Week 5 of Interviews with Black owned businesses. Another interview with a Black owned business. Let’s get into it.
Hello Yeye Mi can you give us an introduction into who you are and what you do?
We’re Yeye Mi, an Afro-wellness and self-care brand with a heart for helping people be their healthiest selves. We marry afro-wellness innovation, with our community based experiences, to create products and services that fill the very evident well-being gap when it comes to black and brown people.
What inspired you to start your business?
Yeye Mi was birthed out of a personal desire to prioritise self-care and put my holistic wellness on the top of my life’s to-do list. In January 2018, I was rushed into hospital for emergency surgery, to remove my rupturing appendix, which I had, for months, dismissed as a belly ache. I quietly knew it was more than that, but I had been so consumed by the hustle and bustle of life, that I wasn’t in tune with my health and had quite frankly, neglected me in trade of business as usual. After complications in a near-fatal surgery, a two week stint in a hospital bed, with tubes and drips coming out of me, I had the rude awakening I needed. I couldn’t walk or work for 6-8 weeks and was forced to introspect on what had brought me to this standstill.
It was then I decided, that I had to put self-care and holistic wellbeing at the forefront of my life. Though I was now medically back on track and ‘healthy’, my mind-set had shifted to that of holistic health. I began crafting and formulating products for my neglected hair, nails, teeth and skin. When friends would come to visit me, they’d comment on how healthy my hair looked and I’d tell them that I’d started sleeping in a satin bonnet, which is great for keeping afro-textured hair moisturised at night. They’d enquire into how I got my teeth so much whiter, and would be astounded when I told them that it was from a concoction of ayurveda herbs that I had formulated into a tooth powder. I’d jokingly remarked that it was from my brand, not knowing the seed that had been planted.
Visits became more and more frequent, and I quickly became somewhat of a self-care agony aunt to my friends, family and local community. After some market research, I came to appreciate that when it comes to black and brown people, the self-care, beauty and wellness space has been perpetually uninventive and neglectful. I wanted to do something about it, and so, Yeye Mi was created. Two and a half years later, Yeye Mi is a flourishing self-care and afro-wellness brand, constantly growing, to craft and formulate products and services that help people prioritise their wellbeing and bridge the very apparent black and brown wellness gap.
How long has your business been running for?
Since April 2018 ( Just over 2 years)
What are your business values/principles?
– Innovating in the wellness space for black and brown people
– Creating a culture of self-care and wellbeing focus
– Creating effective and affordable products to speak to needs
– Engaging with our community to create products that truly meet their needs
What is your best selling product/service and why?
Our best selling products are our adjustable bonnets and super size shower caps, because they are big enough to keep braids, afros and dreadlocks protected, and ultimately, preserving hairstyles for longer. We continue to seek ways to fulfil unmet afro-wellness needs. On researching how beneficial satin is for type 3 and 4 curl pattern hairs (Afro and curly hair), we developed satin-lined bonnets in our first year of business, by our second year, we had developed these into adjustable satin-lined bonnets, responding to the customers we engaged with at exhibitions, who were rough sleepers, finding bonnets fell off at night or had bigger or smaller head circumferences. Our adjustable drawstring and toggle stands out on the market as a tool that enables customers to tailor their hair care to their hairstyle.
These are key examples of why our products will continue to stand out and be bought by afro and curly-haired people. Yeye Mi is not a brand that seeks to reinvent the wheel, we are constantly researching, creating and innovating based on evidenced pain points and unmet needs of our customer base. And for these reasons, our demographic will continue to invest in our products and support our brand.
What has been the biggest highlight in your business so far?
Tangibly seeing the way Yeye Mi has and is transforming our community, is our greatest achievement. The social impact arm of our brand is the ‘She Creates Academy’, supporting young women, ages 13 – 20, create, develop and launch their own ventures. As such believers in youth entrepreneurship and the economic empowerment of female founders, £1 from each Yeye Mi purchase goes towards the running the academy. Through the academic year, we support these young women with one-to-one guidance, in brand development and strategy, product development training, marketing and PR workshops and link them with specialist support in the form of business mentors.
The growth of Pelumi,14, a student of our 2019 She Creates Academy, is a perhaps my proudest achievement. When she applied for a place at the academy, we recorded a videotape, which, on graduating from the programme, was reviewed and compared to her 2020 videotape. Her growth was tremendous to see, not only was she more self-confident, visibly empowered and the owner of a small business, creating African printed accessories, but when asked in 2019 what she wanted to be when she grew up, she sighed deeply, and said “I don’t know. I don’t really like any of my subjects at school.” Contrastingly, in her 2020 videotape, when asked the same question, she remarked, “I want to be my own boss, like you, yh, I want to be an entrepreneur and help people like you’ve helped me.” This example is indicative of the joys my brand gives me the privilege of living each day.
I tangibly see the difference Yeye Mi is having on lives and on the way people see and care themselves. Each day, we get sent pictures of young black girls and boys in there bonnets, videos of friends dancing whilst wearing our satin-lined headbands, before and after pictures of peoples teeth and nails after using out natural serums and powders, and countless raving reviews. The overarching theme of all of these, is that we are helping people feel seen and cared for, bridging gaps and transforming lives, in ways yet to be seen in the wellness industry.
How have you dealt with setbacks?
My faith is crucial to being able to take on the demands of a growing business as a one woman band, I recognise that I am stewarding over this brand and vision, so keep God at the centre of my business and draw strength from my faith! I have a vision board and when those damp days come, I remind myself of my whys! I seek mentorship! I ask for help, but most importantly, I pray!
How has the pandemic affected your business?
Yeye Mi has grown exponentially in the pandemic, and I believe that has less to do with the virus itself, and more to do with what has happened in the lockdown. The death of George Floyd sparked unprecedented, actioned and vocalised support for black owned business and Yeye Mi felt that in a tangible way, our sales tripled overnight! Then came Black Pound Day which has been tremendous!
How do you stay focused and motivated?
I know my whys, and as a Christian, I have been called to utilise my every spiritual gift, like the Parables of the Bags of Gold in Matthew 25:14-30, I am reminded that I have a responsibility not to bury my spiritual gift, but to utilise these everything given to me and in doing that, my harvest will multiply! We have seen so many premature deaths in 2020, how can I not seize my everyday! Yeye Mi is one expression of me living out my life’s purpose and shining my light
How do you give back to your community?
We give back to our community through our She Creates Academy, the social impact arm of our brand , supporting young women, ages 13 – 20, create, develop and launch their own ventures. As such believers in youth entrepreneurship and the economic empowerment of female founders, £1 from each Yeye Mi purchase goes towards the running the academy. Through the academic year, we support these young women with one-to-one guidance, in brand development and strategy, product development training, marketing and PR workshops and link them with specialist support in the form of business mentors.
What was the best advice you were given before you started your business?
Nothing comes to mind, I come from a legal academic background so in many ways, I kept Yeye Mi on the low before launching because it didn’t quite align with what the world said my life’s trajectory should be, but I did it anyway and can not give advise to others
What advice would you give to people starting a business?
To just get started, it won’t be perfect, in fact, when I look at the first bonnet made, I cringe a little because the prototype has grown so much, but perfectionism is the enemy of progress, JUST GET STARTED!
Where do you see your business in 5 years time?
In 5 years Yeye Mi will be well on its way to becoming a household name, pioneering products that speak to people in the wellness space and also raising other creatives and entrepreneurs to create their own sustainable businesses.
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The next interview with another Black owned business will be coming out next week.
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