We Are Onyx is Bringing you your “Gateway to Beauty”
Recently, I had the opportunity to review the Onyxbox made by We Are Onyx. Onyxbox is a subscription beauty box curated by black women, for black women! This excited me because I never even thought something like that existed. I had the opportunity to interview Co-Founder and Head of Product of We Are Onyx, Delali Kpodzo, who was happy to share with us what the company and the Onyx Box are all about. I also got the chance to review an Onyxbox, which you can read about here!
What is We are Onyx? What is the company about?
So, We are Onyx is a beauty destination for black women. We produce a beauty box and we have an e-commerce platform, but what we really are is a space for black women to see themselves, to have their beauty honored, and to be able to share and communicate with other black women who are discovering their beauty and really relishing it.
Why did you choose to found We are Onyx?
So, I chose to go down this path and found this company because I personally needed it. I was working a high-powered job that was busy and extremely stressful, and the very last thing I had time for was hanging out on YouTube to figure out how to do a twist out. Or any of those types of things! I wasn't even part of the natural hair community when I founded Onyx. I didn't know anything about it, and I think that was exactly the reason why I realized that we really needed this. Because there were so many women out there who didn't have full control over their own beauty, who were relying a lot on stylists. And stylists are fantastic but you should know how to at least wash your own hair! You should know how to give yourself a little bit of a makeup touch-up, if that's what you'd like to do. You should be able to manage the basics of your own beauty and have a better sense of it! And I really didn't, because I was so stressed, and had committed myself to so many other people's projects, that I wasn't focused on myself at all. Until one Friday night 8pm when I realized that I had no idea how to wash my own hair. I didn't know the first, second, or third thing to do, and my stylist had cancelled my appointment earlier that day because she had a flat tire. So there I was realizing I didn't know how to manage the thing that was growing out of the top of my head. And after talking to several black women, I realized that so many of us were in a very similar situation. Not knowing what to do, how to do it, or where to find the right products to do it. Keep in mind this was way back in 2012, before the natural hair movement had become mainstream.
How would you want your customers to use the box?
I would want my customers to see the Onyxbox as a gateway to beauty discovery. As a place to engage with brands that they never knew about, but also brands that they maybe never thought were for them or could work for them. And also to see it as a reminder that there's someone out there who thinks you are gorgeous, and who thinks your beauty is important, and relevant, and trending, and timeless. And, you know, I would want them to realize that we really created this box and this experience out of love. Out of love for black women and out of love for black beauty.
Did you face any challenges when starting the company?
Yes, of course! I mean, my background is not anywhere at all in beauty, or start-ups, or e-commerce, or any of that stuff. I was working in film finance. I was doing something totally different, so I had to learn how to do absolutely everything. All of it was learning on the job. All of it was trial-and-error. There were a lot of errors! But we were really really determined to do this and to do it right. One of the things that I said when we started the company was that if we were going to do this, we were going to do it the right way. It was going to be loving. It was going to be intentional. It was going to treat Black women, and their beauty, with respect and reverence, which I really felt was lacking in this space.
Many of your products are black owned. Why do you pride yourself in your product sourcing?
So, a lot of the products we have featured in the Onyxbox are black-owned, but a lot of the products we feature are also not black owned. And the reason why I chose not to go down a path where we only had black owned products in the Onyxbox, is because I wanted people to really recognize that black-owned products deserve to live in the universe of mainstream products. Being black-owned shouldn't segment them into some other category. It's important for me to support black-owned brands because I built a black-owned brand. And I want to show them the same love and respect that I want to show a Chanel or, a Bobbi Brown. Also it was really important for me that we took black-owned brands away from that "spectrum" conversation, and sort of centered them in the middle right along with everybody else to let our subscribers know, and let people who receive the box know, that these brands are just as good as everything else you have already heard of. As good as everything else that's sold at Sephora, or at Walgreens, or CVS. These brands are on the same level. Their quality level is there. So, I use that as a way to show that parity.
What’s your favorite product that’s been included in the box so far?
Oh my gosh. One?! [laughs] What are you asking me?! Let me think…yes, absolutely - there is a sheet mask that I love from Passport to Beauty, a brand who sources beauty secrets from around the world. Shalini Vadhera, the founder of the brand, has this sort of global view and she intends to bring all the knowledge and all the traditions around beauty from all around the world to her customers. We had one of her sheet masks in the box and it was called the Bird's Nest & Pearl Sheet Mask from Singapore. It’s a fantastic product! It smells really, really good. But it was really exciting to me that she also had this kind of global view and global vision around beauty. When we put it into the box, the packaging was absolutely gorgeous. It makes you feel so special when you use it, when you receive it. But also it just reminds you that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Beauty is a global experience. Beauty is for everyone. And you can learn beauty secrets and techniques from women all over the world. And you should! It just sort of encouraged this conversation about this global community of women and I really liked that. So it wasn't just that the product itself was great, it was that the intention behind it was everything that we stand for.
What do you look forward to in the future of the company?
I look forward to our subscribers and our community members taking the passion, and the conversation, and the discourse, and the movement that we have started to build in our company, and spread that out across the beauty industry. I do a lot to educate the brand partners that we work with who are not necessarily looking at black women as a meaningful part of their customer base to help them recognize that this woman is dynamic, spends a lot of money, has a lot of opinions, and is driving forward the new and major changes that are happening in beauty. I mean I would talk to some of our customers and they're rattling off ingredients that I probably couldn't even pronounce. And they know exactly what they are, and exactly what is in them. So I hope that our community continues that passion, that focus, and that intention that we have started to bring to the beauty industry, and spreads it around.
As a black female entrepreneur, do you have any advice for young black girls who want to turn their ideas into reality?
Absolutely! I would say go for it! Take a risk, but take a measured and strategic risk. The risk that I took was leaving my full-time job and going off to start this company when I had never run a company before, and I was about to step into running a company in a space that I knew pretty much nothing about other than, you know, my own passions and interests. But at the same time I didn't throw everything into the wind and take off, right. I made sure that we were in a stable position, that we were funded, that we would be able to pay the handful of people who would start with us, and that we would be able to pay ourselves, before I left my full-time job. I wasn't going to put myself in a dangerous situation to take this risk. But I also understood that I could build as best of a foundation underneath it as I could that would allow me to take the risk. So I would say take strategic, calculated, and intentional risks.