Seeing yourself in the business is just as important as finding yourself in business
By J.D. Baldwin
When Adrianna Cooper took on a purge of her medicine cabinet and makeup bag, she soon realised just how many skin care products she’d gathered over the years. Products old and new; some multi-purpose, some single purpose; some she recognized and some she didn’t were taking up valuable space and started her thinking about what she was using and why.
Cooper read the ingredients lists of many of these products and began to ask herself just what these ingredients were for, what they might be doing to her skin, and what might or might not be actually ending up in her body. It was a wake-up call that set her looking for products that were better suited to her personal ethic.
It wasn’t long after that Cooper ended up finding a shop that offered the basic ingredients for making her own skin care and cosmetic products.
“To say my jaw dropped would’ve been an understatement,” says Cooper. “I knew that I could make my own products and know exactly what I was putting on my skin.”
The business finds the entrepreneur
As Cooper experimented with her own skin care products and started using them daily, people around her began to notice.
“People at work and my friends and family – and even strangers – started telling me I smelled amazing, that my skin was looking so beautiful,” Cooper says. “It was a bit strange.”
Cooper let the people around her try some of her concoctions, and the feedback was beyond positive.
“They would be asking ‘How much
is this?’ and ‘Where can I get some?’,” says Cooper.
That’s when Cooper realized there was a business in the making; she just had to take on the challenge.
The long and winding journey
Now Owner and CEO of her company, Majestic Botanicals, Cooper wasn’t necessarily looking to become a skin care entrepreneur.
“I’ve been a hairdresser for 19 years, so I’ve always been around the larger beauty industry,” explains Cooper. “It’s just something I’ve been ‘into’ as long as I can remember.”
Ten years ago, Cooper headed back to school and became a social worker, a field in which she’s worked ever since.
“I always wanted to help people,” says Cooper. “It comes from a place of wanting to help people feel good about themselves on the inside, from the inside out, and I know how much that matters in addition to the outside part of people, too.”
“Looking and feeling your best really contributes to your overall sense of wellbeing,” Cooper says. “It’s not the be all and end all, but it’s part of the equation.”
Knowing what you know, and who you know
As Cooper’s pet project blossomed into a full-on business, she soon realized that there was plenty that she didn’t know about launching a new company and product line into the market. Luckily, she found herself surrounded by a community of people who believed in her and who were more than happy to contribute to her success.
“When I started talking about the business, a lot of my friends said ‘Oh, I can help you with marketing,’ ‘I can help you with branding,’ or ‘I can help you with this or that’,” says Cooper. “I’m still learning tons, and I’m having so much fun!”
The ‘isms’ are real
As a Black female business owner in the beauty and skincare industry, Cooper says that racism has been, and continues to be an issue.
“The makeup and skincare products I used growing up would look so great on my friends, but they often wouldn’t look as good on my skin. The selection of colours was limited and a lot of them just wouldn’t work on Black skin,” says Cooper.
“Even in the images portrayed in the media and in advertising, you just don’t see many people of colour. If you’re a young person growing up, and you can’t see yourself in the world, then it really has a negative impact on your self-esteem and self-image.”
Asked if she’s personally experienced any of the ‘isms’ – racism, sexism, et cetera – in her entrepreneurial and manufacturing journey to date, Cooper answers frankly, “Not yet. But I feel it might be coming.”
“Maybe there have been opportunities I haven’t been able to take advantage of, or that weren’t presented because of my skin colour, but I haven’t been aware of them directly,” says Cooper. “And it’s not always about race, or only about race. It can be about race, gender, or pretty much anything.”
We can do better
Cooper says that there are things that industry and individual companies can do to help address the negative impacts of all sorts of discrimination against people and communities of colour.
“It’s about cultural competency, understanding different cultures, ethnicities, and backgrounds” explains Cooper. “Just really listen to other voices.”
“As a Black woman, I can’t speak for someone who is South Asian, East Asian, or Indigenous,” Cooper says. “We all have different experiences in both business and our everyday lives.”
As for what individuals (and this also applies for businesses) can do to help address discrimination in the industry, Cooper says that it really comes down to how they spend their money.
“Spending your money in companies owned by members of the Black, Indigenous, and Persons of Colour communities is a great way to build up those communities and their businesses,” Cooper explains. “The dollars that we can spend in our own communities are going to stay there a lot longer, especially if it’s in a business owned by a member of that community.”
It’s a concept that we all know about, usually in the guise of the ‘local dollar’, but it’s applied in a slightly different way here, as the Black dollar. While not dictating that consumers’ spending should happen solely in Black-owned businesses, it’s about having your dollar make the most impact and be a proxy for what you want to see in the world.
Cooper offers one piece of advice to other Black, Indigenous, and Persons of Colour entrepreneurs: “Just do it!”
“Believe in yourself, and believe it when others believe in you,” says Cooper. “When you have a community of people who are rallying behind you and your idea, it really helps boost your energy and helps you do some pretty amazing things.”
Where she sees Majestic Botanicals going into the future, Cooper says she wants to see her products on the shelves of stores – big and small – across Canada, and not just specialty cosmetic shops either.
“I want to have my creams in Whole Foods, Save on Foods, Co-op; really any store that helps support local.”
Cooper says you have to speak things into existence.
“One of my earliest customers called me after purchasing some of the Goddess product, and she said ‘My feet feel like what Beyoncé’s feet must feel like! So silky and smooth.’”
“I put it out there that, one day, Beyoncé is going to wear my creams, and I truly believe it’s going to happen. I can do it.”