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Nechami Tenenbaum of KarmelaCosmetics: “Uniting women through the power of color”

Our brand is focused on giving back to women’s healing and empowerment, by helping all women feel strong, capable and beautiful. We currently have a giving back program, through which we donate 10% of profits from each color collection to a different non-profit, dedicated to a specific healing initiative for women, including eating disorders, endometriosis, […]

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Our brand is focused on giving back to women’s healing and empowerment, by helping all women feel strong, capable and beautiful. We currently have a giving back program, through which we donate 10% of profits from each color collection to a different non-profit, dedicated to a specific healing initiative for women, including eating disorders, endometriosis, breast cancer, and hair loss. 
Additionally, I host a podcast where I speak with women to give them a space to share their stories. These women have all been through challenges that they have worked hard to overcome. Through this platform, I have been able to normalize and create awareness of the problems women face. Ultimately, my goal is for women to feel connected to each other and see how, despite our external differences and the various paths we take in life, we’re actually very much alike.


As part of our series about young people who are making an important social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nechami Tenenbaum.

Nechami is the creator & CEO of Karmelacosmetics.com, a high-performance, long lasting, silk-matte lipstick brand, flattering for all skin tones and dedicated to supporting women’s healing and empowerment.

Her other passion is as a Marketing & Image Consultant and beauty advisor, for both friends and followers alike! Her podcast “We Are Women,” is a show where women speak their truth and celebrate their victories. Nechami has been featured on Fox, NBC, The Ed Kalegi Show, and more. You can reach her via email: [email protected]/Instagram: @karmelacosmetics/@Nechamit/ Website: Karmelacosmetics.com/Nechami.com


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us about how you grew up?

Thank you for this opportunity!

I grew up in a religious Jewish home in the Midwest, as the oldest child, and only girl, with 3 younger brothers. Although I was raised in a strictly religious home, my home was open and liberal, open to all different types of people. With wonderful parents as role models, I was brought up with an open and accepting attitude toward all people. In my family, we were taught to be inviting and loving, and not to judge others based on external appearance, religion, or ethnicity. Since I was a child, I’ve always loved makeup and anything beauty related, so when it came time for me to choose a career path, once I graduated with my MBA in Marketing, I launched my beauty brand, Karmela Cosmetics.

Is there a particular book or organization that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

When I was a teenager, I volunteered as a counselor for a few summers at Camp Simcha Special, a sleepaway camp for children with special needs and chronic illnesses. My experiences there helped shape my view on humanity; I learned to see people for who they are regardless of their appearances or abilities. I have so many stories I can share but there’s one in particular that stands out in my mind. I remember walking with my camper one day and seeing in front of us a another camper, a little girl who was blind, who must have been about 5 years old, pushing her friend who was wheelchair bound, also around the same age.

As I felt my eyes tearing up, I realized how each and every one of us has the ability to give in some way, to contribute to each other. We don’t have to have the same gifts or talents that someone else has, we can contribute in our own unique way. The sweet girl in the wheelchair couldn’t walk, so her friend who was blind was her legs; but the girl who was blind couldn’t see, so her friend in the chair acted as her eyes. I’ll never forget the emotions I felt at that moment as I internalized the power each one of us has.

You are currently leading an organization that is helping to make a positive social impact. Can you tell us a little about what you and your organization are trying to create in our world today?

Our brand is focused on giving back to women’s healing and empowerment, by helping all women feel strong, capable and beautiful. We currently have a giving back program, through which we donate 10% of profits from each color collection to a different non-profit, dedicated to a specific healing initiative for women, including eating disorders, endometriosis, breast cancer, and hair loss. 
Additionally, I host a podcast where I speak with women to give them a space to share their stories. These women have all been through challenges that they have worked hard to overcome. Through this platform, I have been able to normalize and create awareness of the problems women face. Ultimately, my goal is for women to feel connected to each other and see how, despite our external differences and the various paths we take in life, we’re actually very much alike.

Before I teamed up with the Endometriosis foundation I had never even heard of Endo. Turns out, one of my close friends has been diagnosed with Endo and I never knew the name for her condition. 1 out of 10 women suffer from Endometriosis, and unfortunately many women have never even heard of this serious and debilitating condition. As I mentioned, we’re trying to create awareness and change by utilizing our social media platforms, as well as our brand podcast, “We Are Women.” It’s so important to help women feel that they’re not alone in whatever they’re going through, as well as to know that there is an end in sight. Often, hearing other women’s stories and what they have had to overcome, can inspire other women who are currently going through these challenges to feel hopeful and gain the energy to continue to fight for their health and wellbeing.

Can you tell us the backstory about what originally inspired you to feel passionate about this cause and to do something about it?

Sure. It’s an interesting story and it happened completely organically. When I originally launched Karmela Cosmetics, I had planned for my branding to focus on the natural, high-performance aspect of the lipsticks. My goal was to offer a luxury product that would help women feel beautiful without the common toxins typically added to makeup. I knew that I wanted to incorporate a meaningful cause with my brand, but I didn’t know exactly in which direction we would take it.

A couple of months after I launched, I was arranging a low budget photoshoot with a new, yet extremely talented makeup artist from the academy I attended as a student. For this shoot, my goal was to have the photographer capture beauty shots with a black model, as well as a white model. I figured that this way we’d be able to demonstrate how the lipsticks flatter different skin tones, and in the future we’d have a wider variety of models. I have a friend who is a beautiful black woman so I asked her to model for us, and the makeup artist said she would bring a white friend as our white model. Things were very hectic because I scheduled the shoot for right before the holidays, so I completely forgot to ask the makeup artist for a picture of the model until the night before. When she texted me the picture of her friend, I saw that she was wearing a hijab. I asked her if her friend was planning on taking it off for the photoshoot because we need hair in the pictures. When I received her text containing the message of “I don’t think she’s allowed to remove it,” I completely understood where she was coming from, because as I mentioned earlier, I also come from a religious background where married Orthodox women cover their hair. At that moment, it dawned on me, why not take my background, everything I’ve learned and internalized from my parents about loving and connecting with women from all walks of life, and utilize that for my branding? I stepped in as the “white” model, the woman who was Muslim wore the hijab and posed as the Muslim model, and my friend who is Black modeled as the Black model. This decision felt so authentic and resonated strongly with me, I knew at that moment that it was the best decision for me and my business.

I created our brand tagline, “Uniting women through the power of color” after that photoshoot and still use that picture as our main website banner almost 3 years later.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

I participated as a vendor with my cosmetics at a headwrap expo run by some amazing women who were Muslim, in a heavily Muslim populated city in Michigan. I wasn’t sure how I would be received since I’m a religious Jewish women and the crowd was mostly Muslim women. The warmth and energy that I felt in the room went against all stereotypes that day. I appreciated the unity and warmth that I felt from my Muslim friends; we had such great energy going around. They all enjoyed hearing about how I got started with my beauty line and the organizations that we give back to. That was one of those days that I was reminded of how all of us women are more similar than different. At the end of the day, no matter where we come from or our backgrounds, we all share similar emotions, experiences, and struggles. I loved hearing their personal stories and had such great discussions with some of those women, who are still my customers to this day!

Another interesting story that happened to me was when we participated in a large beauty expo, where I traveled with my graphic designer from Detroit to LA. It was a hectic time because my brother’s wedding was a few days before the expo and I was traveling right after the conclusion of the wedding celebrations. I had ordered a large display from China and it arrived literally 2 hours before I was supposed to leave to Cleveland from Detroit to get to my brother’s wedding. I opened up the package from China and was horrified by the printing. As a makeup brand, visuals are extremely important. The quality of the pictures on the large banner was extremely low, the colors appeared different than the files I had sent in, it was a complete mess. All I could think about at that moment was that I needed this banner in 4 days, it had taken two weeks to arrive, and my brother’s wedding was the next night. I hadn’t packed yet because I was dealing with last minute expo arrangement and we were supposed to be on the road right now. I quickly Facetimed my graphic designer to show her what had happened. She was equally horrified by the job they’d done, and we agreed that we had to have it reprinted by a USA based company asap. She quickly redid the dimensions to fit the qualifications of the new company and I submitted it within a couple of hours. They did a fantastic job on the printing and shipped it to me within 4 days. Thankfully it all worked out in the end, but It was definitely a lesson for me in regards to being financially smart and knowing when to invest more in a US based company rather than choosing China. It was also a great lesson in not leaving things until the last minute, because if we need to redo the project, the stress free way to do it is to have time to play with.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

Never underestimate the power and confidence booster which a small self-care item can do for a woman’s emotional health and self-esteem. Often, we are so focused on providing essentials to families and women in need, that we forget about the “extras” that have the potential to do so much, such as a lipstick or small gift item. Besides for our main giving back program that I mentioned earlier where we donate 10% profits to organizations devoted to women’s healing and empowerment, we also have a matching initiative where people purchase a lipstick for a woman in need and we match their donation by sending an additional lipstick to a woman who can use it.

A woman who has Endometriosis once received some lipsticks from our program and sent me a beautiful message about how she wears her lipstick before she goes into surgery because it empowers her and makes her feel beautiful and empowered. She told me that the connection and love she feels from receiving this lipstick helps empower her to know that she can overcome this and fight for her health.

I often receive messages from followers who thank me for bringing up and discussing illnesses/conditions that affect them. In regards to speaking about these conditions on social media, a woman once came over to me at an event and thanked me for talking about Eating disorders as well as Endometriosis. She shared how she often feels alone and misunderstood in her suffering, and when she sees our posts regarding Endo and the other conditions we discuss, it uplifts her and helps her feel heard and supported, it reminds her that she’s not alone.

How do you define “Making A Difference”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

I believe that “Making A Difference” is creating real change in the world, making a difference for our future. Whether it’s impacting individuals through inspiring them, helping them feel understood, or encouraging them to create change in their own way, either through helping themselves or others.

Many young people would not know what steps to take to start to create the change they want to see. But you did. What are some of the steps you took to get your project started? Can you share the top 5 things you need to know to become a changemaker? Please tell us a story or example for each.

  1. The first thing that needs to be done in order to create change is identify what needs to be changed. I had received messages from women telling me how they could not afford a luxury lipstick, but they would love to wear one, to feel beautiful and dressed up. This was my thought process when I created my sisterhood sponsorship program where we match donations of lipsticks to help women in need. I had also received messaged asking me to discuss additional issues relating to women, not just the ones related to our brand partners, so the podcast came about through that.
  2. Focus on the big picture, on your end goal, and work backwards from there. I knew that I wanted to help end mental health stigma and conditions affecting women, so based on that, I figured out the necessary steps I would have to take to get there. Our giving back program, speaking about these topics on social media, our sisterhood sponsorships program, and our podcast “We Are Women,” where women share their truths and celebrate their victories. Each step that we take contributes to our larger goal. Keep in mind that it’s also important to celebrate your small wins: each time that you overcome a challenge or reach the next step, celebrate it! Don’t wait until you reach the final goal to appreciate and celebrate your small achievements. When you celebrate your small achievements or hitting a small goal, it programs your brain for additional success for the future.
  3. Don’t let the small setbacks stop you. We all have set backs and challenges that come up along the way. It’s important to remember that these setbacks and challenges are learning experiences, and teach you what to do (or not to do) the next time around.
  4. Stay true to yourself and your values. When you act in alignment with what feels right to you, you’ll see success. Don’t give up or compromise your values for others’ approval. At the end of the day, you only have one person to answer to, yourself.
  5. Take action! Once you discover what needs to be changed, go for it! I created giving back programs, our podcast, and began putting out content relating to women’s challenges and mental health issues, to spread awareness, empower women, and end stigmas relating to mental health and certain conditions which affect women.

What are the values that drive your work?

The first value that drives my work is hard work. In order to have results with whatever you’re doing, it’s going to require you to work hard and stand up for what you believe in.

Working from a place of honesty is important because when you’re honest and truthful, you’ll come from a transparent place where people will trust and believe in you and what you promote. Authenticity is another crucial value because it inherently leads to greater success. Taking action from a place of authenticity will not only resonate with you and help you accomplish whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish, it will also resonate with your audience, the ones who support and encourage you. People sense authenticity and are drawn to it; it’s human nature.

Another value which drives my work is having a positive mindset. With a positive mindset, you can accomplish almost anything. When you come from a place of “how can I make this work,” or “what if this is amazing,” versus finding ways that it can’t happen, you’ll find success in whatever it is that you’re trying to do.

Many people struggle to find what their purpose is and how to stay true to what they believe in. What are some tools or daily practices that have helped you to stay grounded and centered in who you are, your purpose, and focused on achieving your vision?

Firstly, having a clear vision of your end goals, of what you’re trying to achieve, is essential for achieving your vision. Every day, I visualize and focus on my goals and where I am going, and that helps me stay grounded and centered in who I am. From there I work according to these goals.

I also believe that self-care is essential in staying grounded and centered, so I make self-care a priority in my daily routine. I practice some sort of yoga or exercise every day and I find that the days I skip it, I have a harder time staying grounded and focused.

Another practice that I use to stay grounded is to constantly tune in to my body to see how I feel before making decisions to see if it resonates with me. I often hear from women how they regret not listening to their own intuition, gut feelings, it’s so important to trust your gut.

In my work, I aim to challenge us all right now to take back our human story and co-create a vision for a world that works for all. I believe youth should have agency over their own future. Can you please share your vision for a world you want to see? I’d love to have you describe what it looks like and feels like. As you know, the more we can imagine it, the better we can manifest it!

I imagine a world where, when we meet others, we notice our commonalities faster than our differences. Where there’s unity between people of different cultures and ethnicities, without hate, judgement, and discrimination.

A world where women support one another like a sisterhood tribe, where we lift each other up and are each other’s greatest cheerleaders, pushing each other to the top, where there’s an understanding of: there’s more than enough to go around.

I imagine a world where women believe in themselves and love themselves fully, where insecurity and comparison is a thing of the past. A world where women recognize and value themselves and their worthiness, just for being themselves.

A place where women can be fully themselves without judgement, where they can get the treatment they need, whether it’s for mental illness or physical conditions. Where they can be fully supported and treated when they are in pain or discomfort, with compassion and love, sans judgement.

We are powerful co-creators and our minds and intentions create our reality. If you had limitless resources at your disposal, what specific steps would take to bring your vision to fruition?

I would create worldwide programs for young children and teens. These would include diverse groups of girls, all ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds, involving play activities together, workshops, or sports. If we started connecting children with each other from a young age, they wouldn’t even see the differences in skin color, ethnicity, or race. It would be so normal for them to interact and associate with all different types of people.

I would also invest in educational programs to teach and empower young girls to love themselves fully. If our girls were programmed from a young age with the idea of loving themselves, and feeling valued, and understanding that all bodies are beautiful, our world would look a lot different.

I see a world driven by the power of love, not fear. Where human beings treat each other with humanity. Where compassion, kindness and generosity of spirit are characteristics we teach in schools and strive to embody in all we do. What changes would you like to see in the educational system? Can you explain or give an example?

I would love it if programs were implemented in schools to celebrate and promote kindness and generosity, as much as talent and high grades are. Can you imagine what our educational system would look like if kindness, love, and good character traits were celebrated just as much as high grades and talent are? Bullying would be a thing of the past, and our children would feel happier and more fulfilled.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

Whatever you give comes back to you tenfold.

Giving back to others and making a positive impact in society contributes to our overall happiness and wellbeing. If you can find a way to enhance other people’s lives with whatever you’re doing, you will not only enhance their lives, but yours as well. Even if your busines or career doesn’t have a direct giving back aspect, give in other ways; it will contribute to your feeling fulfilled, part of a community, and thankful. Being grateful for all you have.

Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I would love to have lunch with Oprah. I so admire how she has paved the path, not only for Black women in the business and entertainment industry, but for all women. She got to where she is today while facing many challenges, including racism and being one of the only Black women on TV. Although Oprah grew up in a poor home, and went through trauma during her childhood, she worked through it, and is a true role model when it comes to having a success mindset. Oprah has accomplished so much not just through her shows, network, and businesses, but also through her giving back initiatives. I respect the way she’s always been someone who thinks and cares about others, and creates programs and initiatives to fill needs and help women and girls.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

They can check out our brand website and read more about our giving back initiatives there, Karmelacosmetics.com, or they can head over to my personal website: Nechami.com and read more about me and my Marketing & Image Consulting passion!

I would love for them to connect via social as well! Instagram: @Karmelacosmetics or @Nechamit

https://www.facebook.com/karmelacosmetics
https://www.facebook.com/nechami.tenenbaum/

Thank you so much!

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!


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