Joséphine Cosmetics is a luxury organic skincare and mineral makeup company headquartered in Brooklyn, New York.
Launched in 2014, the brand is inspired by the intricacies of haute couture, decadence of art deco, free form jazz and ferocious femmes.
Company founder and chief glam officer Sholayide Otugalu continues to push the envelope in the natural beauty sector with her passion for introducing the sultry side of organic beauty.
Earlier this year, Sholayide became one of the first recipients of the national GIRLBOSS foundation grant presented by fashion retailer Nasty Gal. In addition to running her company Sholayide is poised to launch her new beauty advocacy platform, Boundless Beauty.
Why did you decide to start your business?
My passion for makeup started when I was very young, maybe 13 or so. As I got older I was fortunate enough to work for established brands and learn everything about the industry I’d grown to love.
When I worked for these major brands I always knew in the back of my mind that I wanted a brand of my own. Not just a typical beauty brand – but one that was made without any harsh chemicals, an all natural brand that spoke to women who loved the luxury and glamour. I started dreaming of creating a natural beauty line that appealed to the woman who wanted glamour and luxury. I wanted Joséphine to be the opposite of other natural beauty brands. I wanted it to be the go-to brand for the downtown cool girl.
What was your career path prior to starting your first business?
I graduated with a dual degree in journalism and speech. I worked for various media outlets, including TV, radio and print, before stepping into the world of fashion ecommerce.
Tell us more about building your brand. What steps did you take to create your unique brand identity?
While working beauty counters part-time I began to conceptualize a natural beauty brand that would have some sort of shock factor. I wanted to go rogue.
After researching ways to create healthy and functional skincare without chemicals, I began to conceptualize and develop a natural beauty line that appealed to those who wanted glamour and luxury, topped with edginess. A brand for women who loved to experiment with their looks.
What do you love the most about running your own business?
The freedom to conceptualize every and anything, then see your vision become something tangible.
What is the toughest part when it comes to running your own business?
I would have to say the toughest part to running your own business is making expensive mistakes. It really is a gift and a curse. As a gift, because you learn from those mistakes and know what to do better or differently for the future. But it’s a curse because when you are growing a company with your own seed money it becomes very stressful to have monetary losses.
Tell us more about the GIRLBOSS grant you were awarded, what impact did it have on your business?
I learned of the GIRLBOSS grant and decided to take a leap. At the time of the grant application I had successfully created two collections for Joséphine Cosmetics, so I knew I had a solid business foundation.
Being awarded the grant has allowed me to tell a larger story in a huge playing field. My audience has grown and more importantly, my audience really wants to know what Joséphine has to say and what we have to offer.
What are you currently working on?
We are currently working on multiple partnerships with indie artists, tastemakers and socialites.
We are also growing our wholesale business to bring our fabulous product into more stores around the globe.
Within the next few months we will be offering our products to customers in Canada and Australia. In addition we are relentlessly working to launch of beauty advocacy platform, Boundless Beauty.
What has been your biggest achievement so far at Joséphine Cosmetics?
I think simply launching the brand on my own, prior to the grant, was my biggest achievement.
Simply getting started. Most people play with ideas of businesses all day but not many take that first step to actually launching.
What steps do you take to avoid burnout as an entrepreneur?
I set a realistic work schedule with hours that allow me to get plenty of rest, as well as a decent amount of time for my leisurely activities. It’s pretty tough to stick to such a tight schedule when starting out because you are wearing so many hats to ensure the business does well, but with commitment to a proper schedule, I’m able to stay afloat.
What or who inspires and motivates you?
Great question! Growing up, I had two inspirations – Josephine Baker and Oprah Winfrey!
Josephine Baker was such a vivacious being with a spirit that captures almost every aspect of my personality. Strong, powerful, passionate, flirtatious, gentle, rare, mysterious, sensual. Every Black History Month, I found myself doing book reports on her life.
Show me someone who isn’t inspired by the great Oprah and I’ll show you a liar! Since elementary school I’ve aspired to bring happiness to others just as she did and continues to do. I hope that what I can achieve through Joséphine Cosmetics can somehow intertwine the legacies both these women created for our generation.
In terms of motivation I have to say that I am my own biggest motivator. I find courage within myself on a daily basis to push further, push harder. I’m constantly seeking new challenges to make myself a stronger woman and that motivates me to pursue bigger dreams, bigger goals. It’s my mantra – dream big, think big, be big.
What‘s next? What goals are you working towards?
I’m working towards making Joséphine grow as more than just a cosmetics brand, but as a lifestyle. I want to take the basic principle of the brand, glamorously healthy and tie that concept into other areas of our supporters’ lives. Whether it be through raising social awareness through our advocacy platform Boundless Beauty or expanding Joséphine as a leader in creating amazing health and wellness products.
My ultimate dream is to make the world embrace and enhance his or her unique beauty and do so in the most natural way possible.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering launching a beauty startup?
There should be some level of understanding that although your interest might lie in the beauty industry each day won’t be filled with photoshoots, makeovers and all that jazz. The business and legal side of running your own line is extensive and you have to be well versed in every aspect of the business if you want to prove successful.
No longer are you just the freelance makeup artist, you are now also head of development, production manager, creative director, operations, marketing, quality control, the list goes on. Prepare yourself!
That’s my favorite piece of advice anyone can offer. It’s about knowing what you want and going after it. Setting goals, fulfilling those goals and setting new ones. Whether you want to accomplish something specific in your career or you decide you want quit your day job to become a ballerina, you really have to push forward with whatever you decide, commit and own it!
Is there any other information you’d like to share?
Enjoy a full shopping experience on JosephineCosmetics.com. We also have an amazing blog, called The Beautiful & Damned that we are going to be generating content for on a weekly basis. Our site is very user friendly and we are soon launching a members only micro site for our Glamourites to participate in contests, model searches and much more.