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ReLaunch Through Adversity: The Resilient Rise of a Beauty Industry Changemaker

Join me on a profound journey with the incredible Ezinne Iroanya, beauty industry titan and CEO of SKN Muse, as we explore her inspiring story of resilience and rebirth. Listen in as Ezinne shares the pivotal moments of her life, from bravely moving to the United States alone at 16 to overcoming an abusive relationship. Her tale is a testament to the power of personal and professional transformation, illustrating how authenticity and voice can empower oneself and others.

Ezinne’s commitment to inclusivity shines through as she discusses how her company fosters self-expression and provides therapy sessions for children in underserved communities, underlining beauty’s role as a tool for rest and financial empowerment, particularly for black women. Discover the impactful strides Ezinne has made in the beauty industry, where she has carved a niche for herself as a perfumer and later as a national artist for prestigious brands like Lancôme and Dior.

Listen as she recounts stories of lifting women’s spirits through skincare and makeup, and how mentorship shaped her professional growth. Her journey is marked by the transformational influence of beauty on individuals’ lives and the profound impact good leadership can have on personal success. We will explore the trials and triumphs of entrepreneurial life during a global pandemic as Ezinne recounts the excitement of SKN Muse’s soft launch and the subsequent pivot required to face the pandemic’s challenges head-on, highlighting the significance of visual marketing in a time when physical interaction with products was limited.

The joy of food adventures and the fortuitous boost from an unexpected endorsement by Beyoncé become anecdotes in a broader narrative about perseverance and the influence of powerful networks. Additionally, we confront the harsh realities black women founders face in fundraising, debunking myths and emphasizing the importance of mindset and sustainable growth strategies amidst financial adversities.

As a special gift to The ReLaunch listeners, Ezinne is offering a 20% discount on products in her store. Visit https://sknmuse.com/ and use coupon code RELAUNCH20 at checkout.

About our Guest:

Ezinne Iroanya is a beauty industry expert with 13+ years at prestigious brands like Lancome & Dior. She’s now CEO of SKNMUSE, promoting inclusivity in luxury beauty. Under her leadership, SKNMUSE gained recognition from Beyonce, Issa Rae, Vogue, ELLE USA, and more. As a16z’s 2022 Cultural Genius, she’s raised $300,000+ in grants, including from Glossier & Cantu. Using beauty as a tool for financial empowerment, her company has sponsored 100+ therapy sessions for kids in underserved communities. She champions authentic representation, empowering all, especially Black women, to embrace beauty as a tool for rest, self-expression, and empowerment.

https://sknmuse.com/

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Transcript
Hilary DeCesare:

Welcome to the ReLaunch podcast and so glad that you are here today because we're gonna go we're gonna go into this real category of being authentically you of being when you're willing to express yourself and know that there are people out there that need to hear it know that it might even give you your own sense of clarity. And today I have been blessed literally to have gotten to know this woman over the last probably like less than six months. But what a presence she is. This is Ezinne. Did I say that right?.

Ezinne Iroanya:

You're almost there. It is "Ay-zen-Nay"

Hilary DeCesare:

Ezinne - "Ay-Zen-Nay"

Ezinne Iroanya:

I think you doubt yourself sometimes. And I think you have to actually have it.

Hilary DeCesare:

I know I have it and it's Ezinne, and it's it's Iroanya. Iran. Yeah, yeah. Ironanya Yeah. And I'm going to see this right price. excited because you just got married and I can I can say that this was never my strong suit. I took Latin for seven years. So I never had to speak anything. Anyway, I have a Ezinne. Yes. And a with me today and she is a beauty industry expert. She has 13 plus years as a prestigious brand in prestigious brands like Lancome de or, and she's now CEO of an incredible company called Skin SKN Muse. m u s e, promoting inclusivity and luxury beauty. Under her leadership skin Muse gained recognition from no other than love Beyonce, I SRA Vogue, elle USA, she has raised almost 300,000 She was in the A 16 z 2022 cultural genius. This is Andreessen Horowitz. And she also is a beauty she uses beauty actually as a tool for financial empowerment. Her company has sponsored 100 Plus therapy sessions for kids and on in actually underserved communities. She champions authentic representation empowering all especially black women. She wants them to embrace beauty as a tool for rest, self expression and empowerment. And today it is my pleasure to have as in they got it. Yeah. Then Ezinne on the show. Thank you for being here. And again, I have had this, like, literally, it's been so wonderful getting to know you following you. And what we're going to talk about today is a topic near and dear to my own heart. And I feel like I just you know, there's the big gigantic hug of support when we're talking to other fellow entrepreneurs in business, especially female entrepreneurs. So I would love to have you kind of take us back to this major relaunch that allowed you to be where you are today.

Ezinne Iroanya:

Okay, Hillary, thank you so much for having me. I'm really excited. I told myself I actually took a hiatus from cognitive people for a while. So you're like my first interviewer will love this guy in a really long time. Take you back to you know, I pivoted my relaunch moment. And we're talking personal life, right? We're not talking the you

Hilary DeCesare:

know, here's the thing relaunches are both personal and professional. And when I say the most significant relaunch that has truly shaped who you are right now, right now, today, what would you say that would be? So

Ezinne Iroanya:

there's been a couple moments, but I remember the one of the strongest if people don't know this about me, well, now they will know. But I actually migrated by myself this country at 16. So I come here, it's, you know, it's one thing to travel the world with your mother, it's another thing to be by yourself felt incredible. Yes, it is wanting to be by yourself. And I'm in this country, I suddenly have the responsibility of an adult but with the authority of a child, right. And that comes with so much complexities. And in that moment, I unfortunately, like every naive, young woman, I ended up in a relationship with an abusive person I'm a baby, I wasn't aware of what a healthy relationship is, I'm unaware of the impact of pairing up at such a young age with somebody who's so vile and toxic. And here I am with this responsibility a child in a new country,

Hilary DeCesare:

as at so I have to ask you, what was the impetus for you actually leaving your country at 16 years old?

Ezinne Iroanya:

You know, I was, you know, unlike every other immigrant story who comes, you know, seeks refugee or asylum, I was just fortunate enough at that point to be so smart. I graduated high school at 15. And because I was done, I convinced my mother that, of course, she should let me go on to college at 16. You know, I actually want it to go at 15. But she said, You know, I need you to wait a little bit. So I went home with her for a year, I took a gap year, just being with her. And I was like, I need to go, I'm ready. And I wanted, I thought I can handle it. And you know, I applied to a bunch of universities and I got in. Yeah, that's really how I left in Seattle, in seeking in search of a better hit education. Yes, that's actually why.

Hilary DeCesare:

Yeah. And so you get here and how quickly did you meet this guy?

Ezinne Iroanya:

Oh, my gosh, I think within that first year, he met me when I was still 16. Yeah, within that first year. Now I'm in this relationship. And as you can imagine, everything, the sun, that radius around me, and my name actually means good mother. The literal translation is to say good mother in spirit. I go this he sucks every single light out of me in the whole process every single light. Now, I'm navigating this I'm navigating school, I'm still getting good grades, but my personal life is just the light keeps getting them and more dim and more dim. I battled this for a couple of years. And the way that we launch happens, I think I was learning I was around 23. I met him at 16. I stayed there till 23 and 23 is when I something any snapped along the line, this person had brought in my my little baby brother, who I heard just helping migrate to America, and he was living with me. And you know you one thing about abused women is that some it takes you seeing that other people are also in danger for you to realize that you are in danger. And that was just enough for me. I literally something just snapped. And I became more vocal I remember I told my mom I called where Nigeria and eSight decided to fight back, I started getting my stuff together my finances together, I you know, I was a woman who went from depending on her parent, her mom, you know, taking care of her to being in this abusive relationship also being dependent on this person taking care, quote, unquote, taking care of late. And I immediately just took powers into my own hands. And I said no one is going to save me. But myself, and I have to say myself, and the light went on. I remember wanting to leave. And this man had picked my car door in I got restraining orders. He would be outside stocking on where I am putting coat. He actually I don't know how I don't know. Now, I can be very honest with you. He actually called me one time to another city and broke someone's leg in search of me. Like snap, I watched him snap it into two. It was a very, very dangerous and very, it's what you see like in the movies. I wouldn't watch that upon my worst enemy. And it took you don't want this one thing to decide mentally you're going to leave but when you actually start leaving, I think it's one of the hardest things for women in abusive relationships to actually leave because your abuser does is fighting tooth and nail and they don't want you to leave.

Hilary DeCesare:

Do you had any former? What was it around you when you were growing up? You

Ezinne Iroanya:

know, it wasn't around me, but I never had I never thought the absence of a male figure was had such a big impact, but it does because you never I never learned what a healthy love was from a male figure. I come from a very matriarchal lineage lineage. I was raised by Auntie's and my mom raised my strong woman. And as a child, you know, you still almost like wonder what it would feel like to have a present father. And you try unfortunately, some of us transfer that energy into random men. So I had never seen it never experienced it. And here I am. But I do also come from a society of people with deep deep seated patriarchy and misogyny. And women are also taught no matter how strong you are, your strength should not overshadow men. So when you have thought that even when you come from a strong line of women, and you're now in this relationship, and you know, I remember going to his mom telling his mother that I was being abused and she took me to church for deliverance. Yes. Crazy it Yes. Yeah. Crazy. Crazy. She took me to church to get the little bit. No, I

Hilary DeCesare:

don't you go ahead.

Ezinne Iroanya:

I don't think she meant me harm. But I think that she definitely did not have my best intention compared. at my expense. Yeah, yeah.

Hilary DeCesare:

So now you're finally really truly on your own. And, you know, I read your background to everyone they heard it, you obviously, how did you go from that place to where you ended up in beauty.

Ezinne Iroanya:

So, Beauty for me has always been an escape. My mother owned a beauty salon, when I was a child, I grew up running around there when I would, you know, when I went outside of school, she would let me come and you know, I would be working, I thought I was working. And during those moments of violence, during those moments of sadness, I really found rest and restoration in my beat, even teens, like being able to put the music on being able to put them worship songs on and just really spend some time with myself. That was when I found solace, when I left that bathroom door, you know, I will be there for an hour. And that was why I really found peace in those moments. You people say, I don't know if you've ever heard of people praying in their showers. Like I would be one of those like with worship

Hilary DeCesare:

that, hey, I'm one of those. Hey, in the shower, a lot of times, you know, I lie and lie, I pray in my bath. That's,

Ezinne Iroanya:

that's really where my own temple is. And I really those moments really brought me peace, they brought me peace, I knew that I would not be disturbed. I knew that that hour would just be mine. And

Hilary DeCesare:

it really became a trail. It's so beautiful, because that's actually where I talked to my mom a lot. I talked to her in the car, but the bathtub is, you know, and she didn't even like baths, but I love them. And so I'm like, I know you don't but she used to would would come with me on business trips sometimes. And, you know, I'd say Alright, I'm gonna go take a bath and she said, Well, then I'm gonna bring my cocktail and and I'll just sit and talk to you. I was like, Okay. Well, you know, it's funny. I love that. Okay, so we're praying and let me ask you, what were you really praying for?

Ezinne Iroanya:

For the longest time I was praying for God to fix my situation. And you know, the harder I pray for God to fix my situation, the worst got worse the abuse got. It was like I couldn't understand God. God was telling me you need to leave. And I was still praying that God will fix this. This horrible individual that was beyond fixing. Praying for myself, you know, for God's deliverance. And as soon as I knew that I was a victim. I started praying for freedom, and pray for God. Ah, you

Hilary DeCesare:

started to pray for freedom. You're now out you're on your own. You're still helping your brother because he's now

Ezinne Iroanya:

he's now the baby as well. You know, he's 17 is living with me. And I love one thing about me no matter what goes on in my personal life, I always had my professional life together. So right in college, I remember I even had I had an internship. I worked for dealers as well, I became one of the youngest perfumers in Oklahoma. Then I this other woman noticed me from Lancome, she loved the way I sold to customers and how interested I was, I really, really took it to heart and she was like, Hey, you want to be on come on come on long combs team. I was a first start out as a makeup artist and I became a national artist. So I was actually traveling, I would travel with the team, all over the country, and sometimes internationally, just doing events activations, and then I became what they called me a beauty advisor but I would fly to different countries teaching them how to do makeup and skincare for all types of women. I was like, it was I was a one size fits all for each counter. If you were having struggling with you know, numbers, we were struggling with training, they would send me to your counter to kind of like to shape in a good way in a gentle way of love. So that became my job. And no one would really know what was going on. For the longest time. People never knew that I was suffering like this in my life. But I was excelling. Because again my my first love my first love has always been beauty. Yeah. And I enjoy the way people feel when they have a moment to see themselves in the way that other people see them in a positive light. I enjoy when they're able to realize that they can replicate, you know the same thing that they might be able to get at the Lancome counter. I enjoy empowering you I remember I used to teach older women who were so overwhelmed by skincare routine. And I had this little trick, I would arrange each step in front of them and take a picture on their phone. So when they got home, they knew, you know, by the picture, what step was what step. That's the empowerment aspect. People like to minimize beauty as a vanity metric, when indeed, it's more than that we all interact with it every day. And when you feel good, you're a better person. When you feel good, you know, you you do good. When you feel good, you think more you think outside of yourself, you're able to be kinder to others. So that's what does what it means to me.

Hilary DeCesare:

I think it's also transformative, right? There's a transformation that happens. I remember I would go from a board room to a date when I was single. And I would put on lip gloss. And that was my transformation as I was going in the car. So that I didn't come in as you know, hot is hot can be like, you know, so I just gave her this meeting and you know, or whatever, whatever wondering at that stage, and it did, it was a reminder that put on your feminine side be me, I'm I'm a woman and a woman at heart even though I was trying to be a man all day. And I really can appreciate that. And I love that you. It really touches your heart. Right? It really is something there. So you decided to get involved in the beauty industry in a bigger way. What, what, what really caused you to do that? Shout

Ezinne Iroanya:

out to one of my bosses. Good bosses are so impactful. anybody listening, if you're a leader or a manager or a boss, you need to know that you have the power to really effect change in people's lives. This lady her name is Cheyenne. She took me underneath her wing in a big way. I was working at Lancome and she used to watch me. And she used to work at Lancome for a brief moment. We never worked directly under each other. But I think she was my she I don't think she was my boss's boss. But she loved me in every way. And she would always mentor me and take care of me and just you know, have coffee dates with me. And then when she was going to Dior, she was like, Hey, want to leave? And I'm taking you with me? Do you want to come there's a business manager of position opened for you. I like what this manager. She's like, I believe in you. You can do this, I will be with you every step of the way. Let's go. It's better. I mean, was better pay. But it was it was scary. And I said, okay, and I became a business manager, but you're with her under her tutelage. She mentored and coached me, like her life depended on it, she took her time out 10 times with me on the phone, as I was strategizing about the team and how to grow sales and revenue and, you know, just district. And that was when I really saw myself like, Okay, you're more than just a, you know, the tool, but you can really manage, you can really be a businessman in business, when you can really get financial freedom in this space. And I took it so seriously, I enjoyed it. Because just like how she was so impactful for my life. I also wanted to be impactful to other people's lives as well. And I said, Oh, I've been given a responsibility, I had to make it fly in that role. I noticed that do you have Reitzel come in. And a lot of times, they will never, you know, they wouldn't interact with the skincare or the cosmetics or the fragrances they would just get their vitals and go. And I thought we're missing a little gap here. How about we merge it all and give the do a ride and experience. So if you're so now, I built out this program where not only are you coming for your bridal, but you're also coming, you have a one stop shop, you get fitted for fragrances for your day, you get your makeup locked down, you don't have to, you know, choose it but you have the option of it, you get your skincare routine, you know, we will customize the three months skincare prep routine for you leading up to your wedding day. And it actually ended up increasing our revenue by 30% cut for you. Now, it was such a successful program. Obviously people loved it. They recognized that I got praised as but it really was Cheyenne believing me so much fiercely that I started believing in myself and I decided to start dreaming fearlessly in this space. And you know long story short, I did that for a couple years and then after that left for a couple of months and I launched skinnies and yeah,

Hilary DeCesare:

tell us about this fierce, fierce like desire to create a beauty product that you didn't see on the shelves and skin mucus was born. Why was that?

Ezinne Iroanya:

You know, I was I remember traveling one time going through TSA and they had thrown away my homemade body butter mixture. And I was I was okay as I've seen pitstop almost go, like you guys understand I have to get the shape from West Africa, I have to get this this, I have to go through this back alley to get this type of back. Like a nerd, I used to be just mixing all types of bodycare. Because at that time, the luxury space didn't have products like this thinks that you know, had ingredients that were familiar to multicultural women sounds so clean, and then they throw it away. And I'm sitting on a plane, my group of colleagues or co workers, and they don't have this annoyance going on, because they know that even if they went to the hotel, personally, I don't think the hotel ocean has lotion, but some people can use the hotel lotion, I cannot. I'm already pissed because I know I'm going to land. And I'm not I'm going to have to find a store. I'm just annoyed at the whole day. And the idea comes in. And I literally say to myself, if I have been working in beauty all my life, if I'm dealing with this, how many other people are dealing with this. And the Lord in me, I just start researching what a crazy person is. On the computer. I'm researching data, I'm using Numbers, I'm researching trends, I actually we actually surveyed 100 multicultural women in 2019 with the formula and got feedback, and I realized this is not a me issue. And I found out that even though especially black woman spent $8 billion every year on beauty, that's twice as much as everybody else. formulation is all

Hilary DeCesare:

real red, black women spend more than twice nominalization or any of the other you know any nationality. They really do, you know way. Hey, Ben, I just I feel like I spent a boatload on that.

Ezinne Iroanya:

But when you think about it like culture for us and like beauty process culture even down to your hair, you know nails nail sets. Right now you can some people are picking at it's crazy. Yeah. Why? Yeah. Yeah. So I when I found those numbers, I was like, This is insane. Why is the the beauty market is missing a big piece like this is insane. So I go to work, I started coaching, you know, the numbers, my now husband has a background in fashion and branding. I'm a great businesswoman. I'm a great, I love beauty, but I have no branding experience. And I tell him my idea. And he's like, Okay, you do what you need to do. Yeah. And this is how, you know, we brought it this beautiful business. I started with body care intentionally because, you know, when you go back to those times where I found solace, it was through body care, it was to the balance it was through the time with my body, I always say skin uses a premium beauty brand for your souls bestel. Well, what I want in this company, that's what I'm building with this company. That's all a moment for you to take a pause and check in with yourself. And we never look back. You're speaking

Hilary DeCesare:

my love language right now, you know that. I had the privilege and the pleasure to get your products at a high. I mean, it is it is a luxurious moment. It is one of those that you're like, I've arrived. So okay, but I do want to I do want to tap into you started this what year?

Ezinne Iroanya:

I started this company 2020. We like you'd be launching in 2020 in the pan where Pandy baby. Okay,

Hilary DeCesare:

yeah, I was gonna say, so let's talk about the journey of starting an entrepreneurial venture, where it's your first and you're hit with the pandemic? And how, how have you been able to keep it going? You said 18. So you've been you've been going for a while now, in a very challenging, uniquely different environment. And

Ezinne Iroanya:

remember, you know, we did a soft launch, we did a soft light test out in the market, November 2019. And we made this big strategy. We had marketing goals, all these things. And then 2020 columns, and it's like, oh, whoa, you can even get into the store. And that was when the Holy Spirit said, lean into your other strengths. Be consistent. Don't stop I wanted to say okay, we'll just wait to the pandemic is over and then we'll pick up and the Holy Spirit was like, No, you have time, lean into your strengths. I leaned into my strengths. And one of our strengths was visual, the visuals because you think about beauty people like to smell, touch feel. But if people can smell touch or feel what can you do, they can see. They can see everybody was on their phones. Everybody was you know, on the internet, everybody was online, they can see and we leaned into that heavily. This beautiful baby which is our MVP product to Dubai and body oil. We started taking really visually and for

Hilary DeCesare:

those that are just looking or listening to this, they can't see it. Big, big bottle behind her beautiful. It looks very elegant. Yeah. And so you share with us what that is.

Ezinne Iroanya:

This is our MVP product. It's How to divine body oil is a fast absorbing people like to call it a dry oil because it doesn't meet that greasy feeling on you, but it gives you the best glow. It has only five ingredients with the clean beauty product. It has a beautiful smell cut Egyptian honey in there so it dwarfs after you enter layers perfectly with any fragrance that you find in the market. So that's what that is for this beautiful baby we started thinking really visually pleasing aesthetically pictures with it and it got noticed by Beyonce no that's

Hilary DeCesare:

how it was you know that was gonna be Yeah, that so she saw it in a publication and where did she see it? Do you know? I mean no happy to happen.

Ezinne Iroanya:

Shout out to at the time one of our stylists was Serena Akers I always tell beauty brands like used to great to chase that celebrities but you need to chase the stylists. The stylists are the ones I stylist had interacted with our product. Now I can't confirm if she bought or she just interacted online, but she was aware of the product. And Beyonce at that time was building a list of a you know, black brands he wanted to highlight. And her style had also helped to curate the list. Because of this stylist you know, she brings it to Beyonce. They both could the silence is helping her curate the list and VLC releases this list of brands that she loves that are owned by black people. Great. Ah, you cannot imagine I remember I was sitting in my apartment in Inglewood eating oxtails it was a dream team.

Hilary DeCesare:

oxtails I remember

Ezinne Iroanya:

it like I remember I was going I did this thing with my husband where we go like restaurant hopping. I love food. So like it's one of my favorite day activities. He takes it like for restaurants in a day. So

Hilary DeCesare:

like instead of a progressive dinner where you go to you know, one person's house for the salad and then dessert you what are you doing, you're going? Are you eating every single one? Okay, give

Ezinne Iroanya:

me my pick like a specialty dish. Here we go. Pick like special dishes. Each restaurant, it's a whole thing. I need to actually record a tick talk about it because it's my favorite date. Honestly, it's one of my favorite days he does with me. So I'm eating I'm

Hilary DeCesare:

loving it. And you know, I'm going to tell II all about it. And we're going to do this. Yes, it's the best day. So I'm when I come to LA we're gonna do it. My name is totally what I love to I love that. Like having one little thing here. One little thing there. Let's I mean, this is okay, so

Ezinne Iroanya:

I'm sitting there, I'm eating my oxtails and orders are coming in. Now at that time, we're just new people don't really know. So in a day, we'll maybe get like one order, right? And like, I've had come in and I was like, oh, people are really shopping on June 10. But we won't do it, especially in 10 orders came in and I'm like Did they find us or something like which influencer? And you know, he looks at me and he's like chuckling he's like, You should ask God for 20 orders and I in the middle of October I go God give us the orders. And I and 20 orders come in and I was like, okay, something's going on what is happening? And I go on Twitter and I say I don't know what influencer has posted skin use. Thank you so much. And I'm going to tweet my friend is like girl, Beyonce posted you and I thought she was I don't know Beyonce fan. Yeah, extreme bi member not going to lose my mind. You know, but I do appreciate everything else he does. I'm I'm a Beyonce fan. I'm a healthy Beyonce fan. And

Hilary DeCesare:

so my exact I use her almost every day in my conversations in coaching. I will talk about sauce Sasha Fierce. Or her alter ego her she go, how your identity drives. I mean, I do this talk I love you. Yes, we love you.

Ezinne Iroanya:

I'm just in awe. And I'm just like, she's my friend is like, Girl, I thought she was messing with me. She screenshot says she sends it to me. And I thought I responded. What a cruel joke. This would be. Why would you I didn't even think to check. I just assumed that she was playing. I said that to you that and another person is like, calls me in my phone and the orders. I'm telling you like I lost count now. an hour in we're already sold out. And I call my mentor and I'm like I have to mark the site close sold off like it's done. It's done. She's like, do not do that. Leave it alone. Leave it alone. I'm getting afraid. Because so many orders are flooding in. It was three days of constant thing thing like doing you would wake up orders go to bed orders every hour and I'm having anxiety because internally as a new business owner, I don't know how I'm going to fulfill all these orders right the first time

Hilary DeCesare:

inside of it. You know, every we talk about the delivery. Yes. Luckily for

Ezinne Iroanya:

me, I had gone through this beautiful accelerator three months before to prepare me and really sharpen my business skills and I intentionally started to build a really good relationship with my vendors before that I intentionally sought out but Those that were small business owners, I sought out vendors who are women, you know, minorities, people who I knew aligned with my brand and values. And when it was all happening, my mentor was like, just be transparent with people let them know, they probably saw you on the on his website, get to give you some time. She's like, how long do you think it'll take you to do all these orders? I said, maybe two weeks. I wasn't even sure I emailed every single vendor. And I told them, people were expediting packages to us during the pandemic, without us having to pay. We wanted to import there's new business. I mean, we were we were just like, we were babies. We were literally out the womb we had no, no, we had no credit, like we had none. None.

Hilary DeCesare:

But they, this is such a you know what, this is the kind of story you just love. But I gotta I gotta keep you going here because you have the highs? Yes. And there's also the lows. And it's, I call it the relaunch roller coaster of business. And so you are you're continuing to move forward. And what, what has business been like for you?

Ezinne Iroanya:

Do you know, business has been I am currently in my hardest season of business to be very open and vulnerable and transparent. The economy is different luxury products are not a priority for most people, especially, you know, with our target audience. People are prioritizing other things. And our it's just a different, we've expanded into our own production facility, we've expanded the team, we've gone from just myself to a team, you know, we're now a team of 12 people. And it is extremely difficult. It has been high highs, but also low lows. There have been times where I wake up with anxiety, and not understanding how I'm going to make it into next month in the season. Because nothing is predictable anymore.

Hilary DeCesare:

There have been times are you how are you finding the fundraising landscape right now?

Ezinne Iroanya:

Oh, it is think of the luckiest meal you ever ate. That made me nauseous to throw up that you had to like maybe get to the hospital, you had food poisoning. That's how I find the fundraising market right now, especially with CPG brands, especially with black founders. Recently, there was a report that came out that said we only received 0.46% of funding. So I know

Hilary DeCesare:

people hearing that are going to be shocked, because there is this myth. And I can because I've now had quite a few conversations with some of my closest friends that are trying to as you know, black female, trying to raise money. And the perception is that, oh, if you're a black woman, you can go out there and raise you can raise capital very quickly. Right? I mean, is that that?

Ezinne Iroanya:

That is the opposite. Now we have anomalies, you know, like every other group does. But that is not the truth where the vast majority 90% of us are raising are building businesses with our own money with our own funds, our life savings. When you have a market where less than 1% of funding is going towards your demographic, where you have a market where you have to educate people, I once went into a room to pitch for funding. And before the investor never looked at my pitch deck. And I know that because I have a tracking link. He never looked at the pitch deck and proceeds to interrupt me and say, Well, you know, you're a black woman, I see a black woman like you, you can just walk into a bank and get a loan. No. And I'm thinking you haven't even looked at my pitch deck. You know, there's an assumption that you brought into the room with why are you wasting my time? If you believe this? Why have you wasted my time? So there's a lot of time wasting a lot of education that you shouldn't have to do in these rooms. Unfortunately, because there is nobody who else understands what you're building, which I think is the responsibility of an investor. As a woman, we can invest in things that have to do with men. Nobody thinks twice about that women were able to understand what a healthy business is what a promising business is. But it seems that when it comes to especially black women, people get so kind of ignorant and almost dumb that they think they can't just put two and two equals four. You have to literally help them break down the math equation. And even then, and you have can have traction like my left we bootstrapped we bootstrapped this business to half a million dollars bootstrapped. This is no added so impressive. We've expanded going into Macy's, you know, had activations with Nordstrom, we've done amazing things partnership with American Express with Art Basel, all with our own money. Every money that we've received, for most of it has been 90% of it has been non diluted funding, meaning I have gone out to pitch competitions. Imagine you're running a six figure business and you still have have to carve out time to go out to pitch competitions for funding, not because you want to because let's be real, everybody wants to run their business. But you have to because in order for you to grow, you need outside capital. So it's been hard. It's been difficult. Now

Hilary DeCesare:

I know that world very well. Yeah. Yeah. It was definitely as a female in a very much. And it still is a man's world from an investor community. But there are female investment groups now. I'm part of actually a few of them. When you think about there is portfolio. There is an Angels is bringing spring springboard, and then what was the one you just said?

Ezinne Iroanya:

Pipeline angels, that's another client

Hilary DeCesare:

yep pipeline angels? And how are you finding those types of groups? Because I know that there's, there's some pros and cons to those types of female groups as well. What are you finding?

Ezinne Iroanya:

I think that I love them, I'm actually in do a due diligence process with one of those groups that we just talked about. I love them, because I'm very intentional about who I get in bed with for money. I think it's unfortunate, because when

Hilary DeCesare:

you said for money, as we've already discussed, you just got me.

Ezinne Iroanya:

But I think that's not enough. You know, we've had to intentionally make these groups because we know that it's a necessity. It's not like a lot of girls projects, not this like fruit fraud project that not somebody can together put together, it's a necessity, because women need these groups. I think because we're a CPG company, it's a little harder to do, you know, divvy up the resources in the market, there's not enough of us. And that's the truth. But I appreciate, I absolutely, absolutely appreciate the fact that they have an opportunity to be in the room with these groups. For example, when I pitch to one of these, these angel investor networks, this current one that I pitched in 15 minutes ago, pitching the woman we're buying, in, I made $1,500, in pitching in 15 minutes,

Hilary DeCesare:

that is so terrific. Yes.

Ezinne Iroanya:

And that's the power of this network, these networks that they can think of you so much with little education, 15 minutes, I just spoke to them about the company, and 15 minutes they spent $1,500. Okay, but I

Hilary DeCesare:

have to say 1500 isn't gonna get you where you need to go. Even even a few more zeros isn't gonna get you where you want to go. So what is your what is your strategy? First and foremost? Because you can't go out to raise money if you're, if your mindset isn't right. So how do you how do you get yourself, as you said, hey, I want to be running a six figure business. And I'm actually running it. I'm not out on the road trying to raise more money and trying to meet payroll every single month, because I also understand that and living kind of paycheck by paycheck or investment dollar paycheck, it sometimes is. So how do you get yourself into that mindset of prosperity versus scarcity?

Ezinne Iroanya:

You know, I look at myself as a vessel for my community and change. That's the first thing I always remember. When I before God blessed me with his bins, I would always pray, God bless me so much that I become a resource for my community. And when I go into when I'm getting ready for, you know, to tackle this on or go for fundraising, or really get myself in my mindset, I think about every single person on my payroll, and how, you know, my assistant has a two year old, I think about how our community manager deserves a raise, I think about how I had a partnership has sacrificed I think about my partner how much he can sacrifice for me. And not because I'm not, I'm not worthy of the sacrifices, I'm worthy of them. You know, I deserve every help that has come my way. But because to whom much is given, much as expected of myself, I know that I'm capable of doing so much more. When all the other puzzle pieces hit. I know that I have the capacity to show people that work environments can be loving and warm and you can still get things done. I know that I had the capacity to reintroduce people to what beauty is outside of just leaving a vanity metric. So those are the things that keep me going and also my god, I'm very much I'm a believer in the power of the Holy Spirit. I don't go anywhere without God. So once I have that I feel confident and I know that whatever will be will be at as far as I'm in as well, that's all that matters.

Hilary DeCesare:

Isn't there a song que sera, sera, you're off, right? Yeah. And I'm hearing that right now. And I, I think that it is your attitude, and you really have an attitude of gratitude. You're, you're such a beautiful person, as we go into whenever people are listening, whether it's, you know, any of the seasons. What, what and you mentioned, is this exclusively for black women? Or is it and I know I know the answer, but I want you to say it because? Or is this for any woman that needs self care that wants that beautiful, luxurious, but you also have priced it? You know, right in such a sweet spot? Tell us tell us who who now when, as we're as we're winding up here, where can people find your products? And who are they really for?

Ezinne Iroanya:

We like to say we prioritize multicultural women because they haven't had a chance to see a brand like ours prioritize them. But this product can be used by any woman, any woman, any woman looking for. So that if you're looking for 30 minutes of daily self care, a reflection, we are your solution. What that means is you can use our products to carve out 30 minutes a day for just your selfish time. We are your solution. We are for the aunties, you know, the women who are trendsetting and beauty the women who pass down beauty rituals to their nieces, their daughters, their nephews, we're for the woman who make purchasing buying decisions for their personal care in their family homes. That's what we're for the people who need some take somebody else to take care of them. That's what we're for. Our strategy right now is focused in the hospitality space. So you might not find us in Sephora, but you can find us in Macy's. You can find us online at scan news.com. Just like you spelled earlier, SK n n USC, you can find us in store at 13 Lun, and if you go on our website, if you actually look up locations, we actually stock most of our wholesalers and most of our retailers are owned by women. So I'm very proud of that. But yes, before you can

Hilary DeCesare:

ask you as a final question, because I'm I have once asked you before black women, their skin is gorgeous. Yes. I mean, you age so gracefully. Well, I mean, can I ask is the fountain of youth in your jar? What is it? What is it about your skin? Please pass it on to this white woman who bullied her spin too much when she was a young girl ended up getting melanoma. There's only while I got it 20 years ago, there's only one advantage that I have really seen with getting melanoma when I was about 30 years old. And that is it kept me out of the sun. It made me wear sunblock. I swear I would look like 100 year old woman right now, if it didn't happen. So you're right. There's always that like, you know, the blessing in disguise. happening, it's happening not to me, but for me. You want to know, what is it about black women skin that does allow you to gracefully age.

Ezinne Iroanya:

And we're gonna have to find another episode for that. But as simple like that, and I want you back on. Everyone is gonna cringe when I give you this as they're gonna be like, No, that's not what we wanted to hear. We want to hear more. But the honest simple truth is sisterhood. There's a way black woman practice that I cannot explain, but I've never really, I can't speak for others. But I can only speak from my experience. There's something in the way we practice, we interact with sisterhood and beauty. That honestly we need. We need a documentary on because everybody can learn from it. And now I've

Hilary DeCesare:

got another opportunity for you that we will talk about. There's a new show that I am hosting with a beautiful beautiful from the outside to the inside soul, beautiful black woman. And she laughs at me and says Hillary, God gave you white scan but you are a black woman. There is an opportunity and I will I will mention this when we get off because I do think you should have a documentary around this and this whole journey that you've been on. So we'll again SKN s k n Muse M U. S E.com We will have a gift code that you are so kindly relaunched

Ezinne Iroanya:

20 Yes is going to be relaunched 20 It'll be active in time when this podcast

Hilary DeCesare:

relaunch 20 gets you a discount 20% off of the products please go visit. I love them. You will love them. And you know again, thank you and I'm going to do it again. I'm going to do it again. I'm not afraid of anything.

Ezinne Iroanya:

Not this you got this is on a your isn't it? Isn't

Hilary DeCesare:

that may god I don't know what it is about language and shear ring. I love music. Wow. Okay, Zalmay. Yes. Can

Ezinne Iroanya:

I make you feel better? I still don't know how to pronounce your last name because every

Hilary DeCesare:

morning someone butchered it. And I told him three times three times what my name was. It's DeCesare. And I like the Caesar salad. I know, the guy still does. So I'm like, I couldn't even bear to but at least you're like, hey, you know you're schooling me. And I love it. Thank you. And so Mrs. Price. Yeah. You are not only beautiful, but she got the brain power. I'm excited to see where your business comes in. Again, I would love to have you back so we can talk more about actually your future success that I'm already saying.

Ezinne Iroanya:

Thank you. Thank you so much. Amen. I appreciate the time here and I know you have to go but

Hilary DeCesare:

honestly, this was wonderful. You take care.

Ezinne Iroanya:

Thanks again. Bye