“The real secret to success is consistency, yet it’s the one thing that most people won’t do,” shares Britni Ricard, owner of the multimillion dollar business — COTA Skin.
As Ricard continues to climb the ladder of expectations she’s set for herself, her consistency serves as the tool that keeps her at the top of her game. In the brief span of just two years, Britni has already planted the foundation of COTA within the skincare industry and reaped the harvest of a 1.8 million dollar business per quarter.
With a dream, fearless attitude, and a savvy talent of making the most out of the least — Richard taught herself how to create her own LLC after quitting her job and getting straight to work with the resources that surrounded her. She admits that it was her “passion, persistence and grit that helped her make her first million” as an independent brand for women of color.
As the beauty and skin-care industry fight to become a more inclusive territory for women of color, it’s go-getters like Richard that take the center stage of what they’ve been provided.
In the midst of taking the skin-care world by storm, Britni chats with BAUCE to talk about the journey she braved while making COTA the giant that it is today.
You’ve accomplished so much in such a limited amount of time of two years. From starting your own brand, to earning your first million — it must feel so surreal! In a new age where becoming your own employer has become more of a reality than ever, what was the defining moment that made you believe it could be your own?
Britni: I just always believed in myself. I think that, you know, even as a child — or as a young adult, I always took control of things. So either being a manager or a boss of my own company was inevitable for me. I’ve always been the head of everything that I’ve done. I’m a team player, but I’m also the type of person that is always a leader. So it’s something that was just always instilled in me. I think that where we are now, there’s a lot of things that we have access to that we didn’t have access to years ago. So I really feel like it’s just a matter of timing and the things that we’ve been blessed to be exposed to.
I don’t necessarily think that there was a defining moment, to where I knew it was possible. I think that, you know, this is something that was always destined for me, it was just really a matter of just opportunity.
So I’m sure that creating that reality for yourself was anything but smooth sailing. We could state that with the starting push of quitting your job, no matter how secure it felt, to pursue a passion could have been a scary start. Yet, I think it’s admirable that you were able to get out of a situation that no longer gave you the fulfillment you desired. How do you know when something is no longer serving you, and what are some things that we can tell ourselves when taking a leap as big as the one you braved?
Britni: I think when you just find yourself feeling like you’re stuck. For me, while I was working my job, there were so many different negative things that was taking place at my job. So even when I launched my business, I still continued to work a full time job. I think that the pressures and the stress of where I worked and the things that I was dealing with, in my personal life and even at work, it just made me feel like okay, I need to eliminate something because it’s getting overwhelming. You know, depression is kicking in, and it’s starting to pretty much kick my butt. So it really just came down to what can you eliminate.
It was risky as far as me quitting my job because when I quit my job, my business hadn’t taken off. It was steady. Like I probably was making just enough to pay my bills and feed myself as far as what was selling products. I just was at a point to where I needed to eliminate stress. Taking that leap and just believing in myself, was like “okay, this is a stressful job, the things that it comes to it is stressful.” So, I just made the choice to eliminate that and just jump into 100% entrepreneurship. I can honestly say that leaving was a breath of fresh air. Yet, I can still look back and be like, “Wait girl, did you quit too soon?” But it just worked itself out.
Well, How does taking care of your mental health now help with your success?
Britni: To get into depth of the things that I endured, prior to the start of my business — where I am now mentally, I feel like it definitely plays a huge role in the success of my business. There were times where I was drained mentally. I was dealing with depression, I was stressed out, and nothing was necessarily working for me in my life. When I was in that state, mentally, I did nothing. I sat there and I let, at the very least, two years of my life just pass me by just living. Not even living — just being in existence, I just was an existing body there.
Now, with my mental health just being strong and positive, I have so much energy and I just look forward to the next days. I tell anybody to take some time to work on yourself mentally,because you can find yourself in a mental state of depression and you don’t even realize it. I think that that’s really what took place with me. I feel like, from the things that I endured from 2017 to 2018 going into 2019 was a blur, because I was still battling those things. So I really only see 2020 when everything just kicked off. It’s like, my life had a whole reset. I advise anybody to actually take time for your mental health and sit back and reevaluate the things that’s causing you stress and try your best to eliminate those things — if it is within your reach.
What ignited your start in the skin-care industry?
Britni: When it comes down to skincare, I’ve actually stressed even that it also goes back to your mental. Being stressed out and things like that cause breakouts. So aside from me, having my own personal issues I was dealing with skin issues like acne and hyperpigmentation. I’m a dark skinned woman. So normally dark spots show up heavily on my face, especially in that cheek area. While dealing with my own issues, and trying to find like the perfect product. I feel like it’s kind of a common story with a lot of women. You know? Buying over the counter products and reading the back of them saying what it’s going to do. Then I get it, and I spend money. We continuously buy things and they don’t work out. It became a matter of me having an understanding. I need to find what works for me because again, not everything works for everybody.
Ironically, my brother Chevez. He had immaculate skin like he literally took care of his skin. I think a lot of people confused when I say I came up with a product that my brother once told me about. No, I introduced a regimen that he that he used to do not a product or not a formula. I get that a lot. He just taught me the importance of skincare and those key points of products that you need. So when it came out for formulation, that was a matter of me formulating it for the issue that I have.
So it began with me dealing with my own skincare problems and, of course, knowing how passionate my brother was about skincare. From my perspective, I just felt like there was nothing for for us. As far as the African American entrepreneurs and all of the women that came before me, I just felt like this is something that I want to do. I took the time to educate myself, I took the time to make my own formula and I’m like, “You know what? I can do this.”
Especially after seeing my results on other people. My friends were my test dummies 100% — they were sitting at my house like it was a spa.
You’ve reflected COTA Skin after a lot of your own values, and it shows within the quality of your work. Your brand name is even dedicated to your late brother because of how much you wanted COTA to reflect your love for your family. Why do you think that it’s so important to establish a piece of yourself into your business?
Britni: I think it’s important for you to establish a piece of yourself, because I feel like, things are just more valuable. I create my brand around the way that I live my life with integrity, with morals. That is the same person that my mother raised. It makes it to where I literally fight even harder, when it comes down to my brand, because it’s not just a regular skincare line like this is my family, it’s what they thrive off of. This is my family name, I’m creating a legacy for my family. So it’s important for me to make sure that it is not in vain. Even then, it comes down to my brother and the legacy that he left behind, and continuing it.
So it was important for me because, when I talked to my family is my family that works with me. I say work with me, because they don’t work for me. You know, this is a family’s a family business. I include them in on that so that they they go just as hard as I go. I tell them all the time, we’re only as strong as our weakest link. I’m gonna make sure everybody eats because I want everybody to have that same type of hunger that I have. So that’s why it was important for me to make sure that it’s family involved and just family represented.
As we speak on the subject of personalization and authenticity within the things we create — one of the biggest discouraging statements right now to aspiring owners of popular avenues in business is that “everyone’s doing it.” How do you, as an entrepreneur, stay encouraged and innovative among your competitors while also making COTA Skin work for you?
Britni: I actually have a mentorship program, and half the time what people don’t realize is when I offer a mentorship program it is not necessarily to help you figure out what you want to do. It’s actually to guide you once you’ve got what you already started. There’s so many people that think “oh, well, I don’t want to do that, because I just feel like it’s oversaturated.” I just I have to tell them the same thing. Like I hopped into a, if not billion – trillion dollar industry. I’ve made a mark, I’ve made a place for myself. I think that, it’s really about your mental. If I can tell you and give you all the steps that I’ve done, but you’re not mentally prepared to take it to the next level, then you’re not going to. The first sign that you’re not mentally prepared is the statement of “oh, it’s oversaturated” or “oh, that’s too everybody’s doing that.”
Sometimes people don’t realize, you can actually talk yourself out of achieving goals. You know, I do believe in manifestation, but I don’t believe in stopping at that. You can’t just keep saying I’ll pray for it, and just wait. It does not work like that. So, I just tried to show my mentees that I started this business almost a year ago, and look where I am now. There’s room for everybody. But you just have to make it authentically yours.
So, you’ve stated before that your success has become fruitful because of critical moments and uncomfortable decisions you’ve had to endure. What has being uncomfortable taught you, and how has it contributed to your thriving empire today?
Britni: I know, that’s unrealistic for most people, I think the, the biggest thing that I had to do was at a time when I was flat broke waiting on inventory. I didn’t have enough money to treat myself to dinner or pay my light bill. But even then, I didn’t feel like it was a bad moment, I felt like I just needed to get through it. I’ve always been positive, I spent so much time being so negative that I’m optimistic now. I would wake up and be like, something bad’s gonna happen today — let me just say inside. Now, I’m getting out. So it’s just, it’s just been up and up for me, by the grace of God.
I think it’s amazing how you got COTA off the ground with no “real money,” you didn’t even have a “laptop” to start out with. How did you make the most of the resources around you, and what advice do you have for those wanting to establish their own brands without the cushions of huge grants or the extensive lists of supplies that others have access to?
Britni: I continue to just pace myself, I didn’t want to just hop into getting somebody to support me, or promote me. One of my best friends is like, the GOAT of promo, and even then, I would tell her to not promote my product or my brand. I wasn’t ready for that type of wave. I think that a lot of the times people feel like they need to have a whole bunch of product. Yet, if you don’t have the demand, why would you need the supply? Just grow into it. So when I first invested 3000, I ended up making 12,000. Then I took the 12,000 and turned it into 30,000. Then I took the 30,000 and turned it into 100,000.
In my story, I didn’t go to someone to apply for my LLC. I sat down at a computer at a library with my phone on YouTube, and just learning it as I go. I went as I grew. For me, it was important for me to work for it. Honestly me working for it is reason why I have the knowledge that I have now, even with my marketing tactics and things like that. In the past, I had a situation to where it was a big blow up of controversial marketing. You know, no one taught me about that. I googled it, and and I tested it and it worked. Those life lessons are a part of what helped me with my success, too, because I learned so much by not getting that information firsthand.
You’re a black woman making strides within an industry that has recently begun to stress the importance of inclusivity within their daily routines. What’s something you would have wished more of for women of color within the beauty and skincare industry, and how will you use your success to foster it for those who are coming behind you?
Britni: I’ve always just been so focused on myself and growing. I’ve never reached out to anyone in the beauty industry for any type of help or advice. What I would like to see more of is alignment, more people connecting with each other. I want people to be more authentic.
I actually had a conversation with a friend of mine on the importance of giving back to those coming after us. When I do my bookings, I tell people that I am not there to motivate them — because they should already be motivated. I let them know that I am here to give them intel on the necessary things they need to do and the connections that they need.
When I was first coming in while being so eager to learn, I wished that there were women to teach me or actual seminars that actually gave back and not just have me listening to a success story with no valuable takeaways.
I’ve seen a lot of people who take advantage of up and coming entrepreneurs who are just hungry for it. They pay loads of dollars to go to events, and all they tell them is that they can do it — and not how to do it.
That is the change that I want to bring.
As self-made overnight success has come on the rise on social media, many can get discouraged about the hardships that come with their own journeys, often thinking that failure results to the end. What do you believe is the beauty within the journey of trial and error, and what does success mean to you?
Britni: I think that there is no greater lesson then that in itself. I tell everybody that my footsteps are aligned. This was the journey God set for me. When I wanted to go left, something wrong happened, someone did something wrong, and they prompted me to go right. This is how I got where I am. Don’t look at it as “Oh, I failed.” No, it’s a redirection. That wasn’t the route that God has for you. That wasn’t where he wanted you to be.
I actually had a situation like this before. I was leaving out of a bank and I stepped down. I missed the step. And I fall, right? I sat there and laughed at myself for like, I don’t know — 45 seconds. The car next to me actually had already pulled off. They didn’t even see me fall. But they they went to the stop sign and F150 ran the light and hit them. All I can think about is had I not fell when I did and sat there embarrassed trying to play it off, it could have been me. That’s the way I live my life. I don’t dwell on the negative or the bad — I take it as a sign. My footsteps are ordered.
Don’t get discouraged. Be thankful for that — be thankful that it is happening for a reason. God may be saying that there is something better for you, or that it isn’t your lane. Whenever something doesn’t work out for me — I don’t question it, because I know that better is coming.
Though you’ve already made your first million so early on establishing yourself within the industry, you’re still just getting started! Do you use the fulfillment of your own goals as inspirations of what you want to do next?
Britni: Yes, I definitely do. I feel like I am unstoppable; there isn’t a task that anyone can put in front of me that I won’t dominate. I feel like it’s just in me. I feel like if I wanted to start a hair care line right now, I can do it and take off. I;m not being cocky, I just feel like it’s doable — you just have to put in the work. I feel liberated — like the world is just accessible. If I can go from where I was, and be where I am now, so can the next woman. You just have to put the work in to be successful.
What’s the biggest thing on the rise for COTA Skin in the future?
Britni: Listen, I just recently started to think bigger. When I sat back and told myself a millionaire, I look at myself now and be like “I’m going to be a billionaire.” You know I hear about so many black owned businesses selling their companies and hearing the amount, and I’m just like “oh that’s nice.” I think a lot of times, with everyone selling their companies, that a lot of these people aren’t buying to elevate your brand — they’re doing it to crush you out of the market. I feel like it’s a corporate thing. You know? They think they’re producing too many African American millionaires, and half the world is hiring now that we won’t work for them. I think people are trying to find a way to minimize that.
Then, a lot of people ask me if I’m opening my own store and I disagree — I’m forward thinking. I feel like the world is going virtual and opening a brick and mortar doesn’t make sense, in my opinion. I want my company to be a billion dollar company and i believe that it will be. As far for going into stores, what a bunch of people don’t know is that you have to fund that product first. It costs too much.
Though I feel like my company can be a billion dollar company and I have faith that it is — so COTA’s not for sale.
What is the legacy you’re leaving behind with COTA Skin and how would you like for it to be remembered ages from now?
Britni: I think that it’s good for people for finally see someone that looks like them, not only treating the same type of skin that they have — but also just rising. I have a lot of my old-coworkers who reach out to me and tell me how I inspire them. You know, there was a point where we were all competing for the same positions and now they’re all like, “You’ve inspired me to start this business.”
I just want for people to see me and get inspired so much that they actually take that leap of faith that they’ve been waiting for. I want my legacy to reflect hard work, honesty, dedication and keeping your morals the same. I want them to know that you can keep your integrity, and be a successful African American Woman or Man in a business where you feel is too saturated or too hard. It’s possible.
I want people to hear about my journey, and my story — and just go forward. When you think of me, I want you think that she was 100% authentically for the people and for the rise.