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Name: Kimberly Smith
Age: Mid 30s
Location: Washington, D.C.
Occupation: CEO of Marjani Beauty and Attorney
Bio: As an Ivy League-trained attorney, Kimberly advises companies navigating the complex regulatory world of the health care industry, but growing up, Kimberly always had a passion for fashion and beauty.
“I can remember being one of the few girls who always wore heels to class on my college campus,” says Kimberly. “Expressing myself through different hairstyles, makeup and fashion has always been fun for me.”
EBONY: What were the factors that came into play when you first started building your Marjani Beauty?
Kimberly Smith: One, I wanted to make sure that upon clicking onto the site that you feel welcome. I wanted to make sure that the images reflect different types of women of color. That was the first thing.
Secondly, when it comes to the brands that are featured on the site, I wanted to make sure that I’m partnering with independent brands that make women of color a priority. From the onset, they are making products that specifically target women of color and what we want in beauty products, whether it’s skincare or what we want in cosmetics.
I really want women of color to feel comfortable and to feel that they are part of the story of the company. I [also] want them to feel that they can trust that the products are fair and they were created with their needs in mind.
EBONY: Can you expand on your push to support independent brands?
Kimberly Smith: We only feature independent brands. That is a priority for me. I think when it comes to women of color and beauty, for so long—and even up until now—we’re not really part of the conversation. It’s getting better, but it’s still not where it needs to be. We’re constantly looking for mainstream brands to understand what it is that we need and to target us in a way that we feel comfortable. We just don’t want to feel like we’re kind of an afterthought.
For me, I thought it would be a cool thing to have a company where there are brands that are for us. It’s not a knock on mainstream brands, [because] there might be things that you still may want. There are so many companies out there right now that we just don’t know about. They’re not in mass retailers. They might not be getting that trendy push that the same mainstream companies are getting or those Indy companies that are owned by mainstream companies.
I just think there are so many quality products, so many good products that are being made by people of color. I wanted to create that platform where they could be featured. We could really create the buzz for products that are for us.
EBONY: What advice would you give someone looking to build companies that are tailored to people of color? I know when you go into that type of market there’s always going to be that one person saying, “Well, you need to be inclusive to everyone.”
Kimberly Smith: I did Beautycon this past weekend. I think there were about 9,000 attendees. The majority of those attendees were not women of color. It was interesting because when someone would come over to our booth, I would unapologetically say, “This is Marjani’s Beauty Company. We are a company from women of color.” I know for some people they might say, “Well a lot of times you want to take the color out of business. You want to appeal to a mass audience.” That’s not why this was created. It was created to target women of color. It’s something where we are not often the target of anything. We’re always either an extension or a specialty collection or something like that. For me, it’s really important that I stay true to that message. My first thing is, yes, it’s for women of color. That doesn’t mean that you can’t find products that are for you. The sugar scrub is a sugar scrub. We all like to have soft skin. You can still use the sugar scrub. However, the platform is just meant for us.
EBONY: What is next for Marjani Beauty? What can your fanbase and your consumers expect next from the brand?
Kimberly Smith: We’re going to do a program called “Perfect Match.” The one thing I really love about this site is that currently we have three brands that make foundation. Collectively, there are about 23 shades.
In addition to the “Buy It Try It” program that we have on the site where a customer can receive free samples, I also want to get to the consumer in real time. We’re going to start doing small, intimate events where people can come and get matched with a foundation. That’s going to be our next event, which we’re going to have in June here in DC. We’re going to take that to other cities. That’s the next big thing that I want to push.
EBONY: Can you tell me five things people do not know about you?
- I was born and raised in Philadelphia
- I’m an avid traveler. I’ve been to over 35 countries
- I’m the oldest of four girls
- My mother is my best friend
- I am guilty of eating a whole pint of ice cream in one sitting, specifically Ben & Jerry’s. If you put it in front of me, I will demolish it.
EBONY: What are five goals you would like to reach by the end of the year?
- One, I want to take the store beyond so it’s not just online and it’s a retail experience. We want to bring the products and bring the experience to people in real time.
- I also want to host live events once a month. We are leading new customers to existing customers and want to spread that message of bringing color to beauty.
- I want to do more TV appearances where I’m talking about skincare and makeup. Talking about different issues that affect women of color in the beauty industry.
- I also want to talk about the business behind beauty. I want to spread that message and let women know how I started and just some of the things, the challenges that I’m experiencing, some of the obstacles that are out there and how I’m overcoming them. That’s a huge part of what I want to do and just kind of empower women on the business end, not just the beauty part of it. That part is really exciting to me.
- I really want to be attached to a group that is about women’s empowerment, specifically for women of color. I’m hoping by the end of the year to have a group that I can either sponsor or work with in a partnership and see different programs and support them in some kind of way. For me, I think overall, it’s about the business. It’s about retail. I really want to connect with people. I want to empower and of course, build products. There’s definitely more behind what Marjani Beauty is, not just retail.