Have you ever walked through the makeup section of your favorite department store and felt underwhelmed – lipsticks that don’t match your skin tone or not enough foundation options? Ever been frustrated by the hair products at your local beauty shop because they won’t work for your natural hair? Delali Kpodzo, Co-founder and Chief Curator for We Are Onyx, has been there. And she’s working with her team to make sure you never have to feel that way again.
We are Onyx is the brainchild of Delali and her co-founder, Myriam Bocobza, and they have a canceled hair appointment to thank for the idea. Delali was left in the lurch with a head full of hair she didn’t know what to do with when her stylist had to cancel at the last minute. She turned to Google for help and was surprised to realize how little information on black hair care was out there, not to mention the bevy of “tips and tricks” that were just plain wrong.
Delali remembers recounting this story to Myriam. “I explained that as a black woman, our hair is such a huge part of our beauty. It was me spilling those endless horror stories about my hair, what to do, etc. to her. I said it would be amazing if someone created a space for a busy black woman like me to learn about herself,” says Delali.
This realization that the beauty industry needs to serve black women better inspired Delali and Myriam’s vision for We are Onyx as the “go to” beauty destination for women of color.
“It was originally about hair,” she says, “but as the conversation opened, I thought about all of the beauty struggles darker-skinned women face — foundation shades, hyperpigmentation and other concerns the industry isn’t talking about.”
Myriam and Delali realized that black women spend 80 percent more than any other woman on haircare, skincare and makeup, but still walk away feeling frustrated and dissatisfied. The duo founded We Are Onyx to shake up the beauty industry and give black women the support they’ve been missing all these years – more accessible products that are tailored for people of color. In the process, they’ve built a rockstar team to help them on their journey.
The We Are Onyx Team
Ronelle Leisure, Brand Relations Manager for We Are Onyx, was first drawn to the brand after seeing a Facebook ad.
“I felt as if one of my friends was talking to me,” she says.
Now her mission is to make sure the same sisterly service and advice that drew her into the brand affects each and every member of the We Are Onyx community — and that starts with a stellar group of Onyx brand partners. Ronelle makes sure that Onyx is partnering with all the top beauty brands — she is constantly scouring social media, blogs, websites, magazines and more to find new “must have” products for the monthly ONYXBOX.
Chaia Raibon, Community Manager and Head of Content for We Are Onyx, was drawn to the company’s mission to educate black women about their beauty and take away the stigma that black beauty is painful or can’t be fun.
“I wanted to contribute to the positive narrative,” she says.
Chaia now manages PR and content development, serving as the voice of Onyx across all channels including social media and the soon-to-launch blog.
Chaia shares how engaged the Onyx community is on social media. “They [customers] want to know why they are just hearing about it, and lately, people will even introduce us to some brands they’ve been using. This helps us with curating smaller brands. And usually the products they recommend are dope because for so long, black women have been ignored in big business.”
Monica Ukah, Director of Marketing for We Are Onyx, manages ad creation and marketing partnerships that help bring more women into the OnyxFam! She stumbled upon the box through a recommendation from a close friend. Although she had subscribed to other similar services, having everything tailored to her beauty needs as a black woman was a totally new experience.
“I’m addicted to shopping for makeup online, so I’m always trying out new creams and lipsticks and I still get it wrong for myself sometimes and end up stuck with products I don’t use. So when I tried my first ONYXBOX and ended up in love with everything, I really felt seen and validated! I wanted to make sure other black girls had that experience for themselves too,” Monica says.
Working at ONYX
For Delali, Chaia, Ronelle and Monica, the We Are Onyx experience is deeper even than the product itself.
“I’ve never worked with so many people who look like me in my life!” says Leisure. “It’s incredibly inspirational to work with so many educated black people toward the same important goal. Also, if I take my braids out no one is going to ask me if I got a haircut, or any of the other awkward moments we’ve all experienced working in the corporate world.
And the perks of working at a beauty start-up definitely aren’t half bad!
“There’s lots and lots of swatching and trying stuff, it’s really fun,” says Delali, “We try everything before it goes into the box or the store, so there’s nothing that hasn’t been fully tested by the entire brand team. If our name is on it, we want to be certain we actually believe in it.”
Why Onyx is so important
Onyx is reframing how we talk about and experience beauty as black women. “We are making the conversation about self-confidence, being seen and being honored,” Delali says. “Our beauty has been framed as a struggle, and it’s about time we bring that joy, fun and discovery back to beauty.”
The Onyx team has set out to make its discovery platform, the ONYXBOX, the best option out there for black women who are looking for high-end products across the trifecta of beauty dimensions – haircare, skincare and makeup.
“There's no one else doing what we're doing,” says Monica. “I mean, there are definitely black boxes that deliver on makeup, boxes that focus on black natural hair, home decor items, literature, etc. But we take a 360-degree approach to black beauty from the inside and out.”
Onyx focuses on creating a community where black women can feel listened to and represented, and actively engages with customers to learn more about their needs and preferences. For so long, black women were ignored in big business, so being able to share a safe space with black women where they can feel like everything is catered to them is truly empowering for the Onyx team.
So what’s next?
“We want to be your resource for everything in beauty,” says Ronelle, “That lipstick that is trending all over Instagram? That new brand you’ve been hearing so much about? We’ve tried it and we got you!”
Keep an eye out for a constantly expanding selection of black-girl-friendly products in the ONYX online shop. According to Delali, the team has a few exciting new products and beauty tools on the horizon that are slated to launch this year.
Onyx plans to continue to grow their small start-up team, and to expand the We Are Onyx community to reach even more women. Every black woman should feel empowered by her beauty routine and deserves access to products that are made for her skin, her hair and her life.
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