"Be prepared to fail. A LOT. — You will fail a little bit every day. Something is always going wrong. There is always a fire to put out. There is always something that needs to pivot. Get comfortable with the fact things will not go exactly to plan. If you suffer from perfectionism as I do, starting a business is your greatest trigger while also being the best cure."
I had the pleasure of interviewing Tianna, Solange and Annette Bell, founders of Belle Bar Organic. Belle Bar Organic was created by a mother and her two daughters. Tianna, Annette, and Solange Bell have always had an obsession with skin & hair and using natural ingredients. As black women, they have decided to build a beauty brand that makes green beauty accessible to women of color. Belle Bar has become their ultimate passion. It has become so much more than just beauty products. It has become a way for them to help women of color take care of themselves in a safe way as well as increase their self-esteem.
Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
This business was created by the three of us. There isn’t one specific story of what got us to this point. If anything it was the universe that had us all at the same place in our lives. Unhappy with what we did for a living, ready to take a risk and bet on ourselves and nothing to lose. It was a conversation in the family living room over wine almost three years ago that sparked this all. Turning out to be the best glass of wine we ever had.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
There have been so many interesting things that have happened since we started the business. One major highlight was having a booth at a natural hair festival this summer. Now we have participated in many festivals but this one was different. For the first time we were MOBBED. The line was 10 people deep, 3 across for the entire event. We also heard people get excited when they saw our booth because they were looking for us. By the end of that 7-hour festival, we had served over 700 women. It was then we really realized this had become bigger than us.
Can you share three reasons with our readers about why it’s really important for a business to have a diverse executive team?
1. Great ideas can come from everywhere. You really are limiting your potential if you only expose yourself to one type of person
2. You know all those “heartfelt apologies” corporations have to give after they do something offensively? Diversity helps you not make those mistakes. Diversity actually saves you money.
3. The world is changing where people in power like it or not. Having a team that is not diverse will make you look like a company that is not a thought leader.
More broadly can you describe how this can have an effect on our culture?
If everyone has a “seat at the table”, then we can create products and companies that are truly effective and truly matter.
Can you recommend three things the community/society/the industry can do help address the root of the diversity issues in executive leadership?
1. Allow members of marginalized societies to succeed. Let them join the C suite, the networking spaces, the decision-making rooms etc. We need to be in the room so our voice can be heard.
2. Invest resources in creating access to education and opportunities for those in marginalized communities. Not handouts, true access. Mentors, programs that have paths to success, funding etc..
3. Rebuilding our educational system. Our current system is not set up for success in today’s world. We need to teach all of the youth, not just the advantaged ones what it is to dream, lead and execute.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Leadership is being the captain. It’s also being the one that hands out tough love. It’s being the one crafting the vision and helping the team members achieve success. It’s keeping everyone accountable and maintaining the culture. It’s accepting the credit for the losses as yours and sharing the credit of the wins with everyone. It’s a never-ending journey.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. Price your products properly — Do you research on how much things actually cost and that includes building a team. Then add another 25% on top of that. Fighting with your margins is an ongoing battle. I know it’s scary to have a high sticker price. It’s even scarier to have to keep raising your prices to pay your bills.
2. There are no “right” answers — There are better answers and smarter answers. But “right” is relative. There are so many nuances to each decision all you can ever do is make the best decision you have with the information you have at the time. But please, get accurate information based on data and guidance. No one else knows what they are doing either.
3. Be prepared to fail. A LOT. — You will fail a little bit every day. Something is always going wrong. There is always a fire to put out. There is always something that needs to pivot. Get comfortable with the fact things will not go exactly to plan. If you suffer from perfectionism as I do, starting a business is your greatest trigger while also being the best cure.
4. It really will require Blood, Sweat and Tears. You will stay up all night, you will have fights with your partners, you will have days when you look at the bank account and wonder how you are making payroll. You will cry ( A LOT). Starting a business requires everything. The cost is high but so is the reward.
5. The FIVE WHY’S — figure out who you are ( brand kit), what you sell ( product and price positioning, where you sell ( distribution model), who you sell it to ( target customer), and why they should choose you ( marketing strategy). Figure all those things out before you create one logo or buy one business card. Those FIVE WHY’s are the BUSINESS.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Schools based around entrepreneurship for children. Teach everyone responsibility, creativity and risk-taking from young. They will be in a much better place to craft a life of their dreams when they are older. Imagine a world where everyone can dream, execute and bring about change. We would be in a much better place.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I have many favorites but one of my top favorites is “To take the island you have to burn the boats” — Tony Robbins. Sometimes in life, the only way to truly take a risk is to get rid of your options. You would be surprised how much you can accomplish if you have no choice.
Our business was built on an island with no boats. We bootstrapped, with no funding in sight, no other career options in sight, and a family to take care of. Lack of options drove us to success.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)
There are quite a few people but lately, I have been calling on the universe to bring to life a mentorship with Lisa Price, the founder of Carol’s Daughter. We have so many similarities on how we started, we are fellow Brooklynites, and I also had a chance to meet her at The Wing and she was lovely and encouraging. She said to me “ People will come after you and do what you are doing better and make more money, but don’t worry about that. Your role is to teach. Your role is to lead” That stayed with me. I feel even lunch with her would be so beneficial and empowering.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can find us @bellebarorganic on all social media platforms. Well except Twitter. We aren’t big talkers lol.