- September 1, 2021
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When we spoke with a group of brilliant and Black beauty brand founders back in February 2021, none of us had anticipated that we'd still be in the thick of a pandemic come fall.
At the time, vaccines were freshly being rolled out, Covid case numbers in the U.S. began to decline, and many of us were starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But our optimism has definitely been tested this summer, and the tunnel's gotten longer instead of coming to an end.
The delta variant has flipped nearly everything upside-down, and wrestling with the idea of potentially going into another lockdown is stressful for individuals and business owners alike, especially considering the hit the beauty industry took back in 2020.
That's why we checked in with a few founders we spoke with previously — Tristan Walker, Nyakio Grieco, Vernon François, and Sharon Chuter — to see how they're working to prioritize taking care of themselves, while staying afloat in an industry that's all about the care and well-being of others.
What we found is an immense sense of gratitude among each of the founders, despite the last year and a half being one of the most difficult times they (and many of us) have ever lived through. And it's led them to lean into having more empathy, for themselves, their clients, and people inside this industry and out.
RELATED: 21 Black Beauty Brand Founders Changing the Industry
Read more about how these four have maintained peace among the chaos, managed their businesses, and found the beauty that's all around.
Setting boundaries is the key to ensuring Sharon Chuter gets some rest and recharges. The Uoma beauty, Uoma By Sharon C, and Pull Up For Change founder says it's all about keeping some of her weekend time sacred.
"The one rule I set for myself is to ensure my Friday nights and Saturday mornings are for me," she tells InStyle. "I won't work past 8 pm PST on Fridays and I won't start working until after 1pm PST on Saturdays. Saturday morning is the only time I have to indulge on some Netflix, chill, and groom Leo (which is my biggest pleasure)."
Speaking of Sharon's dog, the beauty entrepreneur finds some peace on walks with him, too. "As one can imagine there hasn't been much rest for me, but in the moments I do actually have time to focus on myself, I spend it with my dog, Leo, and go for walks to try and clear my head as much as possible" she says.
While a lot of rest and relaxation might not be happening for Chuter right now, the hard work is satisfying, as she continues to see her goals come to fruition.
"Maintaining Pull Up For Change, UOMA Beauty, UOMA by Sharon C., and Make It Black has been a crazy but fun ride this past year," Chuter says. "They have kept me incredibly busy and satisfied with my goals. It is always after the fact that I look back at my endeavors and think, 'How did I pull that off?' It's all very intense and exciting; it's these feelings that drive me forward to continue doing what I love and what I'm passionate about."
Although Bevel founder Tristan Walker has always made wellness a priority for not only himself, but also his family and colleagues, the pandemic (and the many other tragedies that have taken place since) has put a lot more things into perspective as both a businessman and human being. "The pandemic has made clear to each of us that we need to offer ourselves more grace and care — physically and mentally," he shares with InStyle, adding that he's now much more proactive about taking breaks when needed. "[I rest] in advance of knowing I need it."
As for what rest looks like for Walker? It could be any number of things, from "reading a great book, or spending more time with my wife Amoy," he shares.
Another thing that this past year and change has taught the busy founder? No matter how chaotic schedules may get, there's always room for more compassion. "I've had to expand my capacity for empathy, for friends, family and colleagues, in ways I would have never expected to have done before 2020," says Walker. "It has helped improve morale, productivity, and business results. I hope I'm not alone in that declaration."
From 2020 until now, co-founder of Thirteen Lune Nyakio Grieco has recognized that sometimes, business can wait. "Pre-pandemic, I was oblivious to how much I was indirectly overcommitting myself," she shares. "Most of it was important, but there's no longer a need to overdo it, and the pandemic has illuminated the need for mental rest as much as the physical."
Now, aside from getting some good sleep at night, rest for Grieco can simply just be some peace and quiet. "I make more time to quiet my mind, meditate, and emotionally check-in more with family and close friends," she says. "Meditation has been crucial — and meditation can take on many forms: circle meditations with my girlfriends, breath work, even skincare regimens can be meditative."
While this past year has been especially challenging for Black women, something that has helped to keep Grieco's head up is the simple act of showing gratitude.
"The most positive things to come out of 2020 for me was inspiration and invigoration," the mom-of-two shares. "I experienced a dream realized when Target began to carry my beauty line, nyakio, in store last year. As a Black-female beauty founder, I've learned that while we have to be extremely resilient, opportunities don't always flow to us as easily as some of our colleagues and counterparts."
That said, Grieco also learned the importance of taking things into your own hands. "The racial reckoning of 2020 inspired me to enact change where I could. I launched Thirteen Lune with my co-founder Patrick Herning to provide a beauty retail platform that could amplify, celebrate, and support other BIPOC founders, and help bridge the financial wage gap to help build generational wealth through the lens of beauty," she explains. "Thirteen Lune is dedicated to making the beauty industry truly inclusive."
Between running his namesake haircare brand, Vernon François Collection, styling editorial shoots, and serving as a Redken's global consultant, celebrity hairdresser and educator and Kérastase's global inclusivity and education advisor, Vernon François admits he struggles to take mental breaks. Clearly not one to take it too easy, he says he's found solace in the gym.
"Putting self-care front and center and switching off doesn't come easy for me, but since gyms have re-opened, I've been making a point of going there regularly," François tells InStyle. "It has been a savior in many ways. I never regret a workout: the weights and the music are good for my mental health, stress management, and mindfulness. Exercising also helps me to sleep better."
While the past year has been challenging for entrepreneurs due to production delays and switching from in-person meetings to Zoom, François says the shift has thankfully been easy because he's used to working with teams located across the globe. "Being global consultant, celebrity hairdresser and educator for Redken, and global inclusivity and education advisor for Kérastase — the L'Oréal teams that I collaborate with are in multiple time zones which is something I am very used to. In the day-to-day of running my own business my team is based in different parts of the world and we have always worked virtually."
That said, François has come to appreciate the in-person aspects of his job as a hairstylist even more since lockdowns have ended. "The first major brand shoot that I did post-lockdown, over several days in NYC, was like a breath of fresh air, the energy was so invigorating," he says. "These days every set that I go on with clients, magazines and brands is COVID-secure, which is a new way of doing things, but change is the only constant and I'm so glad to be working in real life again."
As for François's favorite way to relax when he's not decompressing at the gym? Spending time at the pool with his daughter, Xéla. "Taking my daughter swimming is one of my favorite ways to relax," he says. "She can swim on her own now, and it's wonderful seeing her become more independent and confident."