Last updated on March 4, 2024

avatar
Liz Stack
Sr. Brand Manager @ Yotpo
February 29th, 2024

This February, three incredible founders joined us at Yotpo HQ for an inspiring Conversation. Conversations @ Yotpo is a series where ecomm founders join us in our office space to chat about important topics, share their stories, and connect. 

These founders each shared different stories but themes that resonate across all three are resilience, innovation, and a commitment to serving their communities. Let’s dive into their insights and learn from their experiences…

 

Aha Moments

For Gwen, founder of Gwen Beloti, a transition from apparel to jewelry design marked her “aha moment.” She always loved style and has consistently turned to jewelry when it felt difficult to shop for clothing. Despite initial imposter syndrome, positive feedback from customers validated her decision to pivot and focus solely on her size-inclusive jewelry line.

Kadidja Dosso, founder of Dosso Beauty, discovered her niche in the organic beauty supply industry after realizing the lack of products for people with sensitive skin. Her “aha moment” came when a customer expressed gratitude for changing their hair braiding experience, igniting her passion for solving a pressing problem in the market (access to nontoxic braiding hair).

Similarly, Dalaisé Hickey, founder of Baby Donna Sunscreen, identified the need for chemical-free sunscreen for darker skin tones after struggling to find a suitable product for her daughter who suffers from eczema. Her journey from searching for solutions to creating her own product reflects entrepreneurial spirit driven by personal experience and a desire to make a difference.

 

Starting a Company is HARD

Access to capital, networks, and resources emerged as common challenges for these entrepreneurs. Gwen highlighted the importance of persistence and resilience in navigating these obstacles. Despite disparities, she emphasized the need to “pull up chairs” and create opportunities even when doors are not readily open.

Kadidja echoed the sentiment, addressing the underrepresentation of Black women in the beauty industry. Despite facing skepticism and misconceptions, she carved out a space for herself and challenging industry norms.

For Dalaisé, financial literacy and access to capital were significant hurdles. Growing up in the Bronx, she lacked exposure to entrepreneurship, access to “friends and family” funding, and thus used self-education and free resources to start building her business from the ground up. As she began formulating her product, more challenges continued to arise. Stringent FDA regulations control much of what she can put in her product and on her product labels. Despite the difficulties, she persevered and brought her product to market a few months ago. 

All three women agreed: starting a business is very difficult. They each learned so much to get where they are today, but they have to stay learning constantly in order to keep their business thriving. This can be incredibly overwhelming. So how do they cope? 

They each work hard to make time for their business (at all hours of the day and night) & practice ruthless prioritization each day. They also focus on maintaining their mental health and regularly seeking inspiration that helps fuel them as they pursue their dreams. 

 

Building Community

Effective communication and community engagement lie at the core of these Founders’ success. Kadidja emphasized the importance of personalized messaging and segmentation to intentional customer segments. Utilizing SMS marketing and targeted email campaigns, she fosters a sense of connection and inclusivity according to her audience’s needs and preferences. For example if someone only buys shea butter from her on a consistent basis, she isn’t going to text them the same way she texts customers who come to Dosso for braiding hair. Each customer has unique preferences and so Dosso sends them a unique flow. 

Similarly, Gwen prioritizes authenticity and personal connection in her interactions with customers. Sharing personal experiences, such as her trip to Africa, through email campaigns strengthens the brand’s connection with its audience and fosters a sense of community.

 

Trailblazers, Past and Present

Because we chatted with these amazing women during Black History Month, we wanted to hear about Black Trailblazers who inspire them. The panelists agreed that Dr. Maya Angelou, Malcolm X, and Madame CJ Walker were at the top of the list. Their “revolutionary thought and evolution of thought” and their accomplishments (CJ Walker was the first female self-made millionaire!) inspire these founders to chart their own revolutionary courses. 

The founders also consider each other trailblazers, and I wholeheartedly agree.

We’re eager to support Dalaisé as she and Baby Donna continue to provide a much needed product & support children in foster care via One Simple Wish.

Look out for Gwen Beloti in more retail locations soon and stay tuned for new drops. 

Kadidja is working on Dosso Beauty’s IRL location in Philadelphia… follow along for updates!

Thanks so much to all the founders for joining us in Conversation, and to Yotpo’s own Ariana Robinson for moderating.