The traditional paths to achievement or “success” can still be learned from, however there are so many ways to create and build something that is successful and impactful. You have to choose and decide that for yourself. With the growth of new and even fast-beauty brands, so many people are looking to the latest “success” model as a trend. Though we are in an industry of where “trends” matter, in this case, other businesses’ road or path to growth may not be reflective of what your path is meant to be. Take notes, listen to lessons but chart your own path.
As a part of our series about “Five Things You Need To Know To Succeed In The Modern Beauty Industry”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tai Beauchamp, Co-founder and Chief Brand Officer of Brown Girl Jane.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I really believe I was always meant to be here — at this very juncture as a wellness and beauty entrepreneur, a community (or as we say at BGJ “tribe”) – builder, helping women to feel and look good and live well. I believe I am walking in my destiny.
I began my career as a beauty editor in July 2000 at O, The Oprah Magazine. Prior to landing this role as a recent graduate of Spelman College (I had just graduated in May 2000), I had had the opportunity to intern several times at Hearst Magazines. In the summer of 1998, I interned at Good Housekeeping Magazine across beats.
During the summer of 1999, I was invited back to Hearst where I interned in the Beauty Department at Harper’s Bazaar. My love and appreciation for the beauty industry grew from there. But having started my career at O, the Oprah Magazine where our beauty philosophy and approach was to empower women not to mention after having worked with Oprah, I became clear that my purpose was to use my gifts, talents and heart to empower women to feel uniquely and boldly celebrated in their beauty and power. After leaning into entrepreneurship as a brand consultant and TV host years later, I always envisioned developing a beauty brand that would help redefine, reimagine, and reshape global perceptions and standards of beauty.
I didn’t know when. But I always hoped.
As the media and content industries continued to evolve in 2017, while I continued to work with brands (many of them CPG and beauty/lifestyle brands including Shea Moisture, P&G, InStyle Magazine), I also was quite fatigued. I had been a solopreneur by this time since 2006 and while I was enthusiastic about building a new business, I knew that I didn’t want to do it alone. Fast forward to 2019 after losing my grandmother to whom I was a caregiver, producing and hosting a Travel Show that (in addition to my other consulting work) had me on the road in excess of half the year…I wanted a break but also was ready to really focus my energies and efforts on creating meaningful impact around one brand.
Enter my business partners, biological sisters, and my Spelman College sisters Malaika and Nia Jones who reconnected to me via another Spelman College sister. They had just begun working on an innovative plant-based wellness company and were looking for a partner who had beauty and wellness expertise in addition to business experience. We began having conversations, traveling to meet each other in DC, NYC with me flying from myhome base in LA. The rest is history.
It was perfect timing for me. The collection, the concept, the business opportunity, and most importantly, the opportunity to create something to meaningfully impact the lives of women-especially women of color while revolutionizing the beauty and wellness space.
We are on a mission to help ALL women access wellness in a way that is unique to them while building “tribe” to support them communally. We are really fortunate to build a brand that is not only highly efficacious but helping women achieve more balanced lives. We are incredibly fortunate that also in less than one-year, women and the industry have felt our impact. We were named Refinery 29’s 2020 Beauty Innovator of the Year. And have developed partnerships with Unilever’s Shea Moisture and Birchbox and helped provide grant funding to 16 other Black Women Beauty and Wellness Entrepreneurs. And our collection, which is now available in Nordstrom, has sold out several times on our site. It’s extremely exciting and energizing as we know that we have barely begun to scratch the surface.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
There are too many interesting stories to name and there have been so many full circle moments in my career. I’ve become best friends with some of the women I met and worked with in the beauty industry over the course of what is now a 23+ year career. In fact, I went hiking with someone I assisted with and we realized we were interns together at Hearst. She’s now the CMO at Rare Beauty. I’ve also stood alongside and worked with some of the most dynamic industry leaders who I met as an assistant, who not only inspired me but helped develop me and whom I still work with today. These are women like Mikki Taylor, Beverly Johnson and others . But something that stands out involves a beauty industry legend by the name of Esi Eggleston Bracy. I met Esi very early in my career when I was Beauty Assistant or Associate at O, the Oprah Magazine. There were very few black women executives in Beauty at the time. At the time she was an executive at P&G building Cover Girl, while developing what would become the CoverGirl Queen Collection, I remember going on a press trip with about 6 or 7 other Black Beauty editors to discuss beauty. We spent time in Hunt Valley, participated in brainstorming sessions and heard executives speak. I was spry at about 22 or 23 at best. I remember marveling at Esi’s poise, power, and leadership. I was struck! Fast forward years later, Esi is not only a mentor and dear friend but she is a business partner. Last summer under Esi and Cara Sabin’s leadership, Brown Girl Jane developed an unprecedented partnership between an indie brand and a Fortune 100. With Unilever and Shea Moisture we’ve built upon our #BrownGirlSwap Initiative. As mentioned, in partnership, we created a grant fund of 255,000 dollars, amplified 25 other indie brands, announced an internship program where Black students will be afforded the opportunity to intern at Unilever, and received sponsorship for the first Annual Brown Girl Jane #BrownGirlSwap Black Beauty and Wellness Summit that was held in September 2020 which was headlined by Halle Berry and Jill Scott.
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?
I’ve been fortunate to experience consistent incremental achievement. I choose not to use the word “success” often if ever, as in our culture it connotes arrival. And I always want to be progressing. But if I share one or two key lessons about building and creating impact — after all that is what real achievement is — establishing something that will last and create a legacy and something that will positively impact the lives of others, I would say I saw a “tipping point” when I truly put people/consumers at the center of business. It’s not just about filling a void in the market or eliminating white space, it’s about people and their needs. What is going to make life easier, more enjoyable and elevated? When I leaned into that, business changed for me. The other tipping point came with Brown Girl Jane. After being a solopreneur for so many years, having business partners, being able to rely on business partners and build together. It’s so much sweeter. We center our tribe and we connect with one another.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
As I mentioned, I’ve been supported throughout my career and by many. But from a professional point of view, I’d say the person I’m most grateful for who has helped my professional journey, is my mentor, philanthropist, Ray Chambers. I “met” Ray as a highschool senior when he, through his foundation, awarded me an academic scholarship to attend my dream college, Spelman. He became a fixture in my life as a mentor my Sophomore year of College. And it was during one meeting while I was home in NJ from college sharing with him that I was unsure of what career I would pursue. I had previously thought I wanted to be a doctor or get my JD MBA. He encouraged me to apply for an internship at Hearst. In fact, he introduced me to another mentor Ellen Levine. Fast forward to 2 internships with Hearst, becoming a founding team member at O, The Oprah Magazine and then Beauty and Fitness Director at Seventeen Magazine when I was just 25 years old, Ray is actually responsible for my career in beauty. But even more, after I burnt out from working in Publishing at 26, I turned again to Ray and ended up consulting with his Family Foundation and building programs for youth and supporting efforts in Africa as well. That is when I founded Tai Life Media, LLC. So Ray helped steer me toward both beauty and entrepreneurship.
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. The global beauty industry today has grown to more than a half a trillion dollar business. Can you tell us about the innovations that you are bringing to the industry? How do you think that will help people?
At Brown Girl Jane, where CBD is our first hero ingredient, we are among the earlier indi-brand ncelebrants of the cannabis plant. To that end, we have created formulas that not only provide high efficacious solutions to health, wellness, and beauty concerns but we are designing a collection that isn’t just about white space but helping people look good, feel good and live well. And after a year of quarantine during this pandemic, emotional, physical, and mental health are all of concern and interest to everyone. Since the endocannabinoid system is still understudied and FDA approval of use of Cannabis is still evolving, we are excited to be early adopters and champions not only of Cannabis but the plant-based wellness movement. As a brand, at BGJ, we pride ourselves on not just saying you need this, but helping to educate our tribe and consumers at large about the real benefits. Furthermore, as a brand founded by three black women, we know and fully appreciate and want people from all backgrounds to love our collection. We crafted this collection with Black and Brown women in mind knowing that wellness means something different to us. We also know that accessing wellness means something different to us. But we also know that foundationally that means feeling less anxious, getting better rest, feeling centered. Innovation in beauty means being not only inclusive but reflective! We have to be sure that the audiences and consumers we want to attract are not only represented but centered. This is also why at BGJ we are so committed to creating content around their needs and having open dialogues with our tribe.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the modern beauty industry?
- There’s a lot more diversity in the industry than there was 20 years ago, but there’s still a long way to go.
- Big box brands are looking to and partnering with indie and new brands to engage consumers more intentionally. I want consumers to win!
- There is no one size fits all standard of beauty and because consumers are so smart and astute and dogmatic about standing in this truth, there will no longer be a “standard” image of beauty.
Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to improve the industry, what would you suggest?
- Access to capital for black, brown, and women founders. We need more Women and Diverse VC and PE leaders and for brands to be intentional and consistent with developing the next generation of brand builders.
- Transparency. I really hope that we will arrive at a time when transparency in sourcing, manufacturing, costs, ingredients, etc is necessary. The regulations are not clear and neither are the transparency requirements. Afford consumers the opportunity to make decisions for themselves.
You are an expert about beauty. Can you share a few ideas that anyone can use “to feel beautiful”?
- Define Beauty and wellness by your own standards. Think about what makes you feel most at peace, most energized, and most loved. Chances are these things will have less to do with an aesthetic and be more connected to experience. Beauty is a feeling first. The aesthetic comes later.
- Build a solid Tribe. At Brown Girl Jane and in my personal life as well, we use the word “tribe” a lot. Your tribe is like a mirror to you. The days you don’t see yourself in the highest regard, your tribe is there.
- Affirm yourself. I’m a words person. So I use my words and language with intention. And if I need to see it, I write those words down.
- Social Media and comparison will not only steal your joy but it will make an unfiltered experience or look, for that matter seem far worse than it is.
Here is the main question for our discussion. Based on your experience and success, Can you please share “Five Things You Need To Know To Succeed In The Modern Beauty Industry”. Please share a story or an example, for each.
- The traditional paths to achievement or “success” can still be learned from, however there are so many ways to create and build something that is successful and impactful. You have to choose and decide that for yourself. With the growth of new and even fast-beauty brands, so many people are looking to the latest “success” model as a trend. Though we are in an industry of where “trends” matter, in this case, other businesses’ road or path to growth may not be reflective of what your path is meant to be. Take notes, listen to lessons but chart your own path.
- Build a board. As a self-funded startup, Maliaka, Nia and I don’t have an official board of directors outside of ourselves as it stands. But we do have an advisory board. Even if informal, establishing an advisory board will help provide guidance as you build and grow. Know that taking advance from too many individuals, as well meaning as they may be, is not great either.
- Be willing and able to adapt as you are building.
- Use data and insights to drive your innovation pipeline.
- Partner strategically and effectively in order to add value and enhance your own value.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
The Brown Girl Swap
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Be good to people. Period. It’s people that make the world go round. It’s people that build enterprise. Stand in your truth as a woman, as a leader, bring all of your special “sauce” to the table in business. Long gone are the days that being a good and “success” business person means being calloused or obnoxious. You can be spirited, kind, fair, and still make things happen.
How can our readers follow you online?
@Taibeau on Instagram
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.