trademark your name, nationally and internationally. Sharmadean explained that if you plan on taking your product to different territories, you need to know if your product’s name(s) and your brand name is free of use. It could land you in a legal battle and quite frankly “aint nobody got time for that!”
TAKE A COURSE
Try and learn as much as you can about all aspects of the business. Melissa Sinclair – founder of Big Hair Beauty – mentioned that she realised that her product stopped being profitable for the manufacturers to produce when she supplied her own ingredients. (N.B Manufacturers tend to make a profit on the raw ingredients they supply to make the products. It becomes an issue when you bring in your own raw ingredient).
Instead of letting her know their issue with this, they ceased communication and she was left with 25 kilos of raw material for EACH of her products. So Melissa took a course and learnt how to make the products in-house.
When the costs can range anything from £3,000 to £15,500 (in Melissa’s case) it’s important to think strategically. You might decide to continue working for yourself alongside starting your brand, as Liha founders Liha Okunniwa & Abi Oyepitan are doing. Consider crowdfunding too: Kickstarter and Indigogo work well as method for raising finance for products. You may decide to relocate, downgrade your life and work from less expensive parts of the city as Sharmadean did. Starting your own brand can be a huge sacrifice so it’s worth careful planning.
BUILD YOUR NETWORK
Mentors, advisors, consultants. They can make all the difference. Melissa hired a consultant who put her in touch with a chemist. You essentially pay for their contacts but when starting out it can save you a lot of time. Your network is really your most powerful weapon so don’t be afraid to contact people on LinkedIn. Key words such as “cosmetic consultant” can lead you onto a host of other recommendations.
Shockingly, manufacturers often own the brand’s formulas but you can own the Intellectual Property by developing it independently by a coveted chemists (if they have their own lab). Once your product has been sampled, this sample will need to be tested by a chemist and an MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) will be needed for each product. If the ingredients have been supplied by yourself, you will need to hold certificates for each of these. Testing can take 3-6 months after sample development and will need to be calculated into your planning. There are can be lots of little complications that can have huge impacts so it’s wise to seek professional advise.
LEGAL LEGAL LEGAL
Make sure a professional looks at the contracts because they might have loopholes, such as only knowing your formulations after producing 100,000 units or being bound to the manufacture for a number of years.
Don’t assume you own the formulation or IP, the manufacture owns these unless it is clarified in your contract that you do.
Those formulations are really important and they are known by name; own them where you can! Interestingly you don’t trademark hair care formulations as ‘spinner chemists’ can replicate the formulation purely from the hair product labels!
PACKAGING & MANUFACTURING
Stephanie G-M – founder of Ouli’s Ointment – recommended speaking to PR companies to find manufacturers, speaking to people you know and attending beauty product Expos. At the Expos, if you get into conversation with manufacturers make sure to negotiate – if you need that one ingredient for your formulation, stand your ground. Manufacturing locally, in your home country can be a lot quicker with short lead times but might be more expensive.
Emily Maben – marketing director for Sleek MakeUP – explained that it is all about getting in front of the right person. Buyers
are always busy so find an inventive way of getting in front of them. Liha and Abi – founders of Liha Beauty – got speaking to the sales assistant at Liberty during their open call for new brands and it was passed on to the beauty buyer.
You can exhibit at expos and tradeshows but once you’re in front of a buyer make it all about YOU. Sell the story of your brand (make sure it is unique), be ready with a pitch line, business card and products to give away. Most importantly make sure everything is spotless; catalogues, marketing, website. If they aren’t interested in stocking you at that moment, do not be disheartened. Don’t be afraid to ask “When will you be able to?”, “What do I need to do?” or “Where do I need to be for you to stock me?”
But in the words of Sharmadean “Don’t beg” if they want you they will come for you.
STICK TO YOUR PRINCIPLES AND BE FIERCE
Afterword by Hayley Mills “We should be comfortable with trusting our own voices and should not be afraid of going for it. Men have no qualms figuring things out after they’ve taken the leap. Women are often overly self-aware which can hinder and create a multiple of doubts before they even start.
We can be too sensitive to the perception of others, it’s important to realize that leveraging on our community and our network isn’t something to be ashamed of, this has been done for centuries in old men’s clubs.
We should lose our self-awareness to minimize doubt and enable to us to achieve our full potential.
The nicest thing about the WAH Power Lunch event was that is wasn’t about men vs women, it was about women empowerment. It was really functional and about practical delivery. It was information that was needed to help us get going, about sharing and knowledge without romanticizing the journey. It was a community of inspiring individuals.
Posted by Kay
Melissa was one of the many lovely people I met at the Sali Hughes ‘Pretty White Female’ event that Thandie & I were on the panel of at Selfridges in London recently. I was very inspired by meeting so many enthusiastic entrepreneurs, all with a view to expand the beauty market to embrace women of colour as part of the mainstream by creating beauty brands that are totally inclusive, and in Melissa’s case, created for all hair types and ethnicities rather than the archaic ‘ethnic section’ so commonly segregated to separate areas of a store and specialist outlets.
I often discover a good story behind why people start brands, and Melissa’s is no exception.
Thank you for sharing your story with us Melissa, and may it inspire other young pioneers too.
My journey to natural and launching Big Hair Beauty wasn’t a conscious one. It was organic and although I’m still unsure of where ‘here’ is and where it’ll end up, I feel as though the universe conspired it.
When I look back on some of the pivotal moments of the past few years, and indeed life, I see how essential it is to have many experiences, regardless of how negative we may perceive them to be at the time.
Just over 4 years ago I was working in the corporate world for a top firm in Central London. It was everything that I thought I wanted at the time, however, in hindsight, I wholeheartedly feel that it was meant to be the breaking and making of me.
A lot went on during that period. One of which was that for the first time in my life I became distinctly aware of being a black woman.
It’s not that I hadn’t noticed before, obviously, but I was always ‘just Melissa’, raised with the belief that I could do and become anything I want.
I initially didn’t mind the intrigue when I brought leftovers into work for lunch, I grew up in a pretty traditional Jamaican household where we had soup on a Saturday and chicken/curry goat and rice and peas on a Sunday .
To me, all pretty run of the mill and I continued it once I left home. I also didn’t mind the questions the first time I came in with braids that were triple the length of my actual hair that I had worn in it’s natural state the day before.
But the questions/comments didn’t seem to let up and I became more and more conscious of who I was, and who I was not, which became increasingly difficult.
This, and a combination of other things are possibly what encouraged the quarter life crisis that was about to commence. I quit work, mainly because it was a horrendous environment, extremely stressful and I was terribly unhappy. But in all honesty, I just felt lost and confused.
Who was I?
In addition, my once clear skin (that had managed to evade teenage spots and hormone-inspired acne) was awful and my long working hours meant that my diet was poor.
My hair was falling out from stress. I was unrecognisable, visibly, spiritually and emotionally – especially to myself.
I resigned. Cut off my hair. Then went travelling around China alone. Why China? I just wanted to be somewhere where no one would talk, or communicate with me. It wasn’t easy, and the lows outweighed the highs – but I can honestly look back and say that the journey to ‘self’ was SO worth it.
I became more aware of who I was, my environment and my wellbeing. I began to eat better, exercise, and just became more conscious of ingredients in general and wanted to incorporate this attitude across all areas of my life.
I let my hair do what it wanted and the bigger my fro became the more attention it received. Women would stop me and ask questions, like what I used on my hair. At the time I was just watching YouTube videos, researching things online and whipping up stuff at home.
Then a friend suggested I look into starting a business – then one thing led to another, and so became Big Hair Beauty.
My family owned a hairdressers ran by my mum so I always had my hair done for me. However, a Saturday job is practically compulsory when your family runs a business so I got to know a lot about women and their hair.
I got a relaxer at around about 15, not because I wanted to look or be like anyone else, but because it sounded easier and I was fed up of sitting between my mothers legs to get it cornrowed or being burnt with the hot comb because I could never keep still.
Equally, when I started to wear my natural hair, it wasn’t to ‘be natural’. My hair was in a bad condition, so cutting it off made sense, and I had adopted a healthier lifestyle so not using chemicals again did too.
Big Hair Beauty isn’t just about ‘natural hair care products’- for me it’s so much more than that!
The brand is about challenging the status quo and revolutionising the way naturally curly and afro hair and women of colour are seen. Not just by the media, the beauty industry or the corporate world, but more importantly, how we see ourselves -and each other.
I’m team LOVE. And love starts with loving ourselves for who we are and radiating that light, not darkness, onto others. Not just women of colour, women in general. We can no longer have a ‘one size fits all’ beauty standard and ideal, but the change has to start from within.