I LOVE women’s empowerment. I also love makeup. So, of course, I had to create a business plan that incorporated the two. I birthed Melanine with the intention to help promote other small cosmetic businesses (beauty is an area where women spend shamelessly). I fell in love with the name because I feel like it captured me as an individual entirely. Melanin, I’m a chocolate girl and proud of every little drop of melanin in this body. Nine, the sequence of the Sagittarius, my sign. Although my horoscopes tend to be a little out there, I’m definitely a fire sign. I designed a clever logo that would make me distinguishable. My dad helped me with the business plan and even helped me get started in the early stages of the business. At the time, I was half-heartedly believing any of it would work, so when I saw a little traction I was ecstatic.
Fast forward to a year after all this initial groundwork. I get approached by some potential investors looking to be involved in my company. Me. A 21-year-old college student. Naturally, I’m excited to hear where they could take me. They had one line that they kept repeating to me, “We don’t make money unless you make money.” I.E. they only earn a profit if Melanine does. Win-win right? That leads me to lesson #1.
Lesson #1: ALWAYS trust your gut
Things sounded too good to be true. (I’ve seen shark tank!) It is rare people want something for nothing upfront. And pardon me for not being politically correct, but what white man wants to help out a black girl in college for free?
Turns out, it was never about helping so much as it was using me as a vehicle for his own plans. Before I knew it, I was being rushed through MAJOR decisions with the promise that it could all be changed later. Of course, they never were. The main investor made sure he was the administrator and head of every account and I just assumed I was as well (incorrect). He also refused to believe that I knew anything about running a business or marketing, but later implemented a lot of my ideas.
A year later, I had been through so many ups and downs with the main investor and my gut was telling me not to trust this man. He was belittling, rude, and terrible under pressure. The business started to break down and this man got nasty. As I was shutting everything down and realized he had been sabotaging my company with the way he would respond to customers and then use his own company’s email to properly address them. Customers thought that Melanine was a fraudulent company that solely cared on making a dollar over providing a good service. The Melanine name was tarnished and I was pissed.
Lesson #2: You can cry or you can do something about it
I chose to do something about. The name Melanine means something to me and I won’t give it up without a fight. So as I was sitting in my room fuming, I came to the realization that I would let him win if I let this bad experience break me. I’m not anywhere near done with my entrepreneurial endeavors and this experience definitely didn’t scare me. I feel like it was more my investors biggest failure than it was mine. My failure was letting someone push me into things that I didn’t agree with and not taking more control. I learned a lot from this experience and I will be back. Believe that!