It’s been a little over a year and a half since three Spelman alumni came together to launch Brown Girl Jane. What came into fruition in January 2020, has quickly blossomed into a disruptive force in the beauty industry. The plant-based wellness and beauty brand focuses on putting Black women’s needs at the forefront of their collection of CBD products while investing in Black women businesses along the way. The three founders of Brown Girl Jane each brought their different expertise to help launch and grow their business.
Their background in philanthropy, media and finance helped them drive the partnerships they have created with brands like Shea Moisture, Birchbox and Nordstrom. Nia Jones, Chief Impact Officer; Malaika Jones Kebede, CEO and Tai Beauchamp, Chief Brand Officer of Brown Girl Jane, bootstrapped their business that has now generated multiple months of 6-figure sales. They share their tips for founders who are looking to grow in sales.
Remember your ethos.
After Jones Kebede suffered a spinal cord injury after giving birth to her youngest daughter, she looked to treatments outside of pharma to help. Jones wanted the energy to manage motherhood and career, while Beauchamp looked for ways to help with rest. Each founder had a personal reason and journey to creating Brown Girl Jane and knew that other women could relate. “Growing isn’t just great because of the numbers, but look at what it allows you to do for the community overall. It’s just truly, truly impactful,” said Jones. Remember their why helps the founders make the best decisions for the company that aligns with their mission.
Make sweat equity count.
To be successful, the ladies dedicated a lot of time to ensure their product was ready for the masses. “We’re still very much a lean team with our own sweat equity for this brand,” Beauchamp shared. The women started the company with under $50,000 of their own money, and they are still bootstrapping the business. For the large part of their first year in business, the women did not take a salary but allowed the money they made to go back into the company for inventory and other items. If you can afford to forego fundraising and acquiring investors at the beginning of your business, personal equity can be a route that helps set the foundation for your business. “From an operational standpoint, you reap what you sow. At this point, we are still sowing, and while we have had wonderful success in terms of earnings at different stages and continue to, this is still very much the beginning,” shared Jones Kebede.
Listen to your customers.
Jones Kebede credits listening as a way for the founders to dedicate their resources in a “smart and tactical” way as they grow. Being intentional about listening allows them to shift where the money and time are needed. “Listening to your tribe, you are able to provide real solutions in ways that are tangible, effective and meaningful beyond what you think as founders and what’s in our heads,” shared Jones Kebede. Testing and listening to their consumers, which they call “tribe,” allows them to expand their products from the initial CBD drops, to expand it to a wellness collection that includes body butter, candles, facial serum and most recently, vegan CBD gelées. “This helps us to drill down on understanding what our tribe needs further. [Research] and product development is a process because we are committed to developing products that are highly efficacious and have the highest quality, shared Beauchamp.
Understand what it takes to level up.
The pandemic proved to be a time where wellness became a priority for Black women. That shift resulted in significant support for their offerings. The Brown Girl Jane founders were excited to see themselves hit their first six-figure month but knew that as the business grew, so did the others’ need to sustain it. They had to quickly learn and understand supply-chain, their operations and how much more inventory they would need. “How much money will we need to reinvest in the company so that we could continue to scale,” said Jones Kebede.
Content is key for marketing.
“It’s the conversations and connectedness that help people to understand why they deserve to be there and want to be there,” Beauchamp shared. The founders have used the power of their narratives and digital audiences to create content to educate their consumers on why health and wellness are essential. “The content really is the glue. In any case, it’s the way that women and Black women especially see themselves,” Beauchamp added. When they started Brown Girl Jane, they noticed the lack of representation within the wellness and CBD industry. It was important to showcase that Black women are deserving of wellness. It has helped them to create a community of consumers and showcase the power of their collection of products.
Collaboration through partnership.
Black women continue to enter entrepreneurship in record numbers. Beauchamp suggests finding ways to help amplify one another through collaboration and learn from each other through partnership. Ways to work with other Black women could be through business partnerships, an advisory board, a digital community or investing. Beauchamp wants Black women entrepreneurs to know they don’t have to be alone in this space. “Be clear about what you don’t know, learn what you can and what you’re able to, but when you don’t have the resources, the time or the capacity to do so, tap into others in order to gain a greater sense of understanding,” she added.