What is Kar’if?
Well, I’m glad you asked! Kar’if is the resounding answer to the lack of products readily available for multicultural women. Our main focus is to provide women of color access to more range, selection and novelty when it comes to beauty products. The idea is that people sign up, pay a 5.95 subscription fee and unlock access to an exclusive club where products are introduced, discussed and bought with no extra shipping charges included.
The main pain point Kar’if solves is access, community and affordability. Right now, beauty products for women of color (especially for black women) tend to be more expensive and difficult to get matched due to the special characteristics of kinkier hair or darker skin. It is a widely held grievance that women of color spend more on average, and have a $1.2 trillion buying power in the general U.S. beauty market, but are often ignored and never fully marketed to. It is this pain in the market that I plan to tackle and as a woman of color myself, I have faced that very same experience so in essence, I created Kar’if for myself.
I stay motivated by… listening to podcast episodes of entrepreneurs tell the stories of starting their business and the challenges and struggles they’ve had to overcome. For some reason it gives me enough motivation to keep pushing through another day.
Three adjectives that describe me are… passionate, resourceful, beautiful
If I could have dinner with one person (dead or alive) it would be… it would be my grandfather. He passed away when I was 15, right when I was starting to become more aware of the world. It would have been cool to step into adulthood with my grandfather by my side for guidance and support. He was a wise man because he had made so many mistakes that he had learned from and talking to him was easy! I miss him.
The most exciting innovation to me is… Uber’s endeavors to bring to life the flying car. I think that it’s so amazing that a company that owns zero cars yet dominates transportation is thinking this far into the future.
What motivated you to become an entrepreneur? Is having your own business something you always wanted?
I was not motivated to be an entrepreneur; I was kind of called to do it. I had recently graduated from college in 2013, and I started to develop an interest in beauty. As an black girl from Honduras with kinky 4C hair and dark skin, I soon realized how arduous and costly my newly found journey would be. I had the YouTube community dishing out videos to help me choose the right hair products and makeup, but checking those products out soon burned a hole through my wallet. Quite frankly, I gave up. But in giving up I also recognized how angry I was. A few weeks later I came across an Essence Magazine article that cited a stunning statistic: black/hispanic women spend 2x more on beauty and personal care than their white counterpart. I then asked myself, why are we over spending for products that most of us will later be disappointed by? Why are we making a market that ignores us rich? Those questions fueled the creation of Kar’if and what it aims to do today.
How did you come up with your business idea? What inspired you?
I was inspired by my desire to create a space I would love to shop in: where being a black girl is not an awkward and unwelcome experience. I envisioned a community that invested its money in brands that were created by women/men who look like them. I imagined a store that would be stocked with all ranges, shades, ingredients and formulas segmented by different price points, personal preferences, fashion choices, events, etc.
What were you doing before this? How did it prepare you for the entrepreneurial life?
I was working on building a career as lawyer. I had just finished four year coursework in pre-law and had no previous interest in beauty. I only discovered beauty after being engrossed in hours and hours of watching beauty tutorials on YouTube until I decided to take the plunge and buy some of the latest beauty products for myself. I thought I was fully equipped with the information I needed but I still found it so difficult to choose the products relevant to me. I was always on the search. Always swatching. Always spending. And 9 out of 10 times the products never fit. I was done. A few weeks later the lightbulb shone in my head and by the time I did my market research, I was livid.
Do you have a fixed work routine? Is it important to have one? Any tips for our readers?
No, I don’t have a fixed work routine. And I actually don’t have any tips because I have not perfected it. I generally lend my nights and weekends to the running Kar’if and work full time Monday through Fridays. It hard because I have the most energy and I am the sharpest in the morning; by the end of the day I have depleted most of my energy and would rather plop on my couch watching t.v. and scroll through Instagram. I have gotten better about it by taking a small nap in the evenings and drinking some sort of energy drink after I leave my day job. It’s all about knowing your body and taking the steps to energize it when you need some brain power to pull through.
What do you think is the biggest obstacle for female founders? How can we overcome it?
The biggest obstacle for female founders is navigating a business world dominated by men! It’s incredibly difficult to hire men for any work in a company that is fashion/beauty/style focused. I’ve had experiences where I would hire a male designer, a marketer or a photographer and have to explain my vision and provide details to how I want things to be done because they don’t intrinsically know to create work that resonates to women. I know I’ll have the same issue when the time comes to look for funding being that most investors are white men and may not understand a business that is targeted towards women, and in my case, women of color.
How do you generate new ideas to stay relevant on the market? Is it important to innovate in your space?
I pride myself in being completely original and to produce original work I do the following things: First, I take long, extensive breaks away from social media. I find that too much exposure to other people’s creativity and opinions can influence me creatively. Of course, you need a good flow of creativity from others to nourish your own creativity, but you don’t want to be bombarded by others as it will influence you to imitate their work. Secondly, I take any opportunity to deprive my senses of distractions by sitting in an utterly quiet room by myself, taking long showers/baths, or doing exercises at the gym. Isolating myself and getting lost in my thoughts has helped me come up with the best ideas to keep my customers amused with new products or content.
What are your short/long term goals?
Within the next 6 months, my goal is to perfect my customer acquisition strategy and use it to build a loyal and consistent customer base. I hope to achieve this by fine tuning my process of collecting important data that helps me learn more about my community. My long term goal is to build a million dollar business within 5 years, so help me God.
What sacrifices have you had to make to be a successful entrepreneur?
I’ve had to end many relationships with friends and partners due to the fact that I’ve had no time to pour into my social life. I’ve also had to make radical changes to my living situation (some of which are costly) to ensure that I was in an environment I could fully control to grow my creativity. There was actually a point where I stopped paying my student loans because I wanted to use the money to invest in my business. I was sooo close to sacrificing my credit score! But later I figured out a different way to pay into both things. It’s challenging!
How far are you willing to go to succeed?
I’ll say that I’m willing to go far but there are still some inner hurdles I need to get over. Sometimes I feel like I am not trying hard enough and sometimes I get stuck in a rut. It literally took me three months to design my landing page! Every day is a constant struggle to push forward, but I’ve learned a lot and picked up some wisdom on the way. I’m grateful.
If you were a book, which one would it be and why?
If I were a book it would be “Pursuit of Happyness”. I’ve never had to struggle with homelessness and poverty (on that extreme) but I resonate with not having money and constantly failing yet pushing through and trusting God. It’s that “Can’t stop, wont stop” mentality that I actually think has kept me pushing forward.
Who is the one super successful person you look up to? Why them? Can you share their quote/ideology that inspires you the most?
My grandmother inspires me. She passed away a few years ago but she taught me the most valuable lesson: Love everyone but trust no one. She did not teach us the trusting no one part because she expected the worst from people, but because she did not want us to get heartbroken or disappointed easily when people let us down (which is a fact of life). She told us that everyone is on a road somewhere and that some people will use us to get by quicker and others will use us by accident. “It’s not your fault, nor is it their fault,” she used to tell us, “but be alert.” I live by those words everyday of my life so that I keep my boundaries clear and my expectations minimal.
What is one thing you find to be true that most people would disagree with?
That entrepreneurship is not for everyone. I used to disagree with that statement; it used to make me angry to hear other entrepreneurs say that! But as I approach my 5th year on this endeavor -- counting the sleepless nights; losing money in investments that don’t pan out; learning every useful skill from scratch -- I realize that if you don’t have the passion for it, you will quit fast. Entrepreneurship is so attractive these days and everyone wants to live on their own terms and make big money and have the prestige but they don’t realize you’re beholden to so many interested parties: your customers, your investors, your staff, your board, and more! Simply working one job and having your fixed 9 to 5 schedule beats having so many people to keep happy and take care of. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do but let’s not romanticize it. This is hard work! Some of this stuff keeps me up at night.
What are some pros and cons of having (OR not having) entrepreneurial parents?
My parents are hard workers so I get my work ethic from them. They are not entrepreneurs and neither of them own businesses but my father has a small staff of people he works with to tend to his farm in Honduras (which is my country of origin). He is so passionate about his farm and the people he works with so I learned the value of passion through him. I guess the only con is not being able to discuss business with them! They also don’t know much about the internet so the have a hard time understanding exactly what it is I do.
What is your biggest dream? Why? Describe your biggest vision for your business.
Making money of course! And a lot of it! I finally want to be paid all the investment I’ve pumped into this business and create something my customers can’t live without. I know it’s coming soon, I feel it!