Women Innovators Series: Annie White-Brown, NaturalAnnie Essentials

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Annya ‘Annie’ White-Brown shares her entrepreneurial journey with WE@Yale on September 18, 2019

Annie White-Brown’s passion for essential oils and natural remedies comes from a personal place. White-Brown, who was born and raised in Jamaica, grew up using oils and herbs to nourish and heal. In 2014, her daughter Tiffany was born with spina bifida and hydrocephalus, and treatments for her conditions caused her skin to break out. White-Brown started mixing home remedies for her daughter’s skin from herbs, oils, and natural butter.

When Tiffany’s skin started to change for the better, White-Brown was inspired to keep mixing and learning more about natural skin remedies. “I got so hooked on essential oils that I actually became certified in aromatherapy to try to understand the exact science behind it and how to formulate it,” White-Brown shared. Within a year, NaturalAnnie Essentials was born.

On September 18th, White-Brown came to Yale to share her journey as an entrepreneur with the WE@Yale community as part of the Women Innovators Series. She also brought along a tantalizing array of her candles and body products for attendees to smell and sample.

Starting with a modest Etsy shop in 2015, White-Brown has expanded rapidly over the past four years. Her naturally formulated body products and candles are now sold in over 50 shops in the United States, and one in Canada. She also has a website for the brand which sells directly to customers.

Using essential oils in her products, White-Brown says, “not only helps you smell pretty, but helps you feel good.”

NaturalAnnie Essentials has taken many pivots and turns along the way. Starting out, White-Brown focused on body products formulated with essential oils. But when she introduced candles to her line, the amount of interest she received was unprecedented. Candles now account for more than 80% of the business, she says.

This summer, she was approached by a major whiskey brand to create custom candles for an event they were hosting. The order they placed was one of the biggest she had ever received — but she agreed wholeheartedly, knowing that she could scale up the capacity. “We say yes and then we figure it out,” she advised. In turn, that candle order influenced other brands to reach out with similar requests.

White-Brown’s products are an extension of her natural exuberance. “I like something bold, something fun,” she said. “A lot of brands are into the minimalist look. That’s not us.”

Between raising two daughters and running her business, White-Brown has a lot on her plate. “I try to do the best I can with the time that I have,” she says. She says that when she has a chunk of time to herself to work on the business, she tries to use it as concertedly and effectively as possible. “Whatever distractions, just try to eliminate them as best as possible,” she advises.

White-Brown recommends constantly asking oneself the question: “is what I’m doing right now moving me towards my goal?”

One ingredient of White-Brown’s success has been her tasteful and savvy eye for social media posts. She advises creating an Instagram account that looks like a magazine — and acts as a resume for your brand. In addition, she suggests to create every post with intention, and with a clear audience in mind. “Your tags mean a lot. Your images mean a lot in terms of who you’re trying to reach,” she said.

White-Brown says that one unexpected benefit of her wholesale business is that she enjoys being able to support other women in business. Most of the boutique stores she works with are women-owned, she said.

Staring NaturalAnnie Essentials has presented White-Brown with her fair share of setbacks, but, she encourages “make sure after all the ugly crying, you do pick yourself up.”

Finding the right mentors has been another ingredient of White-Brown’s success as an entrepreneur. At some point, she says, you will fail. But, she advises, “find someone who can encourage you, who can tell you it’s not the end of the world.”

We’re building an ecosystem of women entrepreneurs, innovators, scientists, and creatives at Yale. http://www.weatyale.com

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