Most Black entrepreneurs in the Beauty industry are involved in the retail part of the supply chain.
Because its important that we also manufacture and sell wholesale, I wanted to speak with Erica Douglas, aka Sister Scientist.
Not only is Erica a cosmetic chemist, she is also the co founder of mSEED Group, a team of specialists that offer services that are vital to the successful launch and strategic growth of brands in the beauty, cosmetic, and personal care space.
SB: I’m pretty sure that most scientists aren’t entrepreneurs. What inspired you to turn your interest in science and chemistry into a business?
ED: The inspiration came from recognizing a need. Over the last 5 – 10 years, there has been an unprecedented number of new businesses and brands entering the beauty and personal grooming space.
Although the number of brands have exponentially grown, the number of manufacturers servicing these brands has not. Specifically, manufactures with the ability to provide full service options to budding entrepreneurs that are just getting started or growing rapidly.
New brands require specialized expertise and professional support even when it comes to office operations for example Hosted Telephony. My team and I have the experience, knowledge and network to help these ideas come to life.
I became an entrepreneur to support other entrepreneurs. I try to help entrepreneurs succeed, just like accountants try to take care of businesses financial affairs in order to help them focus their energy on what they are passionate about. In fact, LA’s best certified public accountants are well respected for their track record with numerous businesses including black and women entrepreneurs who are driving the growth in the beauty category.
SB: Most Black businesses in the beauty industry focus on the retail phase of the supply chain. What made you decide to focus offer manufacturing services?
ED: The landscape of the beauty industry is changing rapidly and I believe that the future of innovation in this space more so lies in the fate of the entrepreneur.
I have encountered so many people with great ideas who didn’t have the right resources or access to get started.
This especially applies to minority and women entrepreneurs. People would come to me for help and all I could do was point them in the right direction, which often wasn’t enough.
A number of companies don’t want to work with the “small guy” because their infrastructure is built to support large volume orders.
It dawned on me that if I wanted there to be a change in how beauty startups were serviced, then I had to create the change.
SB: One of the services you offer is Private Label manufacturing. Can you explain what private label means?
ED: Private label manufacturing is when a retailing brand outsources the product development and production of their brand’s products to a third-party manufacturer as a paid service.
Brands come to us (mSEED group) with an idea and with their input, we develop it, design it, bottle it, and then sell it to them as a finished product with their branding, that they then sell into a retailer or direct-to-consumer.
SB: What industry relationships have you built that would benefit an entrepreneur that chooses to use your consulting service for retail placement?
ED: Between my team and I, we have served in roles on all sides of the beauty business. Along the way, we have had the opportunity to work for or rub elbows with some very successful, powerful and influential people in the beauty space.
We maintain solid relationships with brokers, distributors, category buyers, suppliers, etc. They often refer some of their clients to us because we have experience building brands in mass retail and know what it takes for a brand to succeed at the shelf.
When a client under the mSEED umbrella is looking to take things to the next level we don’t just make the introductions to decision makers in the industry, but we make sure the client is prepared and polished so that she has all the right answers before anybody even asks.
SB: On your YouTube channel you have a Fact or Crap segment. What are some of the most popular beliefs about natural hair and hair products that aren’t necessary true?
ED: There are so many! The myth that irritates me the most is about silicones…silicones have gotten a bad rep in the natural hair community, but when used properly in formulations, silicones can be one of the most effective lines of defense for breakage, moisture retention and heat damage.
SB: What is the biggest challenges you face as an entrepreneur?
ED: I have so many challenges day-to-day, but most of those challenges fall under one category which is balancing and managing growth.
This is why I’m up at all hours of the night…for 10 hours out of the day I am reacting to time sensitive matters of the day, and for the other 10 hours I am trying to find ways to implement smart and efficient solutions that ensure scalability.
The other 4 hours of the day are usually a blur or I have blacked out. 😉
SB: What is the most fulfilling part of what you do?
ED: I love helping people fulfill their dreams and live in their passion. Seeing the look on somebody’s face when they see their vision come to life for the first time and get that first sale is priceless. I will never get tired of seeing that look.
SB: What advice do you have for entrepreneurs that want to start a beauty or personal care brand?
ED: The space is very saturated right now, so if you’re going to come with it, you need to have a compelling story and brand identity that entices consumer loyalty and products that live up to their claims. Also, building the proper foundation is key.
Just don’t wait too late to get serious. It’s better to fail fast and pivot, otherwise you can stay on the wrong path for a long time.
SB: Where do you see your business in 5 years?
ED: I want mSEED group to be a valuable part of a thriving ecosystem of minority and women owned businesses. mSEED group is a beauty entrepreneur’s one-stop-shop to success and we would like to see that grow into a supportive community entrepreneurs celebrating one another’s successes.
-Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson aka @thebusyafrican