September 12, 2019
Hopefully, if you're reading this, you already know who I am and you know what I do. However, if you're new to Bossy, I'll take a quick moment to fill you in.
My name is Aishetu Fatima Dozie, but everyone calls me Aisha and you should feel free to do the same.
I am the founder and CEO of Bossy Cosmetics, a women’s empowerment and mission-driven brand masquerading as a beauty company. Odd way to describe our business but I think it’s the truth. We exist to ignite confidence in ambitious working women, and we do that by offering cruelty-free and gorgeous makeup products in addition to providing relevant topical content and essential services for these women.
Ok, so now you know the WHAT; the WHERE is we are digitally-native, meaning you can only purchase our products online at our store – bossylipstick.com – and at a handful of pop-ups we will be participating in over the next six months.
I wanted to use this blog to talk about the HOW. I get this question a lot and it makes sense, right? The cosmetics industry is incredibly competitive and fragmented with brands popping up every single day led by influencers and celebrities, and then there are the conglomerates with iconic houses and oodles of money, HOW did I think I would differentiate myself in this marketplace? Each time I get this question, I’m prepared for it and I give the answer that comes from the depth of my soul.
I don’t see cosmetics companies run by women like me for women like me.
I guess the next question is “WHO’S a woman like you, Aisha?” A woman (of color), who isn’t a celebrity but is obsessed with the plight of working women in the world (myself included) and not necessarily inspired by insanely sexualized imagery. Don’t get me wrong. Sex definitely sells and sex is also great! But that’s not all women think about.
Most working women that I know are preoccupied with how to get ahead in life so that they can save money, show up in spaces that they only dreamed of, and have fun with the people they love. There are literally millions of adult working women on this planet and beauty companies seem to be focused only on getting us to make purchases based on the notion that we can look like the unrealistic faces on their site. Don’t get me wrong, I love what the beauty influencer community is about (we also hope to work with influencers in the near future) but I haven’t found a brand that inspires me to be my best self, yet.
I’m a working mother with three young children. I am wildly ambitious, and I also happen to suffer from Imposter Syndrome. This is in spite of a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and an MBA from Harvard Business School. I’ve spent over two decades as a finance executive and have either lived and/or worked in the US, UK, Southeast Asia, Central and South America, and Sub-Saharan Africa. I’m in many ways what one would call – a BOSS – but I’m still nervous when I need to go pitch a client, present in a boardroom, or in my current predicament, raise funding. Guess what helps me feel at ease? Knowing that I look good.
These are just some of my “Confidence Hacks” in addition to knowing the content of the actual presentation and being able to answer the questions that will come back! Makeup for me has always been the beginning of my daily ritual regarding HOW I want to show up on any given day. HOW do I want to take up space? HOW do I want people to see me? Makeup for me is part of my “battle gear” and for many working women, it turns out they feel the same.
So, I decided, as an avid lipstick junkie myself, that I would go ahead and start a business that caters to women like me and that’s really the HOW. Women who were always told they were bossy when they were young and are probably still gossiped about with this name-calling today. I decided that I would start small and learn from other women like me. It’s been really exciting since we launched on March 8th – International Women’s Day – this year.
I’ve learned a ton from my customers and the main insight is that women want to be inspired. Many women have to work to feed themselves and their families. Literally. I’m one of them. According to the 2018 Leanln.Org and McKinsey Women in the WorkpIace study, women are feeling a lot less hopeful about their work prospects than men and this shouldn’t surprise you at all.
I keep reading articles about how men want to avoid hiring pretty women because of the effects of the #MeToo movement and I’m like “Guys, you’ve just found another reason to make my life harder. Not yours!” We already know that the talent pipeline is horribly skewed to favor men in Corporate America and for women of color it’s the absolute worst.
Speaking of women of color, perhaps you’ve noticed from my photo that I’m black. This is indeed correct and my journey as a first-time entrepreneur in the US (I’ve started a company before but in Nigeria) has been illuminating.
Before I had even cracked the idea of Bossy Cosmetics wide open in my mind, I decided to discuss it with a number of people to get their views. One such person I approached was a venture capital investor based in New York City that invests in seed rounds and had a consumer company in their portfolio. I chatted with said white male and the first thing he said to me was “This is for Black women, right?” I can’t tell you how many people ask me whether my company is targeting either only Black women or women of color. Don’t get me wrong, there are tons of companies with this philosophy and they are all amazing but why have you made this assumption about my company when I never brought up the topic of race. Targeting the black community is indeed an awesome (and profitable) strategy, just look at Blavity and Mented Cosmetics.
I spoke once to a journalist and he asked me the same question “Do you really think you can get white women to buy into your idea and support your business?” I confessed to him that I didn’t have the answer and only time would tell. It seemed very odd to me because I have bought several fashion and beauty products made by non-Black people. I wondered whether Emily Weiss got these questions when she was starting Glossier. Did people think she could only appeal to white women? Her message is incredibly inclusive and universal and so is mine. Even the imagery on our website and social media platforms has women of ALL hues yet people keep asking me whether this is really a WOC-focused company.
A few months ago, I attended WWD Beauty Summit in New York City and it was really fascinating. As a beauty entrepreneur with less than 1,000 customers, I don’t even rate against the behemoths who attended the conference. All the big guys were there and I attended every single session. I’d say the two biggest themes of the day were diversity & inclusion and innovation. Ok great. I agree. Every single presentation had tons of black, brown, and Asian womxn and men who wear makeup. Ok great. Lots of diversity in the imagery. Diversity, diversity, diversity. Ok great. Who did the presentations? Predominantly white men and women. Ok interesting. I saw two black women and one Latina featured of the several who stood on the stage that day and I was happy for the representation. Again, are people asking white women and men why they use diverse imagery? No because it’s expected that everyone get on this diversity train except of course if you are a WOC owner.
So now we get to the WHY. I’m Nigerian-American and I am the CEO of Bossy Cosmetics. We aim to create beautiful products, content, and services to a fabulous community of diverse working women. If that’s you, shop our collection, check out our #BossyBlog, watch our video series – 5 minutes with a BOSS, become a distributor of our products in your local community, and stay tuned for so much more to come.
WHY do we do it? Because no one else is and that's our superpower.
Thanks for taking the time to read my blog post and thank you especially to Svetlana (my business coach) for encouraging me to share these thoughts,
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