The ESSENCE + New Voices Entrepreneur Summit welcomed a candid discussion with beauty entrepreneurs whose products are now available at Target. Moderated by Caroline Wanga, Target’s Chief Culture, Diversity and Inclusion Officer and Vice President, Human Resources, the conversation featured insight from Mielle Organics founder Monique Rodriquez, Urban Skin RX’s leader Rachel Roff, The Doux’s Maya Smith and celebrity hairstylist Kim Kimble.
As the ladies shared their business backstories, Roff explained that her own skin woes led her to become a medical esthetician and eventually to create her own skincare line. Rodriguez opened up that losing her third child, a son, in 2013 was the catalyst behind Mielle.
“I can honestly tell you that, if I didn’t go through that, I wouldn’t be sitting here today,” she shared, “because I was always fearful and afraid to just step out and to do something that I’ve always known that I wanted to do, but I didn’t do it because I didn’t have the courage. I didn’t come from a space of entrepreneurs. I didn’t see that growing up.”
As she moderated the discussion, Wanga encouraged transparency, informing the panelists, “you can tell the whole truth” regarding their challenges with Target.
“It is very hard when you want your big break to not feel like you just have to say ‘yes’ to everything,” confessed Roff who had to cut her prices for Target. “You’re very nervous that, if you push back on their terms or what they want from you, that all of the sudden they’re going to come back and say ‘hey, we no longer want you.’”
Smith, a mother of five who began doing hair as a military wife in Germany, initially found it difficult to break away from the personal engagement she enjoyed from working directly with clients in her salon, The Doux, to adapt to the numbers-oriented world of Target. Kimble had the unique story of having her Kimble Hair Care line dropped from Target, a development she attributed to missing the impact of social media.
“What happened [is], there was a huge shift in how products were marketed,” Kimble, who plans to get back into Target, explained. “When brands came in that were really social media-driven, we had to learn quickly.”
Going forward, Rodriquez congratulated Target on the programs it does offer and also suggested a mentor program to educate small business-owners on what to expect from big box retailers. Being in 500 stores, she shared, might not always be the best move. “If you don’t sell in those 500 stores, you’re going to have to pay to come off the shelves in those 500 stores,” she warned.
As the conversation closed out, Smith complimented Target for seeing her and other Black women.
“I really do feel like Target has done so much more than a lot of retailers have when it comes to making sure that me, as a consumer, feels like I’m a part of their vision for who they serve.”
Be sure to head back to ESSENCE.com for more of everything you missed at Day 1 of the ESSENCE + New Voices Entrepreneur Summit and Target Holiday Market.