Brand Differentiation: Standing Out In a Saturated Market
What happens when “beauty meets wisdom,” asks Aishetu Fatima Dozie?
A couple of years ago, she decided to find out.
On International Women’s Day in 2019, Aishetu became the founder and CEO of Bossy Cosmetics – a beauty startup specializing in cruelty-free makeup products for ambitious women.
A few months later, the Ivy League-educated business owner had a chance meeting with a bestselling author on Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center’s Milestone Makers mentorship program.
The meeting was serendipitous.
The author, Kathryn Rose, is the founder of wiseHer – a technology platform providing on-demand expert advice from executives, coaches and mentors to help women go further and faster in their businesses and careers.
“I was struck by wiseHer’s mission to propel women further and faster,” says Aishetu. “I talked to customers and it turned out that many women were looking for avenues to either up-skill or accelerate progress on the paths they were on.”
The intersection of Aishetu’s beauty brand and Kathryn’s knowledge circle created Bossy Cosmetics version 2.0.
Competing with market leaders
The global beauty market has long been a saturated one.
Nowadays, the $500bn-a-year beauty industry is the domain of legacy beauty companies, A-list celebrities, social media influencers, and the like.
So, in order for any company, let alone a startup, to compete with the cosmetics juggernauts, standing out from its rivals isn’t a luxury, but a necessity.
By pairing ethical beauty products with empowering business consultations, Aishetu believes Bossy Cosmetics is doing just that.
She describes her company as “a women’s empowerment and mission-driven business that masquerades as a beauty company.” Its mission statement is a simple one: “empowering women to look, feel, and do good.”
The direct-to-consumer beauty startup, which operates out of Palo Alto, California, also has a philanthropic arm.
A proportion of every sale is donated to “non-profit organizations that actively promote social change and advance the human rights of women and girls around the world.”
Going from local to global
Last year, Aishetu participated in the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center's Mentorship Circle program for 12 early-stage Black founders and entrepreneurs. From the outset, she made her intentions clear to her mentors: she wanted Bossy Cosmetics to go global and reach $1 million in sales.
Although the ambitious founder firmly believes she has discovered a point of brand differentiation from other beauty companies, she admits that “going global” isn’t the right move for her company – not yet anyway.
“Scaling internationally is definitely still an aspiration of mine but, on the program, I found out that we’re not quite ready for that,” says Aishetu.
“There’s still so much to get right in the U.S. in terms of laying the proper foundation, such as order fulfillment, warehousing and all those critical things you don’t think about when your company is small but, as it grows, they’re really important for getting customer service right.”
While her international expansion plans are on hold, Aishetu is focused on building the Bossy Cosmetics community.
“I’ve learned that it’s a never-ending process,” she says.
“Especially now that everybody is glued to a digital device, you need to put in the work to explain to people why this community is important, why it’s different and create something ‘sticky’ that makes people want to come together.”
Sharing lived experiences
Having graduated from the Milestone Makers program in the Fall of 2019, Aishetu describes the Mentorship Circle program as “a lot more intimate.”
“It was about bringing people together based on their shared identity, which is that we’re all Black founders,” she says.
“From the outside, someone could legitimately say, ‘That looks pretty tribal. What’s the point of bringing everybody together based on race?’
“But when you’re in the U.S. and trying to fundraise as a Black entrepreneur, you begin to understand that, irrespective of the industry you’re in, there are lots of similarities that you’ll experience as a founder in fundraising, going out into the marketplace, positioning yourself and selling your story.
“There’s a lot that brings you together just by the mere fact of your race. There were a lot of shared experiences across the cohort of entrepreneurs that didn’t necessarily exist in the Milestone Makers experience. There’s something really beautiful about feeling that you’re seen.”
In the months since completing the program, Aishetu has experienced an incredible run of back-to-back wins. She has been a guest on two popular podcasts: the NPR-produced ‘How I Built This’ about “innovators, entrepreneurs, idealists and the stories behind the movements they built” and Vistaprint’s ‘Small Business Stories’ podcast where entrepreneurs share their goals and challenges. In September last year, Aishetu was appointed as a board member at Altimeter Growth Corp, a publicly-traded special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) focused on the tech sector.
Shortly, she will also be announcing a brand partnership with a major TV shopping network. As a result, Bossy Cosmetics is going from strength to strength.
Aishetu has some advice to founders and entrepreneurs who want to sign-up for a mentorship program.
“I’m a huge Simon Sinek fan. So, firstly, know your ‘why.’ Understand why you want this experience,” she says.
“Secondly, be intentional about what you want out of the mentoring relationship and make sure you’re dedicated to getting the most out of it.
“Thirdly, invest in the group of people there. Get to know them. Their relationships are important.
“Fourthly, VC investment is a great path, but it isn’t the only one. For example, do you want debt for inventory? Working capital loans?
“Lastly, be open and honest with yourself. Be introspective and discuss your thoughts.”
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.