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Milk, Cookies & Pedicures: From Booster Seats to Spa Chairs

Business

Talk about a great idea. When cousins Teychenne and Jataon Whitley were planning to open the Milk & Cookies Kids Spa, they were prompted by the fact that there were very few children's spas on the market that appropriately catered to both girls and boys. "There was a need for it; young girls want to go to the salon with their moms [but] young boys aren't able to go to the barbershops with their dads because conversations can often be inappropriate" explains Jataon. Being a mom of both a son and daughter, Jataon understood firsthand the need for a unisex children's spa.


Pedi Station. Photo Credit: milkandcookieskidsspa.com

"People see the salon and think it looks great but they don't understand everything that went into it."

So, with Jataon's children as their muses, the two set out together to create a fun, imaginative, one-stop-salon for boys and girls alike.

The spa, located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, offers a full range of dessert inspired spa treatments, a complimentary milk and cookies bar (with fresh cookies baked onsite everyday) and now, an exclusive, kid-friendly nail polish collection. Their lacquer line called SPLAT, which is naturally made for kids, features 14 different non-toxic polishes. With a light pink polish named "Strawberry Milkshake" and a dodger blue named "Besties Forever" each name, just like the spa, is adorable and delicious.

"We thought about it in the beginning of 2016 and then between April and June, we really reacted to that thought," explains Teychenne. "We wanted something that belonged to us, that was fun and girly but to also incorporate the non-toxic factor."

The collection is being sold in-store and on the Milk & Cookies website so that "everyone, in New York and internationally, can experience a bit of our magic," says Jataon. What the Whitley cousins have created is indeed magical; an affordable sanctuary for parents and an unforgettable (and tasty) time for children.

"Young girls want to go to the salon with their moms [but] young boys aren’t able to go to the barbershops with their dads because conversations can often be inappropriate”

5 Questions for Innovators

  1. What app do you most use?

Jataon: Facebook.

Teychenne: Instagram.

  1. Name a business mogul you admire.

J: Sean Puffy Combs. He once said "while you're sleeping, I'm working" and every time I feel myself getting exhausted, I think about those words.

T: Marcus Lemonis. I'm so intrigued how he can reinvigorate a struggling business.

  1. What product do you wish you had invented?

J: The smart phone…why didn’t I think of that?

T: Facebook.

  1. What is your life motto?

J: If you don't quit in life you will make it, you will be successful.

T: Develop a blue print to create and build an empire.

  1. Desert Island. Three things, go.

J: Water, food, slippers.

T: Water, deodorant, lip balm.

As one can imagine, starting a small business is not always a smooth process. When asked about any challenges faced thus far, Teychenne says that the location selection and construction process proved to be difficult, "People see the salon and think it looks great but they don't understand everything that went into it," she says. "A huge challenge was that [the location] didn’t have a bathroom on the main floor, and as per regulations, you must have a bathroom on your floor. "Building a bathroom reduced our budget," she added. Another big challenge? Hiring salon professionals that delivered quality services while still having the personality to work with children.

Teychenne and Jataon Whitley

When it came to funding the salon, the duo "pulled money from every which way." Teychenne notes that the business-minded duo kept its initial ask in the family rather than investors, dipping into savings and acquiring personal loans prior to opening their doors on February 1, 2015.

So what's next for these two entrepreneurs? Plans to franchise their store are in the works for the near future, while the SPLAT nail polish collection, which will expand in the coming months, is available at wholesale to be sold in other salons. Clearly, Milk & Cookies will continue to add a flavorful charm to the Upper East Side.

Culture

A Modern Day Witch Hunt: How Caster Semenya's Gender Became A Hot Topic In The Media

Gender divisions in sports have primarily served to keep women out of what has always been believed to be a male domain. The idea of women participating alongside men has been regarded with contempt under the belief that women were made physically inferior.


Within their own division, women have reached new heights, received accolades for outstanding physical performance and endurance, and have proven themselves to be as capable of athletic excellence as men. In spite of women's collective fight to be recognized as equals to their male counterparts, female athletes must now prove their womanhood in order to compete alongside their own gender.

That has been the reality for Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic champion, who has been at the center of the latest gender discrimination debate across the world. After crushing her competition in the women's 800-meter dash in 2016, Semenya was subjected to scrutiny from her peers based upon her physical appearance, calling her gender into question. Despite setting a new national record for South Africa and attaining the title of fifth fastest woman in Olympic history, Semenya's success was quickly brushed aside as she became a spectacle for all the wrong reasons.

Semenya's gender became a hot topic among reporters as the Olympic champion was subjected to sex testing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). According to Ruth Padawer from the New York Times, Semenya was forced to undergo relentless examination by gender experts to determine whether or not she was woman enough to compete as one. While the IAAF has never released the results of their testing, that did not stop the media from making irreverent speculations about the athlete's gender.

Moments after winning the Berlin World Athletics Championship in 2009, Semenya was faced with immediate backlash from fellow runners. Elisa Cusma who suffered a whopping defeat after finishing in sixth place, felt as though Semenya was too masculine to compete in a women's race. Cusma stated, "These kind of people should not run with us. For me, she is not a woman. She's a man." While her statement proved insensitive enough, her perspective was acknowledged and appeared to be a mutually belief among the other white female competitors.

Fast forward to 2018, the IAAF issued new Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification (Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development) that apply to events from 400m to the mile, including 400m hurdles races, 800m, and 1500m. The regulations created by the IAAF state that an athlete must be recognized at law as either female or intersex, she must reduce her testosterone level to below 5 nmol/L continuously for the duration of six months, and she must maintain her testosterone levels to remain below 5 nmol/L during and after competing so long as she wishes to be eligible to compete in any future events. It is believed that these new rules have been put into effect to specifically target Semenya given her history of being the most recent athlete to face this sort of discrimination.

With these regulations put into effect, in combination with the lack of information about whether or not Semenya is biologically a female of male, society has seemed to come to the conclusion that Semenya is intersex, meaning she was born with any variation of characteristics, chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals. After her initial testing, there had been alleged leaks to media outlets such as Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper which stated that Semenya's results proved that her testosterone levels were too high. This information, while not credible, has been widely accepted as fact. Whether or not Semenya is intersex, society appears to be missing the point that no one is entitled to this information. Running off their newfound acceptance that the Olympic champion is intersex, it calls into question whether her elevated levels of testosterone makes her a man.

The IAAF published a study concluding that higher levels of testosterone do, in fact, contribute to the level of performance in track and field. However, higher testosterone levels have never been the sole determining factor for sex or gender. There are conditions that affect women, such as PCOS, in which the ovaries produce extra amounts of testosterone. However, those women never have their womanhood called into question, nor should they—and neither should Semenya.

Every aspect of the issue surrounding Semenya's body has been deplorable, to say the least. However, there has not been enough recognition as to how invasive and degrading sex testing actually is. For any woman, at any age, to have her body forcibly examined and studied like a science project by "experts" is humiliating and unethical. Under no circumstances have Semenya's health or well-being been considered upon discovering that her body allegedly produces an excessive amount of testosterone. For the sake of an organization, for the comfort of white female athletes who felt as though Semenya's gender was an unfair advantage against them, Semenya and other women like her, must undergo hormone treatment to reduce their performance to that of which women are expected to perform at. Yet some women within the athletic community are unphased by this direct attempt to further prove women as inferior athletes.

As difficult as this global invasion of privacy has been for the athlete, the humiliation and sense of violation is felt by her people in South Africa. Writer and activist, Kari, reported that Semenya has had the country's undying support since her first global appearance in 2009. Even after the IAAF released their new regulations, South Africans have refuted their accusations. Kari stated, "The Minister of Sports and Recreation and the Africa National Congress, South Africa's ruling party labeled the decision as anti-sport, racist, and homophobic." It is no secret that the build and appearance of Black women have always been met with racist and sexist commentary. Because Black women have never managed to fit into the European standard of beauty catered to and in favor of white women, the accusations of Semenya appearing too masculine were unsurprising.

Despite the countless injustices Semenya has faced over the years, she remains as determined as ever to return to track and field and compete amongst women as the woman she is. Her fight against the IAAF's regulations continues as the Olympic champion has been receiving and outpour of support in wake of the Association's decision. Semenya is determined to run again, win again, and set new and inclusive standards for women's sports.