Buttah Skin founder Dorion Renaud wasn’t always in the business of making melanin-rich skin more notably beautiful. A former host and correspondent on Extra, Renaud is perhaps best known for his role as Percy on Bounce TV’s In the Cut and having been featured recently in the HBO Max documentary, The Beauty of Blackness. But while Renaud’s success on the small screen once defined his career, entrepreneurship created an avenue for the business-savvy actor to address a persistent issue he was battling on set.
“I grew up struggling with my skin, dealing with acne and hyperpigmentation, and I remember trying pretty much everything to help clear up the problems,” Renaud recalls. “When I started being in front of the camera and doing a lot of modeling, my issues intensified. I began having so much makeup applied to my face—it was negatively affecting my skin.”
Determined to rescue his complexion, and melanin-rich faces like his, Renaud chose to enter the world of skincare, becoming a small business owner under the label Buttah Skin in 2018. While the global pandemic flatlined some businesses, he found success, popping up on HSN, and in major retail stores like Macy’s, Ulta Beauty, Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s. The Texas native’s achievements can be credited to his determination and grit, as well as his sheer business smarts. He shares with EBONY his keys to entrepreneurial success and advice for other Black business owners hoping to find their products on shelves nationwide.
Make a Great Product That People Need
"I really started aggressively dropping products that we had been working on and slowly the brand started gaining attention. We first got on-air on HSN and then all of the other retailers started calling, saying “we need this.” This is necessary to scale a business, but I feel like this all happened because of the support of people; and people really needing it and wanting to be able to find it at their local store in their neighborhood. I never thought that in four years of launching this product and hoping people would buy it that we would be in all of these retailers. It's crazy."
Assemble a Team That Understands the Vision and the Business
"Luckily for me, I had a team and a business partner who understood the manufacturing side of things. I understood the marketing side of things. And so, I was blessed that they were willing to take a risk on me. Whether it was a $20,000 risk at the beginning or $30,000, I made the best out of whatever I had. I used my resources. Even if I didn't have a business partner to invest in the company, I was going to take the money I made from acting and invest it into my dream."
Use Your Resources Wisely
"To market the brand, I called on my friends to do photoshoots, to be models, and I used the community around me to help me do it and make it look grand without being costly. When you can present something to an investor that looks good, feels good, is solution-based and it's something that is needed, that gives you a better opportunity. Now when we go into banks and ask for loans our company looks more appealing."
Understand the Business
"Where I see a lot of entrepreneurs go wrong is not having the education, not knowing how to get along, how to draw up a business plan. You have to be able to show that your business can make money, and as a Black business owner, be able to prove that the Black dollar is worth it. As an entrepreneur, you will run up against some hurdles and you will have some people that will say no. However, if you stay persistent enough, you can find people that are willing to put money behind your brand. Before you expect anyone to put money behind your brand, however, put your own money into it, put your own heart and your own soul into it—so that when you go to these people, you can say this is what I've done, this is where I need help. You really educate yourself."
Know Your Worth
"To be honest with you, I sit on a board with my team of investors and creative team and I'm the only Black person oftentimes walking into the boardroom to have conversations with these larger retail stores. Really owning the fact that you’re a Black business owner and not letting it be used as a catalyst because "we're a trend" is vitally important."
Be Financially Prepared
"After the racially-charged events of 2020, venture capitalists began reaching out to Black brands saying, “Here's a deal if you want to go into these stores.” But the caveat is that it's going to cost a lot of money to go into stores. And so although many of these retailers have committed to the 15 percent pledge, you have to have the finances to fill the orders to go into a retailer. Even if you do HSN as I did, you have to have the finances. So many Black people have great brands. It's doing hot in the streets, doing hot on e-commerce, and then when it gets time to go and sit with a retailer, they don't have that funding to go in. They're scrambling trying to find the funding very quickly. And oftentimes what will happen is somebody will offer to give the funding, but they want you to give up ownership. I say, raise as much money as you can on your own. Raise as much money as you can privately. Take out a business loan that is just enough for you to get the things that you need to get done. "
Get Your Product in the Right Hands
"We are in such an Instagram world and social media world where you can put your business out there and run ads. But if you don't have legitimate editors and press getting behind your brand, you're going to run into some problems. I first started going to New York to meet with editors and I would set up back-to-back appointments all day long. But I was also setting up booths at conventions. You never know who's gonna see you and visibility is everything. You cannot rely on the visibility that social media brings. It has to be everywhere so that people are able to find your company. Paying for ads, paying for visibility, and getting your product into the hands of members of the press is important as a Black entrepreneur. If they Google you or your company, you want to be able to show up in the search."
Run a Tight Ship
"I hate to say this, but as Black business owners, we have to work a little harder. We have to make sure our packaging looks amazing. We have to make sure that the products look good. We have to make sure our customer service is on point. Even if it's a small business, you better have your cousin working that customer service line and making sure that everything is okay."
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
"I'm an organized person. I know a lot about this business and staying relevant in whatever space I've been in. So I took those skills and I leveraged my relationships to give the community what I felt it needed. But even with everything that I bring to the table, I still need help. You can’t be afraid to open your mouth. Tell people what you need and don't have an ego when it comes down to asking for money. Work with Black bankers, work with our community members that are in the financial space."
Embrace the Community That Loves You
"When we first started our company, I said I'm going to have to give away 200 of these Buttah boxes to editors and friends. If I was traveling in New York, or traveling somewhere for Buttah, I'm leaving three Buttah boxes at the front of the hotel, I’m leaving boxes for the people at security. I'm leaving one for the lady at the airport. A word-of-mouth community is critical. Sometimes the best press is just your auntie telling her friend at church, “Hey, this stuff works!” Getting out there in the streets, being visible with the people, and providing for them an understanding of who you are, what the brand means, and why, is a must. Focus on an audience that loves you. Focus on what they need and if you’re in tune with them, your business will grow."