When we think of launching a business or brand, the first thing that comes to mind is the money that’s needed to get things off the ground. We think of the design and look of the logo, the domains that need to be acquired, and the documents to be attained. Very rarely, do we stop to think of what is required from the relationships and support system that we have around us – or if we even really have one at all.

Ezinne Iroanya-Adeoye, founder and CEO of SKNMUSE, sits on the other side of this challenge. At just 29-years-old, Ezinne has launched a brand whose name has graced the tongues of the effervescent Queen Bey and the incomparable Issa Rae. Its products have graced the Top 10 of Elle USA. It has distinguished itself as a brand of inclusivity, sustainability, and luxury. But Ezinne did not achieve this dream alone. She’s been fortunate enough to gain these accolades for her brand through the support of her life partner, Ambrose Price, who champions her dreams and upholds her business with unwavering security and stability.

Read as Ezinne and Ambrose share how they’re able to show up and support one another on a daily basis, how they resolve any disagreements regarding SKNMUSE, and how they consistently prioritize their relationship despite the never-ending demands of running a business.

Jadriena Solomon: Ambrose, you noticed that Ezinne needed support when she was initially working on founding SKNMUSE. How were you able to recognize her need for help? And what did you do both emotionally and physically to assist?

AP: In the fundraising process, I was especially able to recognize where the help was needed because I had worked in small business incubators before. So I kind of knew what starting a business was like and I had tried to start a business a few times on my own as well. So to see her go through this beginning of the process and noticing how passionate she really was about starting her business, as her partner in life, I just recognized that she needs help – just as she would for me. 

It’s all about reciprocity. If there’s something that I can do to help her achieve her goals, then that’s what I want to do. If she’s winning, then I’m winning.

JS: Ezinne, how did that look from your end? What do you feel he noticed in your needs?

EIA: We’ve made such a safe space in our relationship, that I’m completely comfortable asking for help. I remember for our first popup, he had just come back from Italy from a business trip, and I needed to get our situation running in two weeks – I needed to do months of work in two weeks because everything I had built before crashed. And all he said was, ‘This is what I want to do. This is where I want to be.’

He noticed that I was struggling, and he asked, ‘So where do you need help?’ I gave him my list and he just started working on it. And not only did he get them done, he was able to do it better than I was. He used his skillset, his resources, and his network and was able to get it all done for me.

In addition to that, he always stayed present for me outside of the business aspect. Just checking on my mentally, and seeing if there was anything I needed on that side. He made me feel so safe to come to him and be transparent and vulnerable about my emotions. I was able to get transparent with him about how much I was spending on the business, and he just said ‘Okay. whatever you need on the home front – I got it.’ And I felt like I could make it with my business because Ambrose had my back – I knew I wouldn’t be homeless. And it takes a lot to trust someone with that type of need, and trust that they’re not going to slap it back in your face. I’ve never felt like I’ve taken too much, or I’m being manipulated or controlled because of how much he’s putting into my dreams because it’s his dream too.

 

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A post shared by Ezinne (@avenue_z)

JS: Ezinne, from your experience, why is it so important as a business owner to have a partner who understands your vision and wants to see it come to life just as much as you do, as opposed to having a partner who isn’t present in that realm?

EIA: As Black women particularly, we’re poised to be so hyper-independent and so hyper focused on our goals that we don’t know when we’re reaching our breaking point until the last second. We’re so used to doing things ourselves and not having that support system. So without Ambrose’s support, I don’t think we’d even be sitting here having this conversation with you or even be able to afford the team that we have and expenses of the business. With him, I’m able to move faster. I’m able to run the business with less burdens on me because I have him here. I’m able to be fearless because I have a safe space to run back to at the end of the day. 

When you know that you have someone who has your back, you don’t make decisions out of desperation. You’re able to think about the long term vision. Having him here is like having a team of three people in one, so I move faster. I move more fearlessly, I move more relentlessly. All because I have someone to come back home to and recharge with.

JS: Ambrose, for you, where does that selflessness or that ability to be present and supportive come from? A lot of people have partners that do amazing things for them, but sometimes they’re not always able to recognize certain needs or show up for their partner in that way. How do you think that ability was created or cultivated in you? 

AP: I would definitely say that a lot of that comes from watching my father. There was a point where my mother got physically handicapped – she was a nurse and she couldn’t continue working. And he was the one that stepped in and took on the role of providing for the family. And even though he has his own obligations with his work, he still made sure that things were taken care of for us at home. And then to a certain degree, at a young age I had to step up and assume his role and make sure that everything was taken care of at home while he was out working. 

I was able to see a lot of him being there, and caring for, my mom. And I think just seeing that first hand really showed me what real, true support looks like. 

JS: A large part of why your partnership in business is successful is because you let the other take the lead with their area of expertise – Ambrose is great with the creative direction of the brand, while Ezinne focuses on the production and business side. But what do you guys do when you’re just not agreeing on a particular facet of the brand?

EIA: I’m a talker. I like to talk about everything. I like to process everything. So we usually will talk when we need to, but ultimately I believe that we have this thing where no one really has to be right. We just both have to be heard. So as long as the other partners heard, then we’ve accomplished what the discussion was for. As for how we’re able to make a decision or come to a place of agreement, if his skill set is better applied to what we’re disagreeing about then it’s really his last word. If my skill set is better applied to what we are disagreeing about, then it’s really my last word, because I know better on this topic than he does. So that’s how we go about it. 

And then lastly, we both go to therapy individually. So we take care of ourselves and make sure we’re each very sound individuals. We each have life coaches. We’re very sound spiritually. So with that, we’ve just invested into ourselves and our minds. So honestly we don’t disagree that often because we trust each other a lot and we see how the other person’s working on their mind. If it’s a decision that either one of us makes, and it turns out to be wrong, we talk it out and decide what we could have done better. And we keep it pushing. We don’t continuously bring it up over and over again.

 

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A post shared by SKNMUSE | Skin + Bodycare (@sknmuse)

JS: Operating a business is something that can definitely take up a huge part of your day, and honestly is a 24/7 commitment. How do you guys find time to disconnect from the business, and give each other that undivided relationship time?

EIA: We’ve always talked with our coaches and therapists about intentionality and making sure that our business doesn’t overrun our relationship. So we put things on the calendar, we make sure we’re planning dates, and we designate the time that we’re going to spend together. And then throughout our day, whether it’s lunch and we have time to go for a short walk, or we have time to workout together in the morning – we just try to find those little moments in between the business and make sure we’re putting that same care into ourselves and our relationship. 

We communicate when we need time with each other – right now we have four days out of the month where we intentionally spend time with each other. We’ve been dating for four years now, so we still date like it was the first year. And I try not to bring work into the bedroom – Ambrose is still working on that. 

We budget for the days that we spend with each other, so we can really create experiences and adventures for ourselves without feeling like it’s interfering with the business. And we tell each other that we built this brand so we have the power to build many more, but we don’t have the power to find another one of each other. So we come first. 

 

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The success of SKNMUSE is the manifestation of what can happen when Black men support Black women – why, now more than ever, is this so important to emphasize?

EIA: I was born and raised in Nigeria, so when I came here, seeing the way Black were treated looked fo foreginto me. I’m used to being protected – and not always in a physical type of way, but just with people protecting your mental health and being listened to. I wasn’t used to being in spaces where I’m speaking intelligently but it feels like I’m still not being heard. It was so foreign to me. And as Black women, we have so many seeds planted in us but when we’re paired with the wrong partner, those dreams can be stifled because you’re so busy dealing with emotional stress, and babying someone else that you don’t have the time to focus on what you’ve been called to do in this world. 

Pairing up with the right person, or having the right support as a Black woman has created so many jobs for other people – we have people on our team that are able to eat from the same pot and depend on one another all because Ambrose decided to be my backbone. This example of a solid relationship has birthed inspiration and motivation for others. People know that we have a home for them to come to if they need it. And we always have people tell us that the love we share transcends us both. 

Imagine if I was dating someone who distracted me, right? But he’s the first person I’ve been able to partner up with that has been positive. We can do life together and pour into each other in a way that doesn’t make either of us sacrifice. And imagine if the new age Black woman was supported like this – how much more love would be able to transcend beyond her? How many more communities could be birthed beyond her? How many more businesses can be economically better equipped? How many more people can be educated because of that?

AP: I would break it down into three points: pride, timing, and trust. So putting your pride aside and instead of thinking about what you want first, you have to be selfless. I could’ve looked at everything like this is supposed to benefit me or be my time, but it’s not. This is her time. This is her dream that is actually getting me closer to my dream of being an entrepreneur. And my time may not ever come at all, if I’m not gracious in helping her get to where she needs to go. 

And so that comes with trust. I trust that when it is my time, she’s going to give me that exact same support that I gave her. And we’re more than likely going to have a much easier time because we have this experience. 

I’ve always been surrounded by a lot of brilliant and intelligent women, so I ever looked at them as lesser than or  unintelligent in the way that some people might. I’ve always seen them as an equal partner for going the distance and achieving those goals. And  I would just encourage any Black man in particula to just look within themselves and ask if there’s any way they could be supporting their significant other better. 

Both of you should be thinking about how you can help the other person, and if you have a partnership like that then really sky’s the limit. But if you’re constantly trying to keep track or keep a point system and you guys are at odds at the end of the day then it’s going to be so much more difficult. With the right partner, the possibilities are limitless.

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