5Q'S with MIA CHAE REDDY , Ph.D. , FOUNDER DEHIYA A Q&A BETWEEN WOMEN WHO'VE STARTED THEIR OWN BUSINESS
5Q'S with MIA CHAE REDDY , Ph.D. , FOUNDER DEHIYA
A Q&A BETWEEN WOMEN WHO'VE STARTED THEIR OWN BUSINESS
Dehiya beauty, pronounced (de•hē•yuh)
Living in Italy for several years, I was inspired by the gentle approach Italian women have to skin care and beauty. Traveling all over Europe & Northern Africa––France, Denmark, Spain, Croatia––this attitude was consistent;
honor your skin(care).
And then there was Morocco...1,200 year-old beauty rituals imbued with simplicity. We were on a family trip in Marrakech when I met The Herbalist, a fourth generation Moroccan pharmacist. I fell in love with the way their beauty rituals were closely connected to the land and nature. Over the next several years, The Herbalist taught me how to transform plant botanicals into beautiful oils, extracts and herbal remedies. I started to research & experiment, remixing Moroccan traditions with the folk remedies and time-tested beauty secrets I had collected all over Europe.
And so the story goes, out of my love for time-honored global beauty rituals, modern French girls who NAIL ‘effortlessly chic’ and the forever quest to possess radiant, hydrated skin, Dehiya Beauty was born.
I hold a Ph.D. from the University of Maryland-College Park in American Studies with expertise in the exploration of browngirlhood and womanhood, identity formation, sexuality & finding the power & beauty in that identity. I am a formally-trained writer, researcher and storyteller but first and foremost––I am a creator and a champion for dope girl magic.
Looking back on your first job, what skill did you use that you still use today?
My first full-time job as a makeup artist Chanel. Even though I worked retail all through college, selling in the traditional sense has never been my strength. I own that. The other makeup artists would tease me because I was talented but “too nice” which meant I wasn’t closing the sale much less up-selling.
I realized pretty early on, one of my biggest strengths is educating. I approached everything from the perspective of educating myself and in turn educating the client. So it never really felt like “selling”– it felt like giving women the knowledge to make an informed decision. Having my own beauty brand means selling is crucial; sell myself, the products, the brand every day. The idea of selling scares the bejeezus out of me but educating women on beauty and wellness totally lights me up.
Was there a defining moment that made you start your business?
The short answer is yes. I was in Morocco & met a 4th generation herbalist who opened my eyes to a whole new set of beauty rituals. The Herbalist would go on to teach me all about Moroccan beauty & wellness–both ancient traditions and modern practices.
The longer version illustrates the ways my past experiences completely set me up for the moment I met The Herbalist. It was serendipitous. I started in skin care at 18, working for Clinique and later became a makeup artist for Smashbox and ultimately, Chanel. I continued on from there to open my own women’s clothing boutique in Chicago so I learned a ton about retail marketing, wholesale, best practices from the retailer’s side.
Fast forward, I went on to get my Ph.D. from the University of Maryland in American Studies (I’m multi-passionate!). My area of expertise is female representation in popular culture, particularly women of color. All of these things led me to the defining moment when I met The Herbalist in the Jewish Quarter of Marrakech. It was when I knew I would create a retro beauty brand–a throwback that married ancient rituals with modern women’s sensibilities. And so goes the story of Dehiya Beauty, a plant-based, vegan, all-natural and organic skin care line celebrating global beauty. We create luxurious, multi-tasking, highly-effective, products in small batches for all kinds of (wo)men.
What was the first step you took to launch your brand?
The first step I took in launching the brand was research. I am a researcher by formal training and it’s so important to do your due diligence before launching. You need to understand the market, other brands, trends, niches, gaps and needs in order to create a unique, in-demand brand with longevity.
What is the greatest lesson learned in your first year in business?
No matter how cautious you are or slow you take it, you are going to have things go off the rails at some point in the journey. Accept it as it comes, give yourself a few moments to freak out & then put your big girl panties on and figure out how you are going to move forward. Things happen that are out of our control and complaining about it isn’t going to fix anything. Accept the challenge without resistance, knowing the Universe is guiding you in the direction in which you need to be moving.
Having had a brick and mortar before, I came into this project much more cautious. I committed to spending my whole first year of business in a direct to consumer model because I wanted to be able to interact fully with my clients. This meant I was learning who my client really is, I had the opportunity to educate them, learn what was or wasn’t working and what they want in future products. I was able to troubleshoot and work out any kinks before working with retailers. I just started working with retailers this year and I am so grateful I waited for a number of reasons. I was able to identity what type of retailer I wanted to work with and what education I needed to provide them with in order to serve their clients.
Also, just a couple months ago, I had a trademark issue and decided to change our name from CHAE Skin/Care to Dehiya Beauty. I was really concerned this would impact us negatively but I decided to lean into it and document it all unfolding on our Instagram page. The positive reactions our followers had were so unexpected. It has actually increased our business and exposure. Had I been in retailers all over the country, I would have had to pull all that product and dealt with so much more logistically.
What is your best piece of advice for your fellow Female Founder?
So here are my best three pieces of advice:
–Identify your strengths and weaknesses. Lean into the strengths and hire out the weaknesses as soon as possible.
–Listen to your gut because she doesn’t lie. So many times because I have gone off script, taken a leap of faith, trusted my intuition it was the best decision.
–Pay it forward. Don’t forget your struggle start. No matter if you are self-funded or VC funded, you will struggle in some area and you will need help. Remember that when you are in the position to help someone else.