"Our hope is to create a community where Black women who love all things beauty and skincare can finally feel included."

By Kayla Greaves
Jul 16, 2020 @ 3:45 pm
Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
Advertisement
Credit: Instagram/@iamcaribbeing

About a month ago, the senseless murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor worked up enough white guilt to force people to show an overwhelming amount of support for Black-owned businesses.

But as an actual living, breathing Black person, I'm here to tell you that the best time to buy from Black businesses is all the time. And if you enjoy testing out new beauty and wellness products on a regular basis, then boy, do I have quite the treat for you.

BlakBox and CaribBeing are two Black (and Caribbean) women-owned businesses that are for us, and by us, but can be still enjoyed by everyone.

The former curates lovely monthly boxes filled with products for the hair, face, and body, while the latter offers a knockout self-care kit (among many other standalone products) to help you relax after a busy day of playing with new products.

Below, a conversation with Candice and Takiyah Stephenson, owners of BlakBox, and CaribBeing founder Shelley Worrell. Read on to find out more about why they started their respective businesses, what goes into their curation process, and the joy they find in being Black entrepreneurs.

What inspired you to create a beauty box?

Candice Stephenson and Takiyah Stephenson: We are longtime friends who have always wanted to start a business together. We even tried a few ventures in the past, but they never really panned out primarily because they never felt personal to us. This time we decided to do something that we were more passionate about. Like most women, we are interested in cosmetics and skincare, but realize that Black-women and Black-owned companies are rarely included in the consumer beauty industry. We were also tired of the lack of diversity regarding the standard of beauty globally. We thought about ways to address this, and that is how the idea of Blakbox was born. We’re forging a beautiful, melanated revolution.

Shelley Worrell: Very early on, we leaned deeper into wellness and centering Caribbean cultural traditions such as drinking tea, cooking with herbs, gardening, juicing, and taking baths. Fast forward to May 25, when the world witnessed another heart-wrenching killing of a Black man, drawing us even deeper into “loving up” ourselves and our community.  The “Love Up Yourself” Box, featuring all Black-owned makers in partnership with The Sill, is a continuity of our work as curators and purveyors of Caribbean lifestyle and more specifically best selling products from our annual Holiday Market. With heritage from Grenada to Guyana to Haiti to Panama to St. Vincent to Trinidad and Tobago, this box is a perfect reflection of the region’s diversity.

To subscribe: $37/month; blakboxco.com

What goes into choosing the products?

CS/TS: We have some boxes that we try to curate around a theme, so when choosing a product, we try to think about how it ties into that. Most of our products are Black-owned since supporting and promoting Black-owned beauty brands was our primary focus when we started. We’ve recently expanded to include products from brands that aren’t necessarily Black-owned, but show support towards inclusion and diversity in the industry. We thoroughly vet the brands and products, often testing samples before featuring them to ensure that our subscribers are getting great value and quality products.

SW: Each product is chosen for not only its authenticity but also its flavors, scents or as we say in the Caribbean, vibes. For example, every summer is mango season, and what is Christmas without sorrel, a sea bath without salt, mornings without Cafecito, and New York City — or shall we say Brooklyn — without Caribbean culture. So we chose each product with those things in mind, things that transport us back home and, more importantly, center well-being.

Have you found that you’re receiving more support now than prior to the revolution happening in the U.S. and globally?

CS/TS: We received a lot of support straight out of the gate. Within the first week of our pre-launch, we exceeded all of our benchmarks and were actually overwhelmed by the positive response. We quickly found that Black women were just as excited to have this box as we were. Our subscribers have shown us all sorts of love by making their own promo videos on IG, reposting our content, and even tagging us in relevant posts. We’ve gotten so much love that IG even blocked us from being tagged in comments last week because they thought we were bots! Instagram, if you’re reading this, what’s up with that?

SW: In many ways, and largely due to the revolution, we are seeing more support for BIPOC communities and corporations committing to long overdue initiatives such as the Aurora James 15% Pledge. So far we’ve seen large platforms like Sephora, West Elm, NPR, Netflix, The Recording Academy, and The Sill pull up by taking action and creating space to support Black businesses and C-suite executives.

That said, this work is only just beginning. Black communities and businesses are still being disproportionately affected by COVID-19 added to centuries of systemic racism. We still need many more BIPOC in leadership and creative roles, raising capital, on nonprofit and corporate boards, in addition to pausing, listening, taking direct action, and most importantly sustaining the pipeline for Black social, political, cultural and economic empowerment. And we cannot forget Breonna Taylor.

VIDEO: 12 Black-Owned Indie Beauty Brands to Keep on Your Radar

What is the most joyful aspect of being a Black entrepreneur?

CS/TS: It’s really exciting. We imagine that it would be exciting for any entrepreneur to see their vision come to life and then to have it embraced by the market. But it’s especially fulfilling for us because we know we started this to create something for Black women. Historically, it’s been difficult for Black women to get support when trying to start a new venture, and we are still experiencing our fair share of challenges, but pushing through all of that and being able to break through, even on a small level, is very rewarding and really motivates us to keep going.

SW: The most joyful part of entrepreneurship is seeing the work manifest in a myriad of ways. For many that can look like the work making its way to the pages of newspapers, magazines, thousands of people showing up to your event, and of course receipts. But for me, joy is sharing the richness and beauty of the Caribbean in one place, and right now that is building community in a three-pound box. Travel is looking pretty dismal at least for the foreseeable future, and as we all know, tourism is a huge part of the Caribbean economy. So being able to bring the Caribbean home not only gives me joy but also tremendous pride.

To shop: $89; thesill.com

Through July 31, 100% of the proceeds from the CaribBeing x The Sill Self-Care Kit go to Black Brooklyn-based business owners.

What is your hope for the future of your business?

CS/TS: Our hope is to create a community where Black women who love all things beauty and skincare can finally feel included. We want to foster more collaborative endeavors with larger beauty brands wanting to include Black women in a meaningful way and not just purely gratuitously. We also hope to make a statement about the quality and desirability of our brands and their products. These brands are deserving of mainstream opportunities and exposure, and we hope that this will encourage the gatekeepers of the beauty industry to acknowledge this and truly shift the landscape of the industry.

SW: Like every entrepreneur, we’d like CaribBeing to scale and be a sustainable brand that continues to center Caribbean community, lifestyle, and modalities centering wellness. Being Black or from the Caribbean is not a singular experience, and we’d like to share every aspect of our cultural heritage with everyone willing to listen and experience the joy and complexities of being from one of the richest and most vibrant regions in the world.

These interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.