For Asata Evans, beauty is beyond the surface of a flawless face. To this determined entrepreneur and devoted skin-care fanatic, beauty lies within the journey of accepting your flaws and thrives in the learning that comes with getting to know them on a first-name basis.
As black women continuously break down doors in the beauty industry, they are resourceful enough to use the splinters to build new thresholds for those that aspire to follow within their fearless footsteps. Among these women stands Asata Evans, co-founder and CEO of AxVBeauty, as a transparent trailblazer who’s eager to share the story of her newfound success with the world.
After quitting a secure job and taking a chance on herself and her abilities, Asata finds triumph in her village of support, her melee of customers, and new opportunities with grants such as The Well’s UNDERFUNDED Grant & Giveaway. It’s safe to say that she’s gone all gas with no breaks since she began her walk within the path of skincare.
Now, she plans to be a light for her community by setting the example for other BAUCE women like her — believing that, “We can’t be what we can’t see.” As the beauty and skin-care industry scurry to implement the need for inclusivity within their brands for women of color as consumers and entrepreneurs, innovators like Evans prove that they’ve been here all along — and that they aren’t going anywhere.
With community within her reach and success in her grip, Asata chats with BAUCE to talk about the journey of being a first-time entrepreneur and ins- and- outs of the skincare industry.
You’ve stated that your start in the skin-care industry started with a journey of skin-care within your own life. After trying the many tips and tricks given by the masses, you realized that you had to create your own lane for a routine that worked for you. What finally made you say “enough is enough,” to where you began to pioneer your own products?
Asata: I will say my journey to entrepreneurship was pretty nontraditional in that I didn’t necessarily set out to start a business. There was never a day that I was like, “Oh my gosh, I’m going to be an entrepreneur.” Yet, the pandemic really opened up the opportunity for me to create something that made sense. Honestly, I’m someone who struggled with acne since I was eight. I had my first outbreak at eight using Proactive all through elementary school and middle school. I started taking more aggressive approaches in high school, and then it leveled out in college.
Though, once I started working combined with the stress of life and just like hormonal changes, my skin was just uncontrollable and I had all of the possible products to sort of address it. I was using retinol, tretinoin and salicylic acid. But, what I found was that my skin was still so dry and oftentimes very irritated to the touch, and I needed something that was natural that would just calm the irritation, but also hydrate my skin. Obviously, during the height of COVID, you couldn’t really go anywhere and trying to order products took forever because shipping was delayed. So I needed an immediate response to my own problem. Luckily, one of my friends was able to help me figure out a solution, and then we co-founded the business and created our first product.
I think that one of the most talked about myths to young girls today is “just drink water and wash your face.” In a new age where media influence seems to be the “end all be all” of advice, how do you think that these statements are harmful to women looking to resolve their skincare issues? Did this harm fuel the purpose of your brand?
Asata: I think that social media is a blessing and a curse in itself with like body dysmorphia because you see people who go and get BBLs and then try to sell you Flat Tummy Tea. You have people who naturally have good skin and try to sell you on really simplified routines that don’t necessarily work for everybody. I think that what we fail to realize oftentimes is that genetics does play a role in it. Like, It’s not just diet, it’s not just hydration, and it’s not just environmental elements.
There is no cure for acne; you can find ways to subside it, or you can find ways to control it. I think that social media doesn’t do a good job of being honest and transparent about that, while also like showing the journey because oftentimes, even for people like me who have had quite the journey, it’s hard and it’s emotional to show when you’re most uncomfortable in your skin, right? Or when you feel so insecure about something that’s so visible. So, it makes that transparency element of it more important, but also even harder for those of us who are honestly going through it and want to be honest about our journey. But I definitely think that social media sets a really harmful expectation that there’s a simple way to cure acne, and there really isn’t one way to treat it.
And to take it a step further, this is very new. I would honestly say in the last two years or so to see major skincare brands talking about acne with black women as the target audience is new. For so long the majority of acne related content or imagery or influence was always very whitewashed and almost as if it wasn’t something that black women were dealing with. I think that we have an added layer with the majority of us not just dealing with acne, but then the post acne scarring that causes all the hyperpigmentation in the dark spots. So, it’s super important that we see ourselves reflected in the industry, but also to see that we have products that target our dark skin because we’re not the ones that are worried about things like rosacea. We’re not really worried about skin redness. Young black women typically aren’t concerned about wrinkles, but that’s typically something that’s marketed to white women. I think it’s important that we acknowledge that as black women, our skin has different needs and usually that our post acne experience is very different.
I love that you touched on that brought that up because it goes hand in hand with one of my other questions. What is the hardest aspect about being black in the beauty industry, and what are some tips and tricks that you wish you would have known going in since brands are just now starting to include black women as consumers and entrepreneurs in this field?
Asata: It’s such a hard situation for balance, because as a black-owned business you’re very prideful in the fact that you target black women and black issues, but then it’s also trying not to pigeonhole yourself to believe that that’s the only people that can use your products. It’s making a decision if you’re going to solely target black women and standing strong and firm in that or deciding if you want to be completely inclusive of black women and only using black imagery while knowing that by default your target audience is going to have to be black.
For me, in the very beginning of it, I was like, “Okay, do I want to have white faces on my website and on my social media, do I want to incorporate white voices?” It was a really hard question to sort of navigate because there are so many business ramifications for how it is that you choose the market your business as a black person. I also think that the skincare industry is becoming more saturated by the day.
The majority of black owned businesses, especially within the natural skincare space, are home grown. We’re making this up in our kitchens, we’re doing it in our houses — and that’s the beauty in it because you get this element of the things passed down from generations that are tried and true. Yet, we also get our ability to use what it is that we have, which is a very historical thing to always fix our own problems. But because of this, when you run the risk of not being able to grow your business because you don’t have manufacturing capabilities to meet demand is a common problem. I think that’s probably one of the more difficult aspects of being a black-owned business now because even for me and thinking about my next step, I have to revisit what my manufacturing capabilities are going to need to be in order for me to get to that next level.
Well, because the industry is so saturated, what are some things that separates you from other brands? What is your determining factor, or your determined strategy that makes you like an outlier in this market?
Asata: I think one is my transparency about my own journey. Like, I think that’s a huge part of it because I tell people all the time like I’m not selling a cure to acne, like I’m selling products that help you along your journey. And it’s all about achieving your glow. But acknowledging the fact that the end result is going to look very different in all of us, and it’s accepting and acknowledging that I think that’s what makes me different because I’m not forcing a cure on you. I think oftentimes people buy products thinking that, you know, they use it one time and their problem is resolved and they get disappointed. With skin, that’s just not a realistic expectation. There’s so much consistency and also changing of your skincare routine that’s going to be required in order to have sustainable skin or healthy skin, if you will. It really is a hard sell, and I know for me, I’m very conscious about how it is that I market my product because it’s not a cure, and I think that that’s a very harmful messaging to constantly put out there to people.
What is some advice that you would give other young black entrepreneurs that want to make their mark in the beauty industry with skincare? What would you say to those who are scared to step in because they’re saying “everybody’s doing it?”
Asata: I think that we now live in an age where people love to see you. Like as a founder, they love to see your journey, they want to understand your backstory, and I think that what allows us all the opportunity to create our own lane because there isn’t just one way to be an entrepreneur, there isn’t just one way to start a business. I think that the reality is that every day there are millions of businesses that are starting. Like black women, especially black women, have started so many businesses just in the pandemic alone in the majority of them are similar, like with skin care. Unless you’re coming out with some new product that has some insane, you know, chemical ingredients, they’re all essentially going to be the same thing. But it’s a matter of how it is that you market and what’s your twist?
I think as black women, one of the things that I had to learn was to not be afraid to price my products at what it is that I believe they’re worth and leading with your worth and, showing your customers the value. When you put out quality products, you’re a quality business owner, and your customer focus and your customer service experience is top tier — your people will come because of word of mouth. Your business will grow. With social media now we all have an opportunity to play. With free marketing like we have reels and videos. If you want to do paid advertising, social media, especially Instagram, Facebook and TikTok gives us all a platform to gain visibility. So I think that that’s one of the greatest things about starting a business right now is that all those barriers that we previously would have had to overcome are no longer. But you can’t be scared, and that’s what I have to constantly remind myself every day. There’s always going to be a new challenge in business, but when you remember why it is that you started it, why you know, your purpose and your why — then you can continuously motivate yourself to keep going.
Taking such a huge leap of faith, like betting on yourself with a business, in the middle of such chaos has to be a hard task — especially without knowing its outcome in advance. How did you feel when taking that leap, and how did you keep yourself motivated throughout your journey of building?
Asata: I started my business without having a job. The company that I was working for prior to the pandemic filed for bankruptcy and I was laid off. I didn’t really have much to lose in that space. I know that initially I was so caught up on the idea of people seeing me start something from the very beginning. I think that social media is a highlight reel, so you see people winning. Yet, the journey to get there is oftentimes uncomfortable and it could be a little embarrassing and you’re comparing yourself to other people. I had to get over my own self doubt and my own fear and just be willing to do it because I had nothing to lose. That was the way that I approached it. I was very surprised at how quickly the business was growing.
I think again, a lot of it is a credit to me being willing to learn the things to grow my business. I had such a huge investment on just being like the best that I could be and doing all the things within my budget to allow my business to be, as professional and top tier as it could be. Yet, what I realized, too, is that as I grow, the fear grows as well. Like self-doubt grows as well, but it grows in different ways. So now I’m not fearful of people seeing me start a business like. Now it’s just like “Oh crap, I have to scale this business and what does this look like for the next step? Then what is rebranding my business look like and what are the things that I need to get me on target shelves or to have more wholesale visibility? So as you grow like your problems grow and your worry grows, but also so does your blessing. You just have to do it, you’ll never know what it’s like to achieve something if you never try. Being OK with failure is real, and failure is necessary — but it’s not going to be the end of the journey if you’re willing to continue to try.
I think that as a society black women are so used to doing everything alone that they don’t even look to start teams or think about what they want to see because they’re so used to being superwoman. How has unlearning that narrative worked for you and what does your ideal team look like?
Asata: Initially, I was like, I’ll just do it alone. Then, I had to realize exactly what that meant and I was so burned out. It’s impossible to be everywhere at once. I think being okay with asking for help and not looking at that as a failure, acknowledging when you actually need support and when you need friends that you can talk to is important. That’s again, why I think that networking is so important because the entrepreneurial journey is so specific. Your average friend isn’t going to understand your struggles. People see you making money and they’re like, “Oh, you should be fine.” They don’t realize that with the more that money comes, more problems come. It’s hard to have these conversations with people who don’t understand business and who don’t understand how to be supportive, because oftentimes I think as black people, we get into this space where we’re just like, “Oh, well, you should be grateful to even have this.” That’s not the support that I need because I’m grateful to have this, but I can also acknowledge that I’m upset when I’m frustrated that something doesn’t go the way that I hoped it to. I think what I’m looking for in a great team is like hard working people who are equally as invested in growing the business as I am. I really would love to have black women. I think it’s important as a black woman to provide other opportunities for us. I think that we are oftentimes, you know, like left out of the conversation and not given a seat at the table. Yet to be able to provide a table that looks like people who come from my own community is super important.
Thinking about all you have accomplished thus far, how do you envision your business’ impact in the future?
Asata: I want it to be a powerhouse and to really inspire other black women to go for their dreams. I want it to be an opportunity to employ and educate other young black women. I want to have internships, Iwant to really be able to be impactful in my community. Maybe I’ll have some classes and be visible, tangible, and accessible because I think that that’s what’s missing for so many of us. We look up to so many people and like social media, gives us this false sense of proximity, but in reality we have no way of being in contact with them. If more than anything, we can’t be what we can’t see. So I think we’re showing other young black women that you can grow your business quickly. You can make it happen and you don’t have to wait so long. I think even within my own journey, after maybe two months after launch, I was listening to a live from the owner of Skin Muse, and she was saying how, like within her first year of her business, she was featured on Beyonce’s like Black Parade list and how that completely transformed her business. That alone inspired me to keep going. Although Beyonce doesn’t know who I am yet, it shows me that the possibilities are endless in terms of growing your business. That’s the legacy that I want to leave behind. That’s the legacy that’s worth it. I hope to be great. You know, one day when I’m a mom, I hope to be able to show other black women that you can have it all and do it all. Yet, until then, I hope to create a business that really becomes a powerhouse within the beauty industry.