Nyakio Kamoche Grieco stumbled across her passion while working in the entertainment industry. She had been working in television and film and realized just how much she loved the beauty and fashion aspect of it all. After rethinking her future, this American beauty of Kenyan descent decided to bring Africa to the masses in pure luxury, through her skin care line, nyakio. Read Grieco’s story of how she followed her passion, tapped into her entrepreneurial spirit, and subsequently filled a void in the industry by paying homage to her heritage.
EBONY: Your company, nyakio, was created as a way of paying homage to your roots and bringing the beauty of Africa to women everywhere. Where were you at in life pre-nyakio?
Nyakio Kamoche Grieco: I worked in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles. I found that the best part of my day was the beauty and fashion aspect of television and film! This made me pause and determine what I wanted to do with my life. I decided that I wanted to follow my passion and enter the beauty industry.
At the time I began to seriously consider switching careers, I conducted a deep dive audit into beauty brands. My parents are educators and historians; research is in my DNA! I found that many cultures were represented in the world of beauty, but Africa was missing. This realization helped me determine my brand’s proposition: it would pay homage to my family’s heritage, and also fill a gap in the marketplace, bringing the timeless beauty traditions and sophistication of Africa to women everywhere.
EBONY: Once you recognized the void, how did you embark on the process of bringing a beauty line to fruition?
NKG: I began creating the line more than 10 years ago. I spent a lot of time with my mom, talking about our family’s history and recalling beauty rituals that my grandparents in Kenya shared with us. I also experimented with the natural African ingredients my family used in its beauty rituals, visualizing how they would be represented in the products—scent, texture, look and feel.
I then partnered with a lab that could help me bring my vision to life, respecting the natural ingredients indigenous to Africa, while ensuring the products were modern and effective. I independently distributed a few bath and body products in a select number of upscale boutiques, such as APOTHIA at Fred Segal.
I was the brand’s founder, shipping and receiving manager, customer service and marketing department all in one! I needed a partner to take the brand to the next level. My relationship with my parent company has given me access to cutting-edge scientists and labs, allowing nyakio to deliver the most efficacious products possible.
EBONY: So what exactly differentiates the beauty regimen and products in Africa from those found elsewhere around the world?
NKG: Africa is full of natural resources that offer unique beauty benefits. I discover new ingredients every day, and I am excited to introduce them to women everywhere through the nyakio line.
EBONY: From your experience thus far, are there challenges or risk unique to the beauty industry—especially as it relates to African beauty?
NKG: Yes, of course. I had very specific, non-negotiable criteria that all of the products within my line needed to meet. They had to feature ingredients from and indigenous to Africa, be natural and free of harsh chemicals whenever possible, and also be efficacious. This was a challenging set of demands for my lab, but I wasn’t willing to compromise on any of these areas.
EBONY: It seems that you've figured out how to cater to women of all age, skin types and backgrounds. Was it very complicated to figure out?
NKG: It was a natural fit for the brand. Just like the U.S., there is a tremendous amount of ethnic diversity in Africa. There are individuals who are darker-skinned, like me and my family, blonde-haired, blue-eyed women of South Africa, and many Middle-Eastern beauties in Northern Africa.
In addition to providing women with effective beauty products, it was so important that nyakio represent Africa in an authentic, sophisticated way. If the product was only targeted to one group of women, I would not have fulfilled my mission.
EBONY: All of your products are free of sulfates and parabens. Why was this important to you as the creator and owner of this brand?
NKG: This is important to me as a user of beauty products, as a mother, as a friend. And I wouldn’t be able to launch a line if I didn’t truly believe in the efficacy and safety of the products.
EBONY: How did you decide what kind of products to start the line with?
NKG: I chose to honor my own family with my first launch, the Kenyan Coffee Collection. It was inspired by a beauty ritual of my namesake grandmother. Our name means “hardworking woman.” She worked on our family’s sustainable coffee farm, and after spending the day outdoors under the sun, she would boil down coffee beans with honey and apply the grounds to her skin and exfoliate using a sugarcane rod.
The collection contains two products. The first, nyakio Kenyan Coffee Body Scrub, blends naturally energizing and exfoliating Kenyan coffee with sugar to remove dull skin while providing antioxidant benefits. It leaves skin moisturized, smooth and soft. The second is the nyakio Kenyan Coffee Face Polish. It blends Kenyan coffee with jojoba to gently remove dull skin while providing antioxidant benefits. It leaves all skin toned, moisturized, soft and immediately radiant.
EBONY: On May 14 you launched your products exclusively on HSN and HSN.com for one month and on your site nyakio.com thereafter in mid-June. From conception to this moment, how long did it take to get to this moment?
NKG: Twelve years! Never give up on your dreams, ladies!
EBONY: What does it feel like to have reached such a significant milestone?
NKG: It feels amazing and it’s all part of the journey. I consider myself very lucky to get to do what I love every day. I realize that there will be many milestones in my career, and for that I am so grateful.
EBONY: What’s in the future for nyakio?
NKG: In the short-term, we will be launching five new products from our Hydrating Kola Nut Collection on HSN and HSN.com beginning in August. The long-term vision is to build it into a global lifestyle brand.