Black creators are setting the trends, moving the needle and informing where the worlds of fashion, beauty, and lifestyle are headed. In our series, Shop Black, we talk to entrepreneurs about their journeys, their brands and the realities of being Black business owners. Through ‘Shop Black’ you’ll be introduced to some game-changing style stars and have the opportunity to shop and support their work.
If it’s time to take your glow up a notch, She’Neil Johnson has got you covered. The owner of beauty company Base Butter is making her mark, one radiant face at a time. After graduating from Howard University (and a stint at IBM), Johnson decided to venture into beauty to create “simple, honest products, that work — with real skin struggles and real life in mind.”
The entrepreneur sat down to chat with ESSENCE about forging her own path, the challenge of being a Black woman business owner and what Black women need to know about our skin.
Name: She’Neil Johnson
Tell us about your journey to Base Butter.
Five years ago, I’d just graduated college, started working in tech at IBM, but was forever indulging in fashion, make-up, and skincare. I knew I wanted to work in beauty but didn’t know how. The next year, I found myself opening our virtual doors.
We have re-launched and re-branded twice since our inception, developed hundreds of formulas (only two of them are on the market right now), and have felt the pressure from the competition within a saturated market but we have somehow still managed to grow a loyal community of women, increase sales to numbers I couldn’t have imagined, and set goals that will truly impact our community and the beauty industry.
After a year of closing shop due to my mother battling breast cancer (she’s a fighter and survivor) we re-launched with a new identity that set the tone for years to come. We made $15,000 in our first 3 months (originally we were only making $500- $800 a month), grew our following to almost 10K, and have a number one best seller we can not keep on the shelves!
Describe Base Butter with a song title.
Glow by Drake “Watch out for me I’m about to GLOWWWWWWW.”
What’s the most challenging part of being a Black woman entrepreneur?
Access and education — but I do not let this hold me back. As a black woman, I did not have access to seed money and no one within my circle had the blueprint to launch and scale a product based business. Therefore, I made a lot of mistakes that stunted my growth. Fortunately all the above is out there for me and becoming more accessible day by day, I just have to look a little harder and bring my seat to the table. It is my hope that the generation after us won’t have to deal with the same challenges we faced.
What has been your biggest victory thus far?
Making $15,000 within 3 months of re-launching! This is a reflection of us discovering our biggest ROI when it came to marketing spend and re-prioritizing all of our marketing efforts. We are now at a point where our #1 product is always selling out and our community has grown tremendously.
Advice to aspiring beauty business owners?
The best way to learn is from experience. At the end of the day, you know what is best for your company. Do not question your gut because of someone smarter or who has been in business longer than you told you otherwise.
What do Black women need to know about their skin that is often ignored or misunderstood?
OUR skin is unique and complicated at times! Our skin is not only a reflection of the products we use but our mental health, physical health, and environment to name a few. As our bodies change throughout our lifetime so will our skin. So get in tune with your skin, educate yourself, and create a system so at the end of the day YOU are the one making the smart and confident decisions about your skin.
Favorite product from your current line and why?
Radiate Face Jelly because it saved my skin! I suffer from bad hormonal acne and I wanted to create a moisturizer that would work with my skin as I was treating my breakouts with creams, acids, and medications. My favorite ingredient in the product, Aloe vera, is a skin balancing agent that helps keep your skin’s natural pH between 4.2 to 5.8. When your skin’s PH is balanced you are less prone to breakouts!
Shop Base Butter’s “Radiate Face Jelly” below!