After a recent partnership with Sundial Brands, Nyakio Skincare has launched a brand new skincare line featuring ethically-sourced ingredients and targeted at a global demographic. Founder Nyakio Kamoche Grieco, a first generation American of Kenyan descent, says the inspiration for her eponymous brand came not from celebrities or models, but from her grandparents.
“When I was eight years old, she taught me to take Kenyan coffee beans, boil them down, add oil, and use sugarcane that grew on her farm,” says Grieco of her grandmother, a coffee farmer. “And that was for the exfoliation cream.” Her grandfather was a medicine man who extracted oils, sparking Grieco's lifelong love for using essential oils in skincare products.
Originally sold on HSN, the beauty line has recently switched to Sundial for ethical sourcing, launching its new line on March 7th.
“I really wanted to have an alignment around community commerce, clean and green ethical sourcing as well as partners whom I felt very aligned with in the way of our similar history," Grieco says.
“I was originally in a licensing deal, and when time came for the license to expire, a lot of the people I was working with were moving on," the entrepreneur says. "At the time I was still selling exclusively my line on HSN, and I was really interested in finding my transition with Sundial and taking my brand to a new home.”
In addition to its all-natural ingredients, another aspect the brand prides itself on is representing the global demographic; it boasts ingredients from 30 countries around the world.
“When we say things like ‘Spanish almond oil,’ that gives the customer the experience that ‘this speaks to me,’ because someone will fall under that heritage from that part of the world,” Grieco tells SWAAY.
The new line, now available on Ulta.com, comprises of 16 products with prices ranging from $22 to $49. And though it features key anti-aging items, it’s marketed for all ages and skin types. The process consists of five steps: restore with nutrient rich oils, cleanse with sweet almond and shea oils, exfoliate with kenyan coffee and chinese rice, moisturize with baobab and red ginseng, and treat with african black soap and chamomile. The company also recently introduced a discovery kit, which consists of a firming face moisturizer, a cleansing oil balm, and a face polish exfoliator, all for an affordable $36.
“I always say, ‘for every 100 noes, you’ll get a maybe, and then maybe a yes.’”
Once, when Grieco was in Greece, she visited a black sand beach, where she ended up storing the black sand in a ziplock bag. “I took it back to my room and used it as an exfoliant, to see if it works,” the founder reveals. And worked it did, eventually becoming an integral part of the skincare line as an exfoliant. Such is the process for the development of the all-natural, ingenious products that comprise the Nyakio skincare line.
The meaning behind the name “Nyakio” is “woman who works hard in the sunshine, and considering her love for travel and dedication to applying herself to her business, is a fitting name both for herself and her brand. While Grieco herself lives in LA, the brand itself is based in Long Island, New York.
Though Sundial represents all the values dear to Grieco's mission, the transition wasn’t without its hurdles. “It was hard, challenging, and it was scary,” says Grieco, a mother of two. But she persevered.
Grieco had to juggle the stresses of family life with managing a business, but she did so gracefully and seamlessly. “I had to pull myself up from the bootstraps, and there were some tears, there was some anxiety. But I knew that if I stayed the course, the right company would find me.” Evidently, she was correct in the prediction. Her brand is flourishing, and has been named by Ulta as one of its bestsellers.
“It’s all about storytelling. Everyone has a story, and my inspiration comes from learning people’s stories and sharing beauty secrets."
“Making this has been a tough experience, but tough experiences make you stronger.”
The company is now in the process of partnering with Girls Inc, a nonprofit organization established to help girls be strong, smart and bold, through afterschool programs on topics in economic literacy, sporting chance, and healthy sexuality.
“As a little girl, I always felt like boys were better at science and math, and to grow up and start this entrepreneurship journey, and realize that I’m actually really good at science and math, it’s an eye-opening experience,” the founder says, and hopes that her success as a female entrepreneur will set a valuable role model for her girls and children around the globe. “I have a little girl and a little boy, and I want to show them that you can figure out what you want to be when you’re 8 and somehow manifest into a career.”
Sweet Almond Cleansing Oil
Looking forward, Grieco has her eyes set on great ambitions. “The world is our oyster,” the bold entrepreneur says. “We have our exclusivity with Ulta in 2017, but I’m really interested in new and innovative ways. Whether that’s going back to selling this brand on TV, or something really different, we’re exploring it all.”
I walk into a room full of men and I know exactly what they're thinking: "What does she know about whisky?"
I know this because many men have asked me that same question from the moment I started my career in spirits a decade ago.
In a male-dominated industry, I realized early on that I would always have to work harder than my male counterparts to prove my credibility, ability and knowledge in order to earn the trust of leadership stakeholders, coworkers, vendors and even consumers of our products. I am no stranger to hard work and appreciate that everyone needs to prove their worth when starting any career or role. What struck me however, was how the recognition and opportunities seemed to differ between genders. Women usually had to prove themselves before they were accepted and promoted ("do the work first and earn it"), whereas men often were more easily accepted and promoted on future potential. It seemed like their credibility was automatically and immediately assumed. Regardless of the challenges and adversity I faced, my focus was on proving my worth within the industry, and I know many other women were doing the same.
Thankfully, the industry has advanced in the last few years since those first uncomfortable meetings. The rooms I walk into are no longer filled with just men, and perceptions are starting to change significantly. There are more women than ever before making, educating, selling, marketing and conceptualizing whiskies and spirits of all kinds. Times are changing for the better and it's benefitting the industry overall, which is exciting to see.
For me, starting a career in the spirits business was a happy accident. Before spirits, I had worked in the hospitality industry and on the creative agency side. That background just happened to be what a spirits company was looking for at the time and thus began my journey in the industry. I was lucky that my gender did not play a deciding role in the hiring process, as I know that might not have been the case for everyone at that time.
Now, ten plus years later, I am fortunate to work for and lead one of the most renowned and prestigious Whisky brands in the world.. What was once an accident now feels like my destiny. The talent and skill that goes into the whisky-making process is what inspired me to come back and live and breathe those brands as if they were my own. It gave me a deep understanding and appreciation of an industry that although quite large, still has an incredible amount of handmade qualities and a specific and meticulous craft I have not seen in any other industry before. Of course, my journey has not been without challenges, but those obstacles have only continued to light my passion for the industry.
The good news is, we're on the right track. When you look at how many females hold roles in the spirits industry today compared to what it looked like 15 years ago, there has been a significant increase in both the number of women working and the types of roles women are hired for. From whisky makers and distillers to brand ambassadors and brand marketers, we're seeing more women in positions of influence and more spirits companies willing to stand up and provide a platform for women to make an impact. Many would likely be surprised to learn that one of our team's Whisky Makers is a woman. They might even be more surprised to learn that women, with a heightened sense of smell compared to our male counterparts, might actually be a better fit for the role! We're nowhere near equality, but the numbers are certainly improving.
It was recently reported by the Distilled Spirits Council that women today represent a large percentage of whisky drinkers and that has helped drive U.S. sales of distilled spirits to a record high in 2017. Today, women represent about 37% of the whisky drinkers in the United States, which is a large increase compared to the 1990s when a mere 15% of whisky drinkers were women. As for what's causing this change? I believe it's a mix of the acceptance of women to hold roles within the spirits industry partnered with thoughtful programs and initiatives to engage with female consumers.
While whisky was previously known for being a man's drink, reserved for after-dinner cigars behind closed doors, it is now out in the open and accessible for women to learn about and enjoy too.
What was once subculture is now becoming the norm and women are really breaking through and grabbing coveted roles in the spirits business. That said, it's up to the industry as a whole to continue to push it forward. When you work for a company that values diversity, you're afforded the opportunity to be who you are and let that benefit your business. Working under the model that the best brand initiatives come from passionate groups of people with diverse backgrounds, we are able to offer different points of view and challenge our full team to bring their best work forward, which in turn creates better experiences for our audience. We must continue to diversify the industry and break against the status quo if we really want to continue evolving.
While we've made great strides as an industry, there is still a lot of work to be done. To make a change and finally achieve gender equality in the workplace, both men and women need to stand behind the cause as we are better collectively as a balanced industry. We have proved that we have the ability to not only meet the bar, but to also raise it - now we just need everyone else to catch up.