Beauty Biz: Delali Kpodzo of We Are Onyx

Beauty Biz: Delali Kpodzo of We Are Onyx highlights the beauty entrepreneur and her booming beauty and lifestyle company

Melanie Yvette

by Melanie Yvette, April 16, 2013

Beauty Biz: Delali Kpodzo of We Are Onyx

manage your beauty by watching a woman who actually looks like you manage her beauty. You’re really getting one-to-one, direct information.

EBONY: Why did you feel women of color needed a company like yours?

DK: The whole idea is that women of color buy a lot of beauty products. We buy twice as many beauty products as any other woman in the market. We’re 8 percent of the population, but we represent 35 percent of the beauty spending in the States, which is unbelievable. It would be great if you didn’t have to commit to buying a full-size product before you have a chance to try it and figure out whether it actually works for you. So that’s what we allow you to do: we allow you to sample any product that you see on the site, and then if you do really love that product, you can buy the full size in the store.

EBONY: Can you break down, logistically, how you built your brand?

DK: I was working a full-time job at the time as an assistant in the film finance department at the major talent agency, CAA. Then I left CAA and went to work for an exceptionally well-known producer. So he actually inspired me a lot because he was somebody who also built a business and built his brand. I was very much inspired by that. I was working that full-time job, plus weekends, plus extra hours—and also I was taking some time to work on Onyx.

Miriam and I (and a couple of interns) would sit down every night at her house and just work until midnight, coming up with idea. I loved beauty, but you still have to be educated to some degree about things and understand what’s going on. There was a lot of research. There was a lot of understanding population moves and where Black people were living. There was a lot of understanding where the major brands were located versus where the demand is. There was a lot of market research. Afterwards, we were able to put together a business plan.

The whole idea was to say, what is the problem that YouTube is resolving? What is the problem that Birch Box is resolving? What is the problem that Sephora is resolving? How can we pull those three problems into a resolution in one space for Black women?

EBONY: And we need that information.

DK: Exactly. We were trying to build a place where you can find information about any question that you may have like: where and how do I get those products? Even for me today, I still have to drive to a Black neighborhood to find my foundation. I can’t just go to the CVS and find my color! So we were also trying to resolve the issue of product inaccessibility, being that you can hear about a product, but how do you find it? Even finding it through the Internet can be really challenging.

EBONY: You’ve already expanded We Are Onyx to an extent that really touches on everything a woman of color needs to know for optimal beauty and wellness. What would you like to see happen in the future?

DK: I mean, for us, the sky is kind of the limit. We’re the hyper-perfectionists that are never satisfied! We want to create a space where a woman’s going to find everything she’s ever been looking for regarding her beauty. We want to expand into lifestyle and products for kids as well. I don’t know how many times I’ve been asked by parents, once they learn what I do, “Oh, what should I be putting in my daughter’s hair?” We’d love to give parents the opportunity to get involved and learn their children’s hair. We would love to be able to reach every Black woman in North America; go to Brazil, France, and even London. Black women are all over the world, struggling with the same issues.

EBONY: I love that Black women are becoming a driving force in the beauty biz and making money as CEOs and entrepreneurs.

DK: Exactly! We’ve all gone through that; we were all little girls once who felt awkward and different, but we don’t have to carry it around with us anymore. It’s about embracing your true beauty and and loving it. It’s about really loving yourself. That is never trendy, that is just fact. That is the way that life should be. 

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