Women of Wednesday: Cashmere Nicole on Surviving and the Power of Sweetness
WOMEN OF WEDNESDAY is a weekly micro-interview series featuring women of color in various industries and walks of life, focused on highlighting their pursuits and making it easy for readers to support their endeavors. If you would like to be featured, please submit your answers to the below five questions here.
Cashmere Nicole, 31, CEO & Founder of Beauty Bakerie
1. Tell us about the work you’re doing and why it’s important.
I began as a single 16-year old mother on welfare. I felt as though I wouldn’t be able to look my daughter in the eyes without a plan for her life. I remember telling myself that I had two options: to work hard, or to accept the path that statistics had determined would be ours, and I just couldn’t accept the latter. I remember not wanting to focus so much on the shocking fact that my first nice apartment was a “homeless apartment” (an apartment you could only live in by proving you were homeless). I remember not wanting to focus on the shame and the people who looked down on me for being unwed, or those who would look down on my child for being fatherless. I remember not wanting to ever have to wait in an old, cold church for a free coat again. The feeling that really stands out to me now that I think of it…was a sense of urgency. I felt I needed to hurry up and excel so that my daughter wouldn’t know these feelings and feel badly about her life or worse, aim low. That is the number one reason why what I do — this business that I have been so blessed to grow — is important. Our children are our message to the world and if I could change the life of just one person and that be my own daughter, then I am very capable of promoting change and inspiring others.
I would say the common denominator for many beauty brands is to empower its consumer, to make he or she feel confident in their appearance, but here at Beauty Bakerie, we want to empower our customers and supporters to feel confident not only in appearance but in the change they’re able to exact in the world. The mission is “to be sweet and sweeten the lives of others”. The motto is “to be better not bitter” because in any and all things, we can choose to see the very best in each other and the very best in any situation. It’s my belief that in overcoming the greatest trials of my life, it was my perspective that had to change in order for me to heal and help those around me. It was my perspective that had to change in order for me to lead this company.
2. What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in pursuing the work that’s important to you?
Beauty Bakerie began from nothing. It was the next thing on my personal bucket list. I’d told myself early on, however, that it was the thing that I had to stay committed to for at least 5 years. This was the first hurdle because not only was I trying to complete college with a child, I was adamant about her receiving a private school education and to exacerbate things, I found out about the cancerous lumps growing throughout both of my breasts and ultimately had to have a double mastectomy. What was interesting was that I never stopped pushing for my brand. I remember responding to a customer from my hospital bed. At that time, I only had a few customers per month! <laughs> But they were very important to me. All of the cliché things that could be a challenge were my challenges: no financial support and no network familiar with entrepreneurship. So I had to go it alone. I had to learn how to build a website, how to create ads, how to do product photography with a cell phone <laughs>. And it would remain that way until I had a team, in 2015. When Beyoncé came across my story online after my 2nd major breast surgery — yes, my breasts were gone but a new lump tried to form despite that — that made me feel as if the road alone wasn’t so bad after all. It was the hardest recovery, yet with tubes and drains hanging out of me, I made sure not to miss that call with her. That’s one of the first times I realized that my story hadn’t fallen upon deaf ears and that was every indication that I should keep going. You can imagine how insane it was when maybe 2 years later she — Beyoncé Knowles! — had gotten her hands on my Lip Whips and was wearing them! This time I was not in anyone’s hospital bed so I was able to scream and scream I most certainly did. Her mom has worn my brand too, and me being the nostalgic person I am, I reflect on these things to remind myself that even Beyoncé came from humble beginnings. She didn’t let that stop her or define her: instead she used her platform to speak out about the things near and dear to her heart.
With that being said, another major challenge is making sure that amidst the business of makeup our message isn’t lost, making sure that we use our platform to influence people positively and as a start-up, having the resources to help more people. As a CEO (still amazes me to say that), I’m pulled a thousand ways every day but assigning someone to do my God-work seems inauthentic to me. I want to be hands on. I want to meet the children in the orphanages abroad, I want to help lay the foundation of the home they’ll live in, I want to hand the homeless man a dollar. The challenge is that I obviously cannot do this alone, so building a team that has a heart was the challenge as well: making sure every person hired at Beauty Bakerie has a heart that considers others. I’m grateful we’ve been able to do that.
3. What do you need to continue your work in the way you envision?
To continue my mission of sweetening the globe, I need support. I need to meet others who share in wanting to change the world through yes, makeup. I need our customers and supporters to spread the word, to organize small groups in their community aimed at giving back to the elderly, the homeless, the teen parents, the struggling college students. And where you cannot help, pray and send positive vibes to those that are in need. My story did not change because of any handouts but I was definitely inspired along the way. People need to be motivated, encouraged, and supported. Not shamed.
4. Where and how can we support you to make #3 happen?
You at #WomenOfWednesday can help us sweeten the globe. Share stories of those stricken with cancer, share success stories of women like myself who were once teen mothers on welfare but have beat the odds to show others that they too can break cycles. Participate, volunteer, and donate in the name of the goodness that we all have in our hearts; the goodness that has been clouded by struggles, losses, and trials but it still so very present.
5. What is your favorite quote?
I love quotes but none come to mind. A Bible verse, however, does: its Jeremiah 29:11 that brought me through some of my roughest times and I think, whether you are spiritual or not, it can be a healing word. Ultimately, LOVE wins. Encouraging someone, hearing their story, supporting them are all acts of love that they may need to keep going and if we can all just LOVE, I think we are on the right path for a brighter and better future.