A new take on the beauty industry.
The beauty industry is often seen as shallow, and it’s not often taken very seriously. One entrepreneur is out to change that stigma and make a difference. Real-estate investor turned beauty entrepreneur Arah Sims brings her passion for purpose to the industry, while empowering people everywhere to explore a new form of self-expression.
”What can I do in the beauty space that speaks to my passion for art as well as my passion for equality.Arah Sims Founder and CEO of Kyütee Beauty
Passion with a Purpose with Arah Sims
Katie Hankinson (00:02):
Hi, I’m Katie Hankinson.
Mickey Cloud (00:04):
And I’m Mickey Cloud. And welcome to Building While Flying, a new podcast from The Sasha Group where we interview business leaders about how they tackle challenges, stay resilient and navigate ever changing status.
Katie Hankinson (00:22):
Well, welcome to this week’s edition of Building While Flying. My guest today is real estate investor turned beauty mogul Arah Sims. She is the founder and CEO of Kyutee Beauty, a trailblazing nail glam brand that aims to empower people by expanding the canvas for self-expression to nails. Welcome to the show, Arah. Now, am I saying your name-
Arah Sims (00:48):
Thanks for having me.
Katie Hankinson (00:49):
I’m saying, I know it’s like Sarah without the S, is how I’m remembering.
Arah Sims (00:53):
Yeah, that’s correct. You got it.
Katie Hankinson (00:57):
It’s exciting to chat to you and I know you’ve got a great origin story. So I was wondering if we could start there, just a little bit of background about what brought you to where you are today setting up Kyutee because I know there’s been some adventures along the way.
Arah Sims (01:11):
Yeah, absolutely. Like I said, my name is Arah Sims or actually like you said, and I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. Grew up here my whole entire life. Went away to college in the Bay. I went to UC Berkeley, and as a lot of people know, UC Berkeley is a very politically charged campus. A lot of the students have a very strong opinion on a multitude of things. I feel that being an activist has always been in my blood. It’s something that I got to explore when I was also in college. After graduating, the market crashed, the real estate bubble burst and myself along with a lot of my fellow graduates, we were all struggling for employment.
Arah Sims (02:00):
We were promised the American dream. Go to college, graduate, get an amazing job, start your family. All of that basically went down the tube. As I moved back in with my family and the type of person I am, I’ve always been entrepreneurial, always been creative, and I was like, “You know what, this isn’t what I was promised. I need to change. I need to find a better way or create a solution that aligns me closer to what I had envisioned upon graduation.” At the time, I started as a property manager and that was the most incredible life hack because again, for those who don’t know, property managers, if you get a good job with a good company, they cover your rent, they cover your utilities, they give you a salary.
Arah Sims (02:46):
I was like, “You know what? This is pretty cool. I’m basically saving money and I am learning about this new industry that I actually didn’t plan on.” I was actually exploring medicine or law when I was in college. But shortly before graduating, I was thinking, “I’ll probably just figure it out later.” Well, working as a property manager, it was a blessing in disguise because although it wasn’t the industry I planned on getting into, I learned a lot about real estate investment and development and I decided to save my money and eventually I became a real estate investor, and fast forward, I purchased a bunch of properties. Then after that, COVID hit, and then I, like the rest of the world, had to pivot. I had to think to myself like, “What now?” That’s a little quick story on what brought me to this point and how I transitioned pretty quickly from real estate investor to beauty. Although I have my hand in real estate still, I now get to explore my passion for beauty.
Katie Hankinson (03:52):
I love that. The potted history, you came from a background where you got your feet wet into activism and got a flavor for that and really recognize it in your blood. Then you also graduated at a time which mirrors where we are now with time and took your career by the reins and jumped into something entirely different, but that helped you get to where you are today. Talk a bit about Kyutee and how some of that early activism maybe now has come to play as well as your love of beauty.
Arah Sims (04:26):
Absolutely. I’ve always been a nail fanatic, especially being an LA girl. When I grew up, my friends and I, we would go to the nail salon and we get our nails done and it was very much a thing, even before it became mainstream and popular culture now where you have a lot of celebrities, like Kylie Jenner or the Kardashians posting nail art, it’s not new and it’s definitely something that in LA or definitely in the African-American community and culture we’ve been practicing for awhile. But even if you go back to the ’80s or ’90s or even before then, it’s definitely been a thing. I’ve always had a passion for nails and when COVID hit, I, again, like a lot of other people, we couldn’t get any access to our self-care routines.
Arah Sims (05:10):
I know a lot of people that were freaking out about getting their hair done, their nails done, facial, just a lot of routines that we participate in a lot of times to distress. At that time I was like, “You know what? I really miss my pamper for routine. I want to get my nails done. What can I do to kind of still access that?” At the time, again, as an entrepreneur, just having a creative mind, I identified an opportunity. I said, “You know what? I really like being creative. I really miss getting my nails done. I’m not alone. I’m seeing it in chat rooms, I’m seeing it in threads. How can I bring this to the masses? Because if I feel this way, I know there’s other people out there that feel this way too.”
Arah Sims (05:52):
Long story short. I kind of merged my passion for nail art with the opportunity to distribute it. So I found a manufacturer that understood my vision and began creating unique designs. But let me stop there because going back to what I said earlier about me having activism in my blood, I just kind of felt like the stars aligned. At the time it was the height of Black Lives Matter. There was a lot of attention. I, as a Black woman felt a call to action. Me just being a purpose-driven person, I just really thought to myself, “What can I do in the beauty space that speaks to my passion for art as well as my passion for equality.” It was at that moment that I had the idea to kind of turn nail art into a vehicle for expression and activism. I came up with the idea to create uniquely branded nails that inspire people to vote.
Arah Sims (07:00):
I reached out to Michelle Obama’s When We All Vote and I presented the idea. At the time they were looking for a lot of companies that could kind of help get the messaging out there. Our company was awarded an official partner-
Katie Hankinson (07:13):
Arah Sims (07:13):
… and that’s kind of… Yeah, that’s basically what happened. And from there, the rest is kind of history.
Katie Hankinson (07:19):
That’s phenomenal. How did it play out and how has that kind of taken the company and how have you continued to build on that initial success with the Kyutee vision?
Arah Sims (07:30):
Yeah, sure. Like I said, I’m really passionate about purpose and I’m very much a purpose-driven person, and anything that speaks to me, I want it to resonate with my customers and I want it to kind of be a core backbone for my company. When I reached out to the When We All Vote team, they… of course, voting at the time was extremely important. The election was one of the most critical moments in history. I just wanted to do my part on a number of levels. I wanted to do my part to help get the message out there to encourage people to vote. What we did was we ended up… our company personally, this wasn’t something that When We All Vote told us to do, but what we did was when we created our unique nail set, we reached out to influencers and ultimately we touched a network of 29 million followers through through our influencer network.
Arah Sims (08:32):
I was just so moved because a lot of these influencers, they didn’t even charge us. They just understood how important the moment was just like we did and they were passionate. I was really inspired by that type of work. It really reinforced the fact that people care about causes. They care about companies that are purpose driven, just like I envisioned having my company behave. How did that translate success for us? Well, we got a lot of notoriety. We got a lot of brand awareness. People really respected what we were doing. And as a result, we had a few influencers reach out to us and want to partner with us. So now we have some collabs coming up for 2021-
Katie Hankinson (09:10):
Arah Sims (09:10):
… and that’s kind of how it set us up for success.
Katie Hankinson (09:13):
That’s fantastic. Now you kind of found this lane in the fact that the product itself is a quick turn, you can be super creative with it, anyone can apply the nails at home. And there’s obviously a real thread in terms of the business model, which can be about collaborations, how do you determine who to collab with and how you stay kind of true to the purpose of Kyutee while also providing a platform for others?
Arah Sims (09:44):
Yeah. That’s a very good question. I think first and foremost, when you’re doing anything in life, you have to be very clear on the direction and the goal. I think for me having been fortunate enough to have a business, I came from another entrepreneurial background with my real estate and having the ability to have that comfort and safety and know how it is to start a business, that gives me the luxury and privilege to kind of, I guess, not be pressed to do things for money or do things that are not in alignment with your passion or your heart or your purpose.
Arah Sims (10:24):
So in answer to your question, first, I need to be clear on what I want to do, and what I want to do is bring value to the world. I want people to have another option for expressing themselves. You’ve got t-shirts, you’ve got hats. Well, nails are very much a part of a lot of people’s beauty routine, and I want people to start thinking of that as another lane for expression, especially when it comes to important items, like politics or other nonprofits, whether it’s cancer society or whether it’s Black Lives Matter. I just want to really bring more value to the beauty space because oftentimes it’s seen as being very shallow. It’s funny, people don’t even take beauty serious a lot of times, like, “Oh, you wear makeup, oh, you’re into beauty. You’re probably not serious.” I feel like that’s not true. I feel like that’s a stigma, and I feel like I just want you to broaden that scope.
Arah Sims (11:17):
That’s what we’re doing. It didn’t answer to your question about how do we choose our collabs. Again, it has to resonate and it has to feel right. There are a lot of people in the world in general who just don’t have the… how can I put it? I feel that the proper sense of direction, or at least the proper sense of direction in comparison to my direction. It’s not like they’re wrong, everybody’s entitled to their own sense of direction. But when I think of my company, our vision, where we’re headed, like I said, to bring value to the world, to educate the world, to bring more awareness to social and political causes, I really want to align our company and brand with other people who are passionate about doing the same thing.
Arah Sims (12:01):
Social media is an amazing opportunity if leveraged correctly. And I feel like when you’re given such a huge audience, it’s a privilege and it’s responsibility and to the best of your ability, because I mean, let’s face it, no, one’s perfect. I just want to do my part to have a more positive impact than negative.
Katie Hankinson (12:20):
We heard a little bit about the idea behind the brand. Talk a bit about specifically about the product and what makes it unique and what’s caused it to take off in such a way.
Arah Sims (12:29):
Sure. So at the top of COVID, as you know, a lot of women couldn’t get their nails done. Not only, that since its inception nail polish itself, it’s been really wet, it stinks, it’s toxic and overall it’s just really an inconvenience, especially as a woman, when you get your nails, you walk around fanning your hands like a chicken because you’re waiting for your nails to dry. So I just kind of thought about it. I said, “There’s got to be a better way, especially during COVID because we can’t get our nails done.” I decided to partner with the manufacturer and create peel and press nail polish. So what we can do is we can create any design in any color and we can manufacture it in peel and press nail polish. So it’s instant, there’s no dry time, there’s no fumes. And it’s something that you can pop in your purse, take with you on the go and you get the same designs that you see at the nail salon for a fraction of the cost.
Katie Hankinson (13:22):
Basically the perfect thing for me, because I always pick off my finger nail polish whenever I get my nails done.
Arah Sims (13:28):
Right. [crosstalk 00:13:28].
Katie Hankinson (13:29):
[crosstalk 00:13:29] to replace them.
Arah Sims (13:31):
Right. Or even me who can’t paint in the lines [crosstalk 00:13:33].
Katie Hankinson (13:33):
Well, there is that too. A friend of mine just paint all over her finger and then picks off the bit that’s not on the nail. That’s my childish attempt too.
Arah Sims (13:44):
Right. It’s a struggle. It’s funny, especially nowadays where I feel like the world wants everything instantly. Who has time to go sit in a nail salon so frequently and spend so much. I mean, I don’t know how it is in your market, but in LA, oh my gosh, it’s so expensive to get a full manicure or nail set and it’s time consuming. I just thought that this was something that really solved a problem and it was really just perfect timing for COVID and even after COVID, because I don’t think that people will stop getting manicures, but I think that this will definitely be a good product to work in to your self care routine, especially in between going to the nail salon.
Katie Hankinson (14:29):
Yeah. I think it scratches a different itch. The idea that… you talked a bit before about self care in this time of pandemic, the stress of not being able to go and have this really lovely moment at the nail salon, that’s still a thing, but there’s also just the functional desire to change it up and have something that’s convenient and quick and you can do in between Zoom calls.
Arah Sims (14:51):
That’s a good call out because again, when you go get your nails done, you’re usually committed to that design or that polish color for the next two weeks until you get your next manicure, but with our products, they take about five minutes to put on, they’re made out of real nail polish, you remove it with acetone. So there’s no change in functionality or ease of use. I would say the only change is the fact that you can mix it up a lot more frequently and have more fun with it.
Katie Hankinson (15:23):
I love it. I need it in my life immediately.
Arah Sims (15:26):
Katie Hankinson (15:27):
You mentioned social and that plays a big part and can be a powerful tool. What are your principal channels? What are you leaning into the most at the moment and most excited about in terms of the social platforms for your own marketing for Kyutee?
Arah Sims (15:41):
Got it. Well, right now I think, like a lot of companies, we’re leaning very heavily into Instagram and Facebook. I mean, that’s just a given and very much a low hanging fruit. And we’re exploring TikTok more and eventually YouTube. Now, my brand is very young. Like I said, I started during COVID. We are under a year. So the majority of the time that I’ve spent has been really on refining the brand, the narrative, planning for 2021. We’re releasing our new spring summer collection late April… well, actually summer collection late April. A lot of the time spent so far has not been so much on social media as much as it has been on developing a very strong foundation and setting the company up for success. For example, I want a program called the TL Effect that ThirdLove produced.
Arah Sims (16:39):
For those that don’t know, ThirdLove is probably the second largest intimate company in the… if not the world, definitely the country, they’re right behind Victoria Secret. But as a result, they’re huge out of Silicon Valley. I had the privilege of getting mentorship directly from the CEO. I was in Forbes as a result. I was in Women’s Wear Daily. I also got access to a lot of the functional departments at the company. So a lot of that was not so much focused on social media as much as it was focused on setting up proper strategy for operations and growth.
Arah Sims (17:15):
Then now we are starting to tackle marketing and being more social. I won a second program which is in combination with, as you know, the social group of Gary Vaynerchuk company, Encantu Beauty. Our focus right now is basically taking my brand to the next level, because I think a lot of people who have shown interest, they see the potential and they see how driven I am and they really want to support. As as a result, I’ve been getting a lot of counseling, a lot of consulting. We decided that our best channels are Instagram, Facebook, and TikToK.
Katie Hankinson (17:58):
I love that you say that because I think it’s such an important thing to lean into. What you were talking before about you are such a young brand and just like when you began in the property business, the foundational thing that really carried you through to the next stage was how much you learned and you really spent time figuring out what you could learn and what you could leverage. It sounds like you’re doing exactly the same thing here, which is building strong foundations so that you’ve got something to build off of, you have enough of an understanding of your own brand, even built it out enough, so that then you can pivot fast, jump into new platforms, do all the things which are a little bit more flex and forward motion related from a place of solidity.
Arah Sims (18:49):
Absolutely. I think as an entrepreneur, one thing I’ve learned is being an entrepreneur is a skillset that you can literally wash, rinse, repeat if you figure it out. It really doesn’t matter the industry, the process is the same. I think entrepreneurs inherently are very creative. We love to learn. We love to deconstruct and construct, and that type of mindset is something that will really carry you through life because it definitely subscribes to the… what does that old adage? Something like, teach a man to fish and you’ll feed him for life versus just give a man a fish.
Arah Sims (19:23):
I definitely believe in learning how to fish and not only that, fishing the best. I want to be the best fish fisherman. And I want to always empower myself with the tools and knowledge to… I don’t want to say never need other people’s help because, in business you always need a team and if you’re going to be successful, your team is very important. But I do understand that there’s two components to business: sweat equity and financial, and as much sweat equity as I can put in myself, I’m happy to do because the payoff is worth it.
Katie Hankinson (19:57):
I love that. I also think you’ve been smart in terms of surrounding yourself with mentors, right? I mean, some of these are from organized programs, obviously. Congratulations on both the ThirdLove andd of course the Cantu-Sasha mentorship.
Arah Sims (20:12):
Katie Hankinson (20:13):
What would you say is the biggest advantage to finding whether it’s an accelerator or an official mentor or just someone to bounce ideas off in your eyes? What have you got the most out of some of these mentorships?
Arah Sims (20:28):
I think just that, someone to bounce ideas off. One thing about me, it’s funny, I never knew I was going to be a real estate investor. I never knew that I was going to be in the beauty space or e-commerce space. I didn’t have any formal training. I didn’t have anyone to talk to about that. I had no clue. But hindsight being 2020, it is kind of ironic because when I look back on my life, I do see how there were opportunities in the past for me to maybe have been in fashion. I was accepted to Parsons when I was in college. I see hints of life maybe throwing hints to me. But I think that, yeah, just having someone to bounce ideas off of, because I was not formally trained. I had to teach myself everything.
Arah Sims (21:11):
When I had this idea last year at the top of COVID to explore my passion and be a little active, do you what I mean, I never knew that I would have to then turn this company into something this big. I didn’t know that I was going to build out a full fledged brand. I had to teach myself seasons. I had to teach myself design, color theory. I mean, from the ground up, I literally had to teach myself everything. Having a team of mentors who are in the beauty industry, for example, I was also awarded mentee status in the prestigious Beauty United program. And that is a network of all of the major players in the beauty industry. I mean, they even had the heir to… what’s the company? Oh, it’s escaping me right now.
Arah Sims (22:03):
But beauty con for example, [Moshe 00:22:05], she was a founder. Estee Lauder, the air to Estee Lauder was one of the mentors. [Kumali 00:22:10] Simmons, Gwyneth Paltrow. The Kardashians.
Katie Hankinson (22:14):
No joke. No joke.
Arah Sims (22:15):
Yeah. This is like the elite of the elite in the beauty industry. When we have access to people like that or like shout out to my amazing mentor, Bianca Glory, who formerly worked at Lime Crime. Just having the ability to talk to them, run a quick question by them, float an idea that you may think is crazy, but they’ve seen a million times, that’s invaluable. That’s priceless.
Katie Hankinson (22:41):
Yeah. And also, it gives you speed, I think as well.
Arah Sims (22:46):
Katie Hankinson (22:48):
One of the big things about… you may be in the early stages, but obviously these things aren’t always a perfect up until the right trajectory. What have been some of the most challenging moments of this, building of Kyutee in the last year or so that you’ve been going? Less than a year.
Arah Sims (23:06):
To be honest, again, I’m a very optimistic person, I would honestly say… and I’m very experienced in entrepreneurship. I would say this is probably one of the smoothest rides and it’s crazy because it happened during pandemic when all the odds were against me. I mean, people were losing their jobs. Look, to be quite honest, I had some tenants who couldn’t afford rent, so it’s not everything was perfect in my life at the time either. Everybody was heavily impacted. But amidst it all, I am still blown away by how my company has taken off and how I have thrived despite that, because… I don’t know… things have just gone well.
Arah Sims (23:49):
Apart from the normal mishap, like maybe a manufacturer gives you the wrong quote or they’re running a little far behind, I mean, that’s really normal and natural, but ultimately we’re thriving, we’re profitable, we’re aligning with a lot of great people. A lot of brands are taking notice. We’ve had some major beauty supply chains and retailers reach out to us, the biggest ones actually.
Katie Hankinson (24:12):
Arah Sims (24:13):
Yeah. It’s been a complete blessing and I’m grateful for it. I think I’m walking in my path and that’s maybe why things are in alignment and going so smoothly, knock on wood.
Katie Hankinson (24:24):
That’s so fantastic to hear. It’s so interesting. Exactly, you just say it, you’re walking on… it is a sign that things are moving in the direction they should be because it’s falling into place. It makes me think of your own… to use the ongoing flying analogy, you’re on a glide path.
Arah Sims (24:41):
Yeah. Again, in business, it doesn’t always go that way. like I’ve had way more bumps and bruises in other ventures and things were not as smooth at all. I just mean horror stories. I like in my current journey to catching a breeze in your sail. Sometimes as the entrepreneur, you’re out there in the ocean, the middle of nowhere and you don’t see land. You’re paddling your boat. You don’t know if you’re heading the right direction. sometimes you feel like you’re going against a current and then sometimes you’re just stagnated. You’re just still and you’re so frustrated because you just feel like you just want to catch a break. Whenever life is moving in your favor, I always liken that to catching a wind in your sail. And you got to maximize that, you got to do everything you can to ride that moment because life is up and down and it is the ebb and flow, and you’re not entitled to ease. You’re just not.
Arah Sims (25:39):
So whenever ease comes your way, really be grateful for it and really maximize that moment as much as possible because it will ebb and flow and there will come another moment when things are challenging and then it’s not in your power. So that’s kind of how I look at it.
Katie Hankinson (25:56):
We talked a bit about this at the beginning and the last time you and I spoke, about some of the stats today, right? You’re a Black female entrepreneur. You are actually… I was reading pre pandemic, there were actually some incredible stats, which say, there were reports in the US that women of color were starting businesses at a faster rate than any other group, [inaudible 00:26:19] of awesome. But then we also look at the fact that the pandemic itself has also impacted women and women of color disproportionately. When you think about your role as potential role model, but also kind of up and coming Black female entrepreneur leader, what are your thoughts on the space, your projections of where things are going, are you feeling optimistic, where’s your head at in terms of what’s going on with the space now?
Arah Sims (26:49):
In answer to your question, I’m feeling… I’m always an optimistic person, but I’m also very much a realistic person. You know what I mean? I feel like the work needs to be done. I’m going to always do my part. You know what I mean? I’m not the type who is much of a follower, so it’s very well possible that it’s a trend right now. It’s a trend because last year when the world’s shut down, I feel like the things that were happening, that’s not new. That’s stuff that a lot of people have experienced. I’ve experienced racism. Every Black person that I know, we have private conversations all the time about when’s the first time you were called a slur. I mean, it’s just such common practice and it’s so second nature to us. It’s not new.
Arah Sims (27:38):
However, it was very new to the world, I feel because the world slowed down and it gave everybody an opportunity to start paying attention. We’re so distracted by phones, media, and I get it. I felt like people were called back into focus. I say all that to say, I have always been very present to what Black people need to thrive in society, and it’s always been equality. I think that’s always been the the call to action, but I think that when everyone was not working and distracted, people had more time and attention to dedicate towards maybe calling more action to propelling those types of causes ahead.
Arah Sims (28:22):
But again, the world’s starting to open back up. I feel like hopefully people won’t lose sight of what’s important, but at the same time being realistic. Going back, that’s the optimism in me. Hopefully people won’t forget. But being realistic. Companies, that’s all they do, is spend money on vying for people’s time and attention. It’s only natural that time and attention will deviate even from important causes.
Arah Sims (28:48):
Long story short, that’s why I’m making it my personal mission to not lose sight of that because it’s something that’s so dear to me in my personal experience as a Black woman in America.
Katie Hankinson (29:00):
It’s such a good point. I think it’s part of the conversation right now about the idea that these things… it’s a bit like the gun violence that’s conversation that’s happening now. When it’s in the news, everyone’s suddenly focused on it. Everyone leaps on it. The fear is that the momentum moves away or the big focus, flashlight of attention moves away. And so exactly to your point, the work needs to be done to maintain the conversation, maintain the highlighting of stories, both positive and negative in the space.
Katie Hankinson (29:37):
I also think the other thing I think is so interesting, I interviewed an amazing business leader, Kathleen Griffith for an episode the other day. She made the point about… this is about women more broadly, that quite often, those groups who have been for one reason or another over looked in certain aspects of business, have sometimes found ways to ideate and innovate despite, and almost sometimes because of the constraints. This is my optimism speaking. But I read this study about the idea of women who are described as necessity entrepreneurs, who almost are forced to innovate and step outside of the expected routes to success because they haven’t been included in those previous equations.
Katie Hankinson (30:28):
This idea that in some ways, it’s not surprising that statistic was showing that women of color were starting business at a faster rate than anyone else, because frankly they had to take the bull by the horns and step aside from a system that was overlooking them. The only way to do that was take leadership and just do it themselves. I liked the idea that hopefully in some ways the pandemic and the constraints here create the conditions for more people to be entrepreneurs out of necessity. But in balance, there’s also people deliberately creating the conditions to foster different types of groups of entrepreneurs that aren’t all white men.
Arah Sims (31:09):
Yeah. It’s funny that you say it, because I definitely subscribe to that theory. Even if you look at Darwinism, survival of the fittest, at the end of the day, if the goal of a species is to thrive and survive, then you’re going to do what it takes to do that. It also reminds me of pressure causes diamonds. I literally think that’s what it is. People don’t have a choice a lot of times when you’re a person of color. If you’re trying to survive, you get creative. You figure out ways to stretch a dollar and take shortcuts because it’s a necessity, you have to, you have to compete to thrive. You will identify those opportunities that a lot of people that are privileged will overlook because they have the comfort and convenience to do so. I completely agree with that. I definitely subscribe to that. And I think that that’s the irony in being oppressed. Do you know what I mean? You’re under pressure, but pressure also can make you very adaptable. That actually is a skillset and an advantage if you look at it that way.
Katie Hankinson (32:13):
Yeah. I completely agree. Let’s have a little final look at what’s ahead. You mentioned that the summer collection is about to come out. What are you most excited about in what the next year or so has to bring for Kyutee and your ventures moving forward?
Arah Sims (32:32):
Thank you. I am very excited about what’s about to come forth from this Cantu and Gary B program that I’m in. There’s a lot of exciting things. Going into the program, I already had a collab with a celebrity influencer who I can’t say the name yet, but I will say that we’re fans of RuPaul’s Drag Race. I’ll just say that. We’re very much fans of that show as a brand. Okay. But-
Katie Hankinson (33:02):
Are we getting a scoop? Is this a scoop?
Arah Sims (33:05):
Katie Hankinson (33:06):
Arah Sims (33:06):
I guess it is [crosstalk 00:33:08] here here first. I’m just going to dropping a little hint, not digging in too deeply, but I will say that I’m very excited for the collab that we have. That’s going to come out later in the year. I’ve met some amazing people, like I said, that are doing amazing things in the space of making a difference. Later in the year, I think we might do some stuff around domestic violence. I have a couple of people that have expressed interest in doing a collab around that, and I feel that’s a very important topic to cover and bring awareness to.
Arah Sims (33:44):
That’s kind of what we’re doing. We definitely don’t only focus on serious causes, because at the end of the day, beauty is about being creativity, having fun and expressing yourself largely. But I do think that people can look forward to always having and seeing a hint of realness or hint of purpose in our brand as the backbone and core of anything we do.
Katie Hankinson (34:13):
I think just being at the core of representing expression is just such a lovely place for the brand. I think it’s wonderful.
Arah Sims (34:23):
Katie Hankinson (34:24):
My final question is just about the name of our podcast. The whole ethos behind it, why we are called Building While Flying is this idea of being able to stay the course while you’re still constructing, you’re building your company around you. What is your checklist, if you like, what’s Arah’s toolkit for making sure that you can flex whilst building while flying?
Arah Sims (34:52):
That is a good question. But I will say, I love the name of this podcast. Even when you first reached out to me, I told you that is the epitome of every entrepreneur’s journey. We are literally figuring out this as we’re going. I just imagine a plane that’s headed down the runway and we’re still screwing in nuts and the bolts and we’re grabbing metal like, “Put it on the rotor.” You what I mean? I just feel like it’s so accurate.
Arah Sims (35:19):
When I reflect on that, when I think of my toolkit, the things that come to mind immediately, kiss sleep goodbye. When you’re building a company, I don’t have any children, but I imagine this is very close to what it might be to I have a child because this is what I think about every day, night. I wake up in the middle of the night to jot down notes or to talk to people that I’m teaming up with overseas. Anytime there’s a little problem, I panic, I’m on it. I’m obsessed with my business and I’m obsessed with hacking and figuring out how to make it the best company possible for customers and anybody who believes in our brand. I would definitely say kiss sleek goodbye because when you’re basically tending to your company, your company will dictate your schedule. That’s the first thing.
Arah Sims (36:19):
The second thing that comes to mind is network. Previously in the real estate investment space, I’m often an introvert, funny enough. I know people find that hard to believe, but I am, and I found it very easy to build that company on just my back. You know what I mean? I didn’t need a lot of people. I would go out, find my deals. I would have an agent and then I would have my own property management team because I had the experience and I was able to sustain that on my own. But this is the first time I’m building a major company where other departments are integral, like a design team, a marketing team, a social team, a merchandise, you know what I mean? I have to call upon a team.
Arah Sims (37:01):
When you’re networking, you meet lots of people who can help you and vice versa. I am so happy to extend help and advice to people who are looking to embark on the same journey, because it’s hard. But with the right support system, it’s very much doable. It’s very much exciting and thrilling. It’s something that’s very gratifying. I think entrepreneurship is probably the most gratifying career anybody can embark on because it touches on everything.
Katie Hankinson (37:31):
Arah Sims (37:32):
Yes. Those are two things that I would say are in my toolkit.
Katie Hankinson (37:35):
I love it. Well, thank you so much for joining me. It’s been such a pleasure having you on the show. I really appreciate the time.
Arah Sims (37:43):
Thank you. It was great. I’ve done a few other podcasts, and this was definitely one of the most fun ones.
Katie Hankinson (37:50):
Oh, that’s what I like to hear.
Arah Sims (37:53):
Well, now that we’ve finished that thoroughly interesting interview, we’re getting ready to land, but before we do, Mickey and I spent some time unpacking some of the key takeaways that really stuck out to us.
Mickey Cloud (38:05):
We liken this to the post game show where we break down the really extraordinary nuggets that we can all benefit from, including us here at The Sasha Group. Get ready for it. The Sasha Sidebar.
Mickey Cloud (38:22):
Katie, what an awesome conversation with Arah.
Katie Hankinson (38:25):
She is awesome. And what a great company. I need to immediately get myself some Kyutee Beauty nail.
Mickey Cloud (38:32):
A, a young company, right? She’s nine, 10 months into this thing, and I think from a pure product perspective, it makes… I thought it was just really interesting the way she kind of created this grab and go product in a world where people couldn’t go to salons in the pandemic, and maybe they’re slow to coming back instead of approach the nail category from a little bit different perspective, but then also turning nail art into a vehicle for activism obviously, and having the brand stand for expression. I just thought it was a really original starting place.
Katie Hankinson (39:06):
Yeah. I was really glad that she not only explained how the product was differentiated and interesting and unique, and then also just how she had stepped into this space and built out that broader sense of women, particularly in the African-American community, have often… nails have been a big part of expression and personal style and sort of carrying that through, but kind of more broadly owning this conversation around expression and then taking that into activism, I thought was amazing.
Katie Hankinson (39:39):
I also think there’s an interesting aspect about the slightly different needs state that you touched on there. It is different to going to the salon, but it scratches a different itch. In that regard, she’s almost cornering a new piece of the market, which has huge opportunity for her. She was able to move fast [crosstalk 00:40:01].
Mickey Cloud (40:01):
Yeah. No, the product is unique. To your point, it’s not for the decompression time at the salon, it’s for like, “Hey, I want to make sure that my voice is being heard through my nail art.”
Katie Hankinson (40:16):
I know that a bit more about… Arah I mentioned a couple of the mentor programs that she had both won places on or been lucky enough to participate in. And one of them is the Cantu and Sasha group program. Do you want to talk a bit about that?
Mickey Cloud (40:35):
Yeah. PDC has been a long time client of The Sasha Group and VaynerX and we’ve done some just awesome work together over really five, six years. Cantu is their beauty brand that is built specifically for textured hair and skincare, which primarily serves the Black and Latino community. In the wake of last summer, as a team had some internal discussions saying, “How can we help? What can we do to add value in this world?” And so we kind of pitched to Cantu, our clients, saying, “What if we created a program, a mentorship program where we offered seminars and some of the work that we know really well, which is branding and social digital media to Black owned businesses?” Our clients, to their credit, loved it, took it and said, “Let’s add in our PR partner Reddish.” And they’re going to add a PR component to it and we’ll put up funds.
Mickey Cloud (41:31):
What we said to do with the funds is, “All right, we’re going to have these seminars.” Over 100 organizations joined seminars we did on branding, on digital and social media and PR, and it was all Black owned businesses from across the globe. We had people all over the world kind of tuning in for the seminars. And then we said, “We’ll do a further kind of extension for specific brands and businesses that they’ve got to apply for. And there’s some money attached to that that will go towards Black owned production companies, black owned e-commerce agencies, Black owned agencies that can execute that work that we just talked to them about.”
Mickey Cloud (42:12):
We’re trying to take as many kind of bites of the apple at this. For the companies, it’s about capability building and about how can they utilize these different channels to their best advantage. And then for a select few, Arah, being the first one, we will then put campaign work out into the world. But that campaign work is not going to be done by us. It’s going to be done by Black owned agency businesses. Elizabeth Kate’s on our team, dreamed up the idea and she pitched it in, and to PDC and Cantu’s credit, they were in from the first time we mentioned it to them. And it’s something that we want to grow and build and have this be an annual thing that we do.
Katie Hankinson (42:53):
I think that last point that you made, Mickey, is so important and real good on the PDC, Cantu teams for building something that’s not just reactive in the short term, which is actually what Arah was talking about, kind of there’s momentum in the moment, it’s in the news, but actually building something that has the foundations to be an ongoing program and continue to build from there, and hopefully with measurable results. We can actually see how those impacts will play out for those businesses. That’s awesome.
Mickey Cloud (43:25):
Yeah. And then the other thing I think that…. the last thing that kind of really stood out was just that Arah seemed to have a lot going for her. You know what I mean? She talked about like, “Yeah, right now things are going well. And so I want to just keep that momentum going.” It’s sometimes nice to recognize that when things are working, stay in that moment.
Katie Hankinson (43:45):
Hell yeah. She did make it seem so easy, but then also in the same breath acknowledge that it doesn’t always go in this kind of like smooth sailing way, but when the winds in your sails, keep it there. A glide path. I’m really excited to see what the next iteration will be. I think we’ll keep an eye out for the summer collection. And I think there’s going to be some really interesting partnerships.[crosstalk 00:44:11].
Mickey Cloud (44:10):
Yes. You got her to almost give away her big launch secret for her new class.
Katie Hankinson (44:16):
I want to a scoop. I need a scoop.
Mickey Cloud (44:17):
But I do think that that collab kind of model is a really fascinating one and it’s definitely going to be fun to watch. So maybe that’s our question. Who do you want Kyutee Beauty Beauty to collaborate with on future product lines?
Katie Hankinson (44:30):
Oh, I love that.
Mickey Cloud (44:32):
Thanks for joining us gan and for building while flying with The Sasha group today. I hope you learned as much as we did. We’ll meet you right back here next time for another flight.
Mickey Cloud (44:44):
If you’d like to hear more about how business owners and brands are navigating these times, tune into the next episode. And if you’re so kind, please rate and review us. Plus we’d love feedback. So let us know what you think, what you’d like us to dig into next on building while flying across brands, businesses, marketing, and more.
Katie Hankinson (44:58):
Original music by Fulton street usci
Katie Hankinson (45:00):
Welcome to Building While Flying!
This weekly podcast is brought to you by Sasha Group. We’re the consultancy meets agency arm of the VaynerX family of companies. We help ambitious companies build strong brands that flex with the times through strategy, branding media and marketing.
In ever-changing times, businesses and brands have to shift and adapt. And across all sectors, there is an air of experimentation. Business owners are trying new things out in the wild; building the plane while flying.
Our pilots, Katie Hankinson and Mickey Cloud, will be talking to a diverse range of business leaders and founders. They’ll explore how these guests tackle various challenges while staying resilient and committed to growth. Through these real-life examples of strategies put into practice, we hope to inspire you to experiment and develop your own strategies as we all navigate these uncertain times together.
Arah Sims is turning something she grew up with—nail art—into a vehicle for self-expression and activism.
Arah began her entrepreneurial journey in real estate and property management after college. Then when COVID-19 hit in 2020, she, like the rest of the world, had to pivot. After realizing how much she and others missed their self-care routines, Kyutee Beauty was born. Kyutee is a trail-blazing beauty brand that inspires and empowers people to expand the canvas of self-expression to their nails.
In her conversation with Katie, Arah shares each step of her journey thus far. She talks about the initial support from Michelle Obama’s When We All Vote organization and early influencer partnerships, and how those opportunities set Kyutee up for later success. Arah stresses the importance of “passion with a purpose” and emphasizes her desire to do her part to share her message with people across the country. Arah also discusses the importance of mentorship, especially for Black female entrepreneurs, and how having support systems and sounding boards make a difference in her business and life.
Other in-flight topics:
- Real estate investment
- Identifying opportunities during hard times
- Working with influencers and partners that align with your goals
- Developing a strong foundation for young brands
- The entrepreneurship skill set
- Importance of mentorship as entrepreneurs
- Role as a mentor for fellow Black female entrepreneurs
- Entrepreneurship out of necessity