Back in October, I interviewed CEO and Fashion Designer, Sharisse Scott-Rawlins, who, I was proud to share, also matriculated with me just this past May from Howard University’s School of Business—both of us receiving our MBA in the process.
And in those late nights of prayer and sweat and tears and coffee binges and shenanigans, our dear friend Sydney Gouani was also along for the ride, as she completed not one but two degrees and still—I’ll never forget—came up with the idea for her company, Revine, based on a problem we could all relate to, while we were all together in class.
What do you do with your unused beauty products?
Y’all know me—I’m always down to try a new beauty product, so the idea spoke to me, especially when it came to hair. How many times have I tried a product that I thought I would love but didn't and then barely used? Admittedly more times than I can count. The natural hair-care journey is just that, a journey, and for those women just embarking upon it, it takes trial and error to determine what products and ingredients and routines your hair likes…and also what you like, to get your curls to pop like your favorite influencers on Instagram and YouTube.
Back during the summer, when she first told me she’d launched her company, I was ecstatic, because again, I remembered exactly what chair and classroom I was sitting in when she voiced the need for her brand. I’m beyond honored to be a witness to her growth and her journey, because her brand has transformed completely from conceptualization to inception and now, execution. Being able to pivot and change with your brand and be flexible even with your own ideas is paramount for an entrepreneur, and Sydney has flowed gracefully with every change—viewing seeming setbacks as divine intervention, and in allowing her path to unfold, has manifested an even greater outcome than even she had initially imagined; the birth of Revine: "Beauty in Your Hands."
Back in October, this article would have read much differently, and Sydney cites change as the only constant when it comes to entrepreneurship. Business is about constantly pivoting; constantly changing to meet the needs and fill the demands of consumers.
After receiving an MSW and MBA from Howard University in December 2019, the sudden impact of Covid-19 affected the job applicant pool even more than anyone could have initially imagined. What started out as a direct path to a career in International Development became one of fortitude and personal development, as plans changed and suddenly, Sydney decided that instead of waiting for positions to open, now was the time to create a job opportunity for herself.
And, when she first set out to pursue this new endeavor, Sydney had been intent on tackling one of the largest issues in the beauty industry—waste.
“Last year,” she said, “I was trying to find a convenient way to either exchange or get rid of some beauty products I had. I tried to look online but I couldn’t find the solution I was looking for. I thought to myself ‘Why hasn’t anyone built this?’ Then a still small voice said to me ‘Why can’t you build it?’ So, I did.”
At the time, though, the demands of a full-time dual-degree program made it much harder to devote the necessary time or energy to build her business or develop this idea.
“I told myself that if no one has taken this idea and the opportunity presents itself I will pick this back up in 2020. So here we are! We have a team helping us build our social media and community platforms. We have been accepted into several accelerators and incubator programs, and we’ve been networking with brands we will be partnering with in the future.”
The birth of an idea
According to Zero Waste Week, more than 120 billion units of packaging are produced globally every year by the cosmetics industry alone—causing both deforestation and pollution. And while beauty brands alike have adopted new policies to promote sustainability in both ingredients and packaging, there is still work to be done to reduce and eliminate waste.
Black women who have transitioned from chemically processed to natural hair have often gone through the “big chop”—the precursor to a hair journey about finding not only the love of oneself within one’s own natural hair, but finding the products that contribute to its maintenance and control. When I first started my natural hair journey, I, like many others, had to find what worked for me, my curl pattern, my hair porosity, etc., and that took months of trial and error.
I honestly can’t tell you how many products I not only purchased, but also didn’t finish.
I honestly still have products like that right now under my counter.
Since we're being honest.
“But, with me being my own target customer,” Sydney said, “I began by focusing on what I care about most.”
And when she first conceptualized her idea, the goal was, quite simply, to recycle.
See, according to “National Geographic,” Americans send 64 tons of waste to landfills during their lifetime. This means that in your lifetime you will send 246 million tons of waste to landfills. And honestly, a number that astronomical is just straight up hard to conceptualize. It’s difficult to picture such a giant pile-up of waste or envision what the effects of that pile will be on our environment.
According to Zero Waste Week, more than 120 billion units of packaging are produced globally every year by the cosmetics industry alone—causing both deforestation and pollution. And while beauty brands alike have adopted new policies to promote sustainability in both ingredients and packaging, there are others, like Revine, that are cropping up to assist us as consumers with eliminating the need to undo the harmful aftereffects of environmental degradation, or the need to recycle unused product in the first place.
While in one of the small business incubator programs she’d participated in over the past summer, Sydney credits a mentor with helping her further develop and streamline her idea. What began as a brand built on recycling products evolved into one that helped better match women to their ideal products, so that what they do buy ends up being used, and what would end up getting tossed, stays on-shelf for someone whose hair the product does, in fact, work for.
“[My mentor] helped me understand what direction I wanted to go in and determine what my next steps were,” said Sydney, whose mentor helped her see that her brand was more than just the idea; it was also about the feasibility of its execution.
“In that program, I had an amazing mentor, and she helped me figure out what I really care about as far as the problem.”
It’s more than just about recycling used products.
The issue at hand, she realized, is two-fold.
The black hair care market is valued at $2.5 billion, and a HuffPost article recently interviewed ten women who broke down their annual spending in both time and money for all that goes into their hair.
“Black women tend to spend the most on beauty products,” said Sydney, as even Nielsen reported that black women spend nine times more than other groups on ethnic-targeted beauty and grooming products. However, what goes unreported is the waste accumulated when “they try something they don’t like, [and the] unused product gets tossed."
And she determined that "part two of the problem,” she continued, “is that they, or we as consumers, tend to have a difficult time pinpointing and finding the best products for them—us.”
The incubator, she said, helped her then decide which part of this problem she can effectively tackle.
“I realized,” she said, “that maybe I can help people find the right products for themselves in the first place so not only are they saving money, they aren’t wasting what they don’t use.”
Now, Revine is being developed to match consumers with their perfect products based on preferences, allergies, and other specifications. The brand has transformed into an online directory for beauty consumers who want to find their ideal beauty products or tools specific to their needs and hair type. Like “Yelp” for beauty products and tools, the website utilizes AI and a community platform to help women streamline their search for products more likely to be suitable for their specific needs.
“It’s a pain-point for me,” Sydney said, who, again, developed this idea out of her own necessity. “The other day I decided I wanted to find a new conditioner that doesn’t have coconut oil, is protein-free, and is black-owned. And I was like, I need to build this thing because I need this!“
Not to mention, in the wake of Covid-19 and stay-at-home mandates increasing e-commerce and limiting our ability to go in-store, more people are forced to shop without having the opportunities to try before they buy.
“Covid has definitely pushed the boundaries for this,” Sydney said, adding that “people are trying to find the most efficient way to even find the best products for them. They’re asking 'What works best for me when I have to do all of my shopping online?'”
I think what’s most exciting to me about Sydney’s journey, is her passion and drive for what she does and the dedication she has for Revine's success.
After a very difficult summer, she is an example of opportunity seen even within darkness—she’s a testament to redirection really being divine intervention, depending on our outlook.
She’s living proof of the reason why certain plans don’t work out the way we had hoped—because we’re destined for something more; something greater.
“More than anything, taking that first step has taught me more than anything else: I’m evolving into a person I like more. I’m more patient, more aware of what I want and don’t want, and more in-tune with myself. I’m more in alignment than ever before and I don’t think I could have reached this point without this journey.”
Another of her biggest takeaways?
Flexibility is key.
For the business owner, it’s important to “[l]earn quickly,” she told me, “and pivot as much as you can if you have to, because what you thought you knew yesterday is different today. So, you’ve got to be flexible.”
Also, it’s okay if not everyone sees the vision, and being comfortable with that is impertinent to success. One person’s opinion shouldn’t derail your mission if you believe strongly in it; a very important message for anyone daring to be brave enough to start a business, or step out of their comfort zone, or go against society's proverbial grain.
For example, Sydney cited a mentor with whom she did office hours within another incubator. While one mentor had helped her grow and streamline her business, the mentor with whom she was matched in this program, she said, did not like her business idea.
“But," Sydney added, "I learned that everybody doesn’t have to be excited about what I’m doing. Everyone doesn’t have to love it. Everybody doesn’t love Uber or Amazon or Facebook, but there are still people who love them. And if I could just find those people for me, I’ll be alright.”
And she will, I’m speaking it. Because I know how helpful this platform could be even for me. It’s so necessary, to be able to consult the opinions of others before having to go through the trial-and-error of finding a product that works. And I am fully in support of the growth and development of Revine Beauty, not only because it’s helping women match with their new favorite products, but it’s helping change the landscape of beauty and its effects on our environment.
It’s a win-win.
I have been blessed to follow Sydney as she’s grown her business from its inception, and I'm even more honored to have grown with her as a friend, so I truly look forward to hearing and seeing more. Rest assured that you will absolutely be receiving more updates as she proceeds. I'm a firm believer in supporting all endeavors. It's so important to follow and uplift each other as we traverse our individual journeys. Through each other, I mean, we can really all succeed.
And, in the meantime, don't forget to recycle.