There are few things more inspiring to me than entrepreneurship. Most entrepreneurs fail, fail, and fail again before succeeding but are driven by their passion and vision to get their businesses off the ground no matter how many times they have to regroup. Entrepreneurship is a beautiful thing and uniquely important to the American identity — and while I don’t think it’s for everyone, I think it’s important that it’s celebrated. So on Sundays, I’ll be featuring small business owners on The Pretty Patriot in an effort to do just that.
Dheandra is someone I’ve been following on Instagram for quite some time. While I am interested in cosmetics and skin care in the basic sense of wanting clearer, more radiant skin and trying to look like a clown when I put makeup on, it’s not not something I’ll spend hours on end researching or trying to learn more about because it provokes my curiosity that much. Weirdly enough, I’ve been following Dheandra for years now and I not only enjoy her content, but look forward to it. There’s an authenticity in what she puts out there that I think is a breath of fresh air — especially in the beauty community. A while back, she launched Nicolette cosmetics and recently rebranded and relaunched with Olea Skin Care. Keep reading to learn more about it.
1. First and foremost, congratulations on the relaunch of your brand! Or at least what I perceive as the relaunch of your brand. How long has this been in the works?
Thank you!! I actually started planning this in the spring of this year (2018) and I’ve set goals along the way to make sure I was ready for the September launch.
2. I was under the impression that Nicolette Cosmetics was more makeup and OLEA Skincare is more…skin care lol. Would you mind clarifying? And if so, what inspired you to shift your focus?
Absolutely! So, yes, Nicolette Cosmetics was mainly cosmetics products. I was creating handcrafted, vegan makeup – mainly eyeshadows and highlighters. I eventually created a spinoff skincare line called Nicolette Cosmetics, SKIN a few months into running Nicolette Cosmetics. This line contained three products including a serum, moisturizer and facial oil. The facial oil was the only product that I developed, myself, from scratch. When I decided to rebrand and relaunch I remember being drawn to skincare. I really wanted to create a line that contained all handcrafted products and I really wanted to have a focus on simple products with recognizable ingredients.
3. You have impeccable skin. Was that more of a genetic lottery kind of thing or trial and error?
That has been more of a genetic lottery thing, to be honest. I’ve always had good skin, but I believe everyone should take pride in taking care of their skin, even if they have pretty good skin to begin with. I also think that everyone has the potential to find a routine for them to get the skin they desire. I’ve always had great skincare routines in place, even as a kid. I used to mix up my own face masks and I was religious about wash regimens, treatment, etc. That hasn’t changed at all and I’m really happy that skincare is something I find really fun, so it doesn’t ever feel like a chore.
4. How has your skin care routine changed throughout the years, and how have those changes impacted your business and product line?
I think one of the biggest changes I’ve made to my skincare routine in the past few years has been adding in facial oils. I have oily/combo skin, so the thought of using oil on my face used to be frightening! It took a few years of research and a bit of trial and error to find the oils that agree with my skin.
Since then I’ve preached about facial oils to anyone and everyone that will listen and I think that was the biggest reason for naming my brand OLEA, as well as having two of the launch products be facial oils. I realize there’s still a stigma around oil and skin, but I think a lot of skincare brands have been embracing facial oils as of late and people are warming up to incorporating them into their routine.
5. In your eyes, what is it that sets OLEA apart?
I ask myself that a lot and I’ve had times where I’ve wondered if OLEA is differentiated enough to stand out. Even though skincare is a saturated market, everything is saturated once you look at it. That being said, I think I’m what sets OLEA apart. I have a genuine passion for this brand that I’m cultivating. I have a desire to help people with their skincare and inspire others as well. I think people can sense my authenticity and I also think the transparency, that I approach running OLEA with, is refreshing.
6. Is skin care and cosmetics something you’ve always been passionate about? How did that passion develop?
I’ve always been super into makeup and skincare. I’m not sure why or how this started. When I was growing up I never really had anyone around me who was super passionate about either of these things, but I remember lingering in the makeup and skincare aisles and sneaking new products into the cart when I went shopping with my parents.
7. Was there anything in particular that inspired you to pursue your own business in skin care/cosmetics?
I’ve always felt the calling to be an entrepreneur. I had so many businesses as a kid, from the traditional lemonade stand, to a clothing line, to a dog walking business. I had so many new ideas all the time, and still do, I was always doing something. There was something so fascinating to me about creating something tangible from ideas floating in your head. So, when I had the thought to start Nicolette Cosmetics, originally, it didn’t seem crazy or anything. In fact, I kind of wondered why it’s taken me so long to come up with it.
8. What advice would you give to women struggling to find a skincare routine/products that work for them?
I’d say research is your best friend. So many people wander into Sephora or Ulta and think they have to get an expensive, well-known brand name product in order to achieve results. Yeah, a lot of the time those products will give you great results – if they’re well reviewed, but don’t discount other options. Don’t discount the stuff at the drugstore (check the ingredients, of course), don’t discount the smaller brand name products and don’t discount the stuff in your kitchen! I get it, some people genuinely don’t want to sit in their kitchen mixing up masks, it’s just not their thing, but researching options and methods for cleansing, treating and moisturizing your skin is really important.
9. What are your favorite and least favorite things about the beauty industry?
Okay I’ll start with the bad: one thing I dislike is folks asking for free product in exchange for something. I think influencer marketing has taken off and I work in this industry for my 9-5, so I know how it works and I know it can yield amazing results. I’ve also been paid to promote products, so I know the influencer side of things too. But, it’s really frustrating that this industry has exposed a lot of people who just want free stuff and don’t actually care to support the small brand that they are approaching. That being said, I also love how easy it is to connect with folks all around the world who love beauty products as much as you. Some of my online friends were people who supported Nicolette Cosmetics when it first launched.
10. Could you tell me about how you create your products and the process as a whole? Like do you go “ok I need to create a cleanser that does this and a moisturizer that does that” or do you kind of work backwards from people’s needs like “what ingredients will address cystic acne”?
It’s a bit of both. Sometimes I get an idea and I’m so excited about it that I want to create the product immediately. Other times I try to poll my audience on Instagram and ask them what they’d like to see next and then I go from there. Just recently I asked folks if they’d like to see a mask or serum next and the poll ended up with a 50/50 result, so I’m working on creating both! I also asked everyone what their biggest skincare concerns were and I used those responses to identify what the serum and mask should really address. From there I usually research ingredients, create a recipe, order ingredients, create my first iteration and test it. I’ll test the product for weeks and have friends and family test it before I introduce it to my consumer base.
11. What are your overall hopes and goals for OLEA in the next year? The next 5?
I think my biggest goal is consistency for the next year. I get very fired up and very excited when I start something new and sometimes when the response isn’t what I expect I tend to let it fade away. I think one of the hardest things when it comes to starting something new is maintaining consistency, even if it seems like no one cares or is supporting what you’re doing. At the beginning people don’t want to try something that it seems like no one else is trying, so it’s a constant battle of trying to remember why you started while reminding others that you’re worthy of their trust as a business owner. Sometimes being consistent, especially on the days where you want to give up, is hard. I went through a really tough time last year where I was working at a place I hated and it seemed like I was putting so much into my business and not getting the return I wanted. I kind of gave up for a bit there. I thought “maybe this isn’t for me”. I don’t want this to happen again – not like that at least. If OLEA doesn’t work out then I believe it will lead me to where I’m supposed to be and what I should be doing. As far as the next 5 years goes, I’d love to scale and have a retail store, if that’s in the cards.
12. Did you face any major hurdles in launching and relaunching your business, and if so would you mind delving into them?
I think the major hurdle I faced was that tough period that I went through last year. At one point I was working part time and working on my business and that sucked. No one really talks about hard it is when you’re bootstrapping your business and trying to pay your bills on a part-time salary. When I got a full time job I lost some time, but I got more money. That worked out for a bit until I realized working 60 hour weeks was killing my creativity. I started isolating myself and I became a bit depressed. A lot depressed actually. I gave up the one thing that was making me relatively happy during that time – my business.
When I relaunched my business as OLEA Skincare I was faced with confronting why I had to relaunch in the first place. I had to ask myself some tough questions about what I wanted and how dedicated I’d be. I think there are always going to be hurdles in business. It can be lonely, stressful, and just confusing as hell! But, I think going through that really tough time and still having an itch to start and grow a business has really helped me realize how much it is that I want this and how much I’m willing to keep trying.
13. Would you mind talking a little about some of the obstacles that you ran into with Nicolette Cosmetics — which from my understanding was the original launch of your business?
I think one of the biggest obstacles was cash flow. A lot of us aren’t taught lessons about personal finance when we’re growing up, let alone business finance. So, I found myself putting a lot of money in and not seeing a return. I was so eager to create new products, new color eyeshadows, offer more selection, but I hadn’t built a consumer base that was willing to buy the way I wanted them to. Growing a business and a brand require learning some tough lessons along the way. I think a lot of the obstacles I faced were basic business lessons that no textbook could teach and I had to learn by doing things that didn’t work out.
14. What’s so impressive to me is that from what I’ve been able to gather is that you’re a young girl that went out on a limb and started her own business, didn’t quite get the results you wanted, but didn’t give up. What advice would you give to entrepreneurs in the early stages of their businesses?
I’d have to give the same cliche advice I hear all the time: if you have an itch, a calling, a burning desire to do something just do it. Don’t let anyone tell you “there are already a bunch of X out there”, because that’s just nonsense. Walk into a grocery store and you’ll be bombarded with tons bread brands and even more brands of corn in a tin can. If you have an itch, scratch it. I honestly think if it doesn’t work out, then you’ll find your way to something else that will work out and is meant for you.
I also think the fear of success is real. Don’t let you stop you from being great because deep down you’re afraid of the changes that will come when you create something amazing. I’ve had to face my subconscious fear of success and that was a hard pill to swallow.
15. What advice would you give to other people interested in starting businesses — specifically in your industry?
Try to stay in your own lane. I think this advice applies to anyone in business because I know how easy it is to hop on Instagram and compare everything from the way another business runs their page to the number of followers they have compared to you. Trust me: when you’re minding their business you have no time to mind your own. It’s advice I constantly have to give myself because sometimes I get caught up in stalking other skincare brands on Instagram and wondering how they’re doing a certain thing, but it really is detrimental because it limits your creativity when you’re trying to do your own thing.