A candid conversation with the beauty mogul.
You started Eden Body Works at 11, which is amazing and crazy at the same time. What were the kinds of sacrifices that you realized you were gong to have to make being a child entrepreneur?
Well, I would say the hardest sacrifice I didn’t know I was going to make was in building friendships and relationships. In business, you learn pretty early that you have to network. 11-year-old friends didn’t really have much to offer [laughs], in terms of networking. So I focused my time on other people who were driven and committed to the brand and business space. Mostly that meant going to conferences and startup functions and things like that, which wasn’t typical for people of my age. When there were weekends that I wasn’t working, I realized I hadn’t really invested that time in friendships that would give me someone to hang out with. That was a sacrifice I definitely wasn’t expecting. But outside of that, I was a kid! Maybe I gave up watching cartoons, but I really didn’t have much to give up you know?
What is it like running your business today, compared to when you started?
Back then my typical day was a little bit more regimented. I got up around 5am to go to school. About a year after I started my company I started high school. I was also in an engineering academy within that high school, so I had to be up early and to school by 6:30am and take engineering classes. Then, after school opened to everyone else, I would take my regular classes. Then I would go to basketball practice. Then I would come home, check orders, read through emails, update the blog, fill the orders with my sisters and pack them, pretty late into the night some days. We’d have to get the orders ready and put them on our doorstep so that they could be picked up and delivered as soon as possible. It wasn’t a massive, overwhelming number of orders. So we would pick one or two days of the week where we would ship them out. Then I would do my homework, chores and honestly I was involved with my church and family too.
And that changed when?
By the time it was time for me to go to college, I knew I couldn’t do that anymore. I couldn’t maintain that. So I had to build together a team that would support that. Today, I have a great team that helps manage people, events, marketing, operations, customer service, tech and design and so on. It’s a pretty small team, but altogether they help drive the key core aspects of the business. I’ve shifted more into a leadership role and it’s exciting.
I’ve graduated from college and I’m almost done with my Master’s degree and I’ve been working full-time at Microsoft. My team has definitely put in more than their fair share of work as I grow the engineering part of my life.
I don’t think consumers understand the sacrifice and the regimented work ethic it takes to build a brand.
I think some people can do crazy, chaotic days. But once you get on a schedule your life changes. You understand when you have time for you and you understand when you have to dedicate time to your work. You just have to respect those boundaries.
There’s this illusion of having it all, and it all being so perfect.
Oh, no. Perfection is not attainable. Being able to not regret the decisions that you made and understanding your priorities is probably a better way to look at life. I understand what’s important to me. God above everything. My family, my friends. Then I start thinking about work and things like that. Businesses come and go. Businesses succeed and they fail. But having a community around you that can lift you up whether or not you have a job is something that you have to work on.
But then there are other times when your business is a baby and it needs you and you need to work and grind and put in that time if you really want to see the fruits of your labor. You can’t kill yourself and neglect the other parts of you as a person. The money is just not worth it.
That’s just where I am in life now. I only do things that I actually want to do.
I live and I love! What’s new and next for Eden?
We kind of announced this earlier this summer, but Eden Body Works is coming strong into the skincare line. We’re excited to see how this is going to be received. We’re trying to target the whole woman, from head to toe. It is a very interesting challenge because there are probably as many skin types as there are hair textures. But we’re going to take baby steps and ask the community to trust us and give us that feedback so that we can meet those needs.
I was telling Lauren Napier that I don’t think Black women have a plethora of skincare products dedicated to our issues.
I think that we’ll start to tackle some of those real issues. Some women are anti-makeup and some are all in. Either way, you have to take care of your skin. You need to understand your dryness, oiliness, how stress affects your skin and so on. We’re doing a ton of research and prepping to educate these women to know more about their skin and form a regimen that makes sense for them.
What is going to make Eden’s skincare launch differ from the others?
I think that we’ve bought to the forefront that Eden is a community driven brand. It’s all about our customers and their children and their families. There are things we see in the world in terms of trends of what beauty is supposed to be. We’re all for breaking down those walls and having people be more accepting of where they are in life. To combat that, we do a lot of outreach in the community and other events and things like that that are about self-empowerment.
Hard question: what is your favorite Eden product?
Okay. [laughs] I have to say the Curl Defining Crème because I am a two-strand twist girl, all day. You only let me pick one!