In this series, we connect with a diverse group of small business owners across the country to hear their stories – from overcoming hardship to the achievements that have allowed them to grow. There is no doubt that this past year has been a challenging time for the industry, and through elevating their voices we aim to provide advice, support and inspiration for small businesses everywhere. More resources like our Community Business Directory can be found here.
This month, we are highlighting women business owners. Today we are speaking with Aishetu Fatima Dozie, founder of Bossy Cosmetics Inc.
Tell us about you and your business -- what led you here?
I have always described myself as a "lipstick junkie" and never imagined that I’d start a global beauty brand when I started my career in finance over 20 years ago. I worked for several years as an investment banker and finance executive in the US, UK, Central and South America, and Sub-Saharan Africa.
I’ve always believed that women could and should strive for career heights on their own terms and wearing beautiful lipsticks was one of my signature ways of showing up as I navigated the tricky terrain of advancing in a male-dominated profession. I often characterize my lipstick looks as my superpower ingredient that boosts my confidence throughout my career journey of battling imposter syndrome.
As I worked my way up the ladder and achieved a considerable amount of success, I was diagnosed with severe hypertension and felt completely burned out. This was a wake-up call for me and it made me look critically at how I defined success and whether my life goals needed to be redesigned. I moved to California, took a one year sabbatical, and came across a singular insight- that legacy beauty companies were product-driven and they only cared about how women looked. I dreamed of creating a beloved brand that cared about how women felt starting from the inside and then moving outward. I thought it appeared to be a subtle difference but it made all the difference in the world to women whose ambitions could be ignited by their beauty provider.
That’s how Bossy came to be.
How do you differentiate Bossy Cosmetics in a crowded market?
We aren’t the same at all. If you look at us as a cosmetics company, then I guess this question is applicable. However, I often characterize us as a women’s empowerment, mission-driven company that masquerades as a beauty brand. No one does that and so we aren’t in a crowded space in that sense.
What has been your biggest success to date?
Every day that I sell products to someone that I do not know personally is a big success. I am so deeply honored that women have taken to the brand and love our products, ethos, content, and services. Every day that we get to continue to operate, especially in these times, is a massive success in my book.
What challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them?
It’s been hard not having access to a ton of capital. I’ve had to learn the hard way and experience every mistake there is. I am still learning and I believe there will still be mistakes made but lack of resources amplifies the effect of mistakes. It’s been lonely, at times, building a company on my own. Sometimes you wish you had a team of folks who you could bounce ideas off of.
What advice would you give other aspiring entrepreneurs who are thinking about starting a business in your industry?
It’s hard. Don’t be fooled by imagery on social media. There is real, hard work going on behind the scenes. It’s fun though! Make sure you spend time getting to know your customers. They are the people who will make or break you. Appreciate them, celebrate them, and understand their needs and challenges. It’s hard but it is doable.
Who has inspired you along your journey?
So many people have inspired me for different reasons and in different ways. Oprah is a great inspiration and she shows that anything is possible for anyone who is hardworking and dogged. Beyonce inspires me because her creative and work ethic are peerless. I am inspired by certain parts of Elon Musk’s journey particularly the aspect of seeing the future and going all in in spite of massive doubt. Finally, I am inspired by my mother who raised me as a single mother until she remarried when I was a young teen.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo
Essentialism - The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown
This article was written in partnership with wiseHer - a technology platform that provides on-demand expert advice for small businesses and women to accelerate their business or career.
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