Evelyn Atieno

Mary Louise Cosmetics is The Black Owned Business You Should Support

Akilah Mary Louise Releford is the 21 year-old creator of Mary Louis Cosmetics! 

Please tell me what your day to day schedule is with your brand

I usually try to wake up between 7:00-7:30. If I have something else planned, I will wake up earlier. I workout in the mornings and do either an hour on the treadmill or an hour of yoga. After my workout, I meditate and do my affirmations. Then, I  check my text messages and any time sensitive emails while I eat breakfast. By this time it’s usually 9:30 or 10:00.

If I’m not working from home, I’m at my office testing out new products, planning out social media posts for the week, talking to customers and influencers, and answering more emails [laughs] I also make sure everything is running smooth at the warehouse and inventory is up to date. About once a week I have lunch meeting with a team member or potential partner. My work schedule is pretty flexible so I’m able to finish tasks throughout the day if something comes up. At around 8pm, I’m starting to wind down and finish last minute tasks before the day ends. I’ll do some reading (currently reading Boss Bitch by Nicole Lapin), brainstorm new ideas for MLC in the shower (where I do most of my thinking haha), and write down my to-do list for the next day.

What inspired you to start your business?

I was inspired by my grandmothers, Mary & Louise, who were both amazing women who used natural beauty remedies and techniques that were passed down from generation to generation.

I started the company almost a year ago wanting to create wholesome, vegan, and honest products that would do wonders for the skin and environment.

Our first product, Mississippi Mud Mask, is definitely a tribute to my grandmothers who were both from Mississippi. I always knew that I wanted to work for myself and have a brand. I love the freedom, the space for creativity and the ability to make my own rules. It’s a lot of work but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I know you were a student at Howard, what made you decide to leave and do your business full time?

Taking a semester off to focus on my business was probably the best decision I’ve made. Ive learned so much over the last 7 months and I’m super grateful that I had the opportunity to be able to really focus on my passion and grow my business. I do still take online classes so I can finish up my degree. It’s good that I can create my own schedule and move things around if I need to. I’ll admit, at first it was scary moving back to LA full time to do Mary Louise, but it taught me a great deal of independence and how to properly manage my time and priorities. I really feel like I have a jump start on the life I really want to live.

What sets your business apart?

Mary Louise is unique because everyone should have access to quality and wholesome products at an affordable price. Both women and men should feel great in their skin without breaking the bank and knowing that their products are vegan, hand crafted and pure. Mary Louise was essentially founded on social media and our customers have helped grow Mary Louise from the very start. Our customers are our friends and we consider them a super important part of the Mary Louise family. Even as we continue to grow, our goal is to continue to have a very close and personal relationship with our customers and followers.

What hardships did you face when you started the business?

In the beginning, I feel like I really struggled with trying to find the right identity for the brand and where I really fit within the market space. I had to distinguish myself from other vegan and natural companies. There were many transitional points within growing the company that were difficult at first, but vital at the end. For example, moving from my garage to a manufacturing and fulfillment center that was suitable for my company took a lot of work but it needed to happen if we wanted to scale.

Feeling  overwhelmed is going to be hard to avoid when starting any company, but I had to learn how to control and manage my tasks while remembering to take time for myself.

Any advice to black business owners?

Get a mentor. Reach out to someone who you know is in business or someone who you look up to. This person could be someone you know personally or someone you meet at a networking event. It’s so important to have someone who is on your side and can give you advice from a different perspective. Having someone to confide in will really help to bring stress levels down. Also, have a role model who is also black and keeps you very motivated knowing that if they can do it…so can you.

Another piece of advice I would give: don’t listen to what other have to say. And when I say that, I mean to not let society put you in a box or tell you that your idea or dreams are too big.

What I’ve learned along the way, is to not be so quick to tell people your goals, plans, or aspirations. Positive energy is real, and you should do everything in your power to bring only positive energy into your life.