To gear up for our Summit21 Conference this year in Atlanta, 21Ninety has scored exclusive interviews with some of this year's participants. 

According to Bethany Jennene, creator of Taupe Coat, her boutique nail polish brand is one that effortlessly blends beauty and wellness. Each polish is vegan, 10-free (meaning it excludes ten commonly used toxic ingredients used in nail polish, cruelty-free and is curated with bold colors that will make anyone feel fierce and flawless. 

Read 21Ninety's exclusive interview below:

Photo: Taupe Coat

21Ninety: Can you give us a little of your background? What inspired you to create Taupe Coat products? What was the vision behind the name?

Bethany Jennene: During the day, I'm an attorney in Los Angeles, where I represent physicians and health care entities.  Civil litigation is very not-sexy and can be extremely stressful. I have seen so many coworkers and other attorneys who let the professionals take over their entire lives, and I decided that I did not want that to be me. Thus, several years ago, I realized that I needed a hobby to do after work.  

I ended up making nail polish because it supported another goal of mine at that time, which was living a cleaner lifestyle.  While in law school, I had a bad flare up of my Crohn's Disease and had to have a portion of my small intestine surgically removed.  After that, I started making changes in my daily routine to eliminate some of the harmful chemicals that I was putting in my body.  One of these changes was to switch over to low toxin, clear nail polish. So when I started looking for a hobby, I picked one that would support that mission and started making low toxin nail polish.

After a couple of years of making my nail polish for fun, I decided to expand my hobby and turn Taupe Coat into a business.  Now, pretty much every hour I'm not practicing law, I'm running Taupe Coat (pronounced "top coat").

Photo: Taupe Coat

21N: How long have you been creating these makeup/beauty/skincare products?

BJ: I've been making nail polish for more than five years. The creative side in me is always coming up with new products, and in the future, along with polish, I want to create a host of complimentary nail related items.  So last year, we started the process of developing an acetone-free nail polish remover.  Earlier this year, we released Succulent, our plant-based nail polish remover. Succulent is SUPER hydrating because it's made with Vitamin E. Later this year, we plan on release variants with different essential oils.

21N: What kind of work goes into the process of creating them? What ingredients are used?

BJ: Along with Taupe Coat, I own a warehouse in Upland, CA that provides e-commerce fulfillment for small beauty brands.  The benefit of having my warehouse means I have space to control nearly every aspect of my production process.  Our small team manufactures every bottle of Taupe Coat polish in our warehouse and me. 

All of my polish is vegan and what is called "10-free", meaning that it does not contain 10 of the most common types of carcinogens and harmful chemicals that used to be pretty commonplace in nail polish.  For example, formaldehyde, which most people know as a chemical used to embalm bodies, was a staple of many nail polish brands for decades.  We also don't use any ingredients that are derived from animal byproducts.

The process of actually making nail polish is time-consuming but fun. The first step is to decide what color shade do I want to create. I spend quite a bit of time mixing up prototype shades.  Once I get the color down, I have to make sure that I can replicate it in the future, which can be difficult because creating pigments is more art than science.  The actual manufacturing process is relatively easy. I have an industrial mixer that I use to blend the dyes and the base.  Then I transfer the bulk mixed polish to our bottling machine. The last part is the easiest, just adding tops and twisting them on.  

Photo: Taupe Coat

21N: Which ones were the most fun to create? Any customer favorites?

BJ: I create custom nail polish shades for weddings, birthday parties, and other events. These are the most fun to me because I get to be creative and work with the client to develop a color that fits their personality. I also have a few shades I've made that came at the request of a family member or friend, who will send me a picture of a color they wish they had as polish.  Our shade Perfection is one of these.  My little cousin said she wanted a nude, gave me a picture of what she was thinking and I made it. It's one of our customer favorites right now.  

We also have a shade Finding Myself (that will be available in Chateau 21) that has been my best seller this year so far.  This shade was made by accident. I was mixing a large wholesale order and had some pigments left over. So I played around with what was left and ended up with a cool lavender. My customers love it.

Photo: Taupe Coat

21N: What do you think makes your business/platform unique over others like it?

BJ: The thing that makes Taupe Coat unique is that we are not just a small beauty brand. 

We are a business committed to the growth of small beauty brands.  I mentioned the warehouse earlier, but one thing I love the most about Taupe Coat is that I'm creating a business where I control as many aspects of production that I can so that in the future, we can offer more services to other women-owned businesses.  

We do manufacturing; we do storage, we do e-commerce fulfillment and are looking to expand into other areas that are essential to running a small business. I hope to see Taupe Coat grow to almost a one-stop shop for small businesses. I think that the diversification of our business operation is really what's driven much of our growth and will allow us to create new opportunities in the future for other Black women business owners.  

21N: What do you hope to gain from Summit21 this year?

BJ: I'm looking forward to meeting other women business owners to expand my community. Having other women that I can turn to for advice is essential to me as a business owner. Mainly because I'm a part-time entrepreneur, I need all the support I can get. My circle of friends who are business owners is what keeps me sane.

21N: Is there anything you wish to teach and inform the Summit21 audience about?  

BJ: Living a nontoxic life can be a huge transition.  If it feels overwhelming, then start small. You don't have to go vegan, detox to natural deodorant, and do the big chop all in the same week. Start with something manageable, like switching to clean nail polish, or changing your face wash, or eliminating sugar from your diet once you master one small change, it's easier to keep going and make more positive changes.  

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