"As a Black Female Founder, I Know Times Are Hard. Here's How I Push Forward."
It’s a beautiful time to be alive. That’s not how most people talk about 2020, but beauty doesn’t just apply to easy, tranquil moments of peace and happiness. Beauty also lives in the dismantling of falsehoods, the disruption of fallacies, and the destruction of systems. The three pandemics of 2020 — Covid-19, an economic downturn, and police brutality and injustice toward African Americans — have been the perfect chain of events to wake up our world.
I have been impacted by the ugliness. But I insist on seeing beauty.
Before it became clear that this would be a year of powerful change for all of us, we knew it would bring powerful change for my company, The Honey Pot. Our plant-based feminine care products are carried in Target, and in late 2019, the retailer asked if I’d participate in a commercial for its supplier diversity initiative, tied to Black History Month and Women’s History Month. (I fit right in: I am a Black woman.) It was an amazing opportunity, and I eagerly agreed. In the commercial we filmed, I said that as a CEO, I wanted to be an example to other young Black girls, to show them that they can accomplish anything. The sky is truly the limit.
As soon as the ad aired in February, The Honey Pot started receiving derogatory emails and DMs from people who had some crude things to say about race and race relations. We didn’t pay them any attention at first — we figured there would be some naysayers who’d be triggered by such a commercial.
But when one of our loyal customers discovered a series of one-star Honey Pot reviews on TrustPilot.com — which were highly inflammatory and accused us of racism — it was plain as day that these naysayers wanted to bring The Honey Pot down.
Here’s the funny thing: It did the opposite. That customer who discovered the reviews posted about them on Twitter and Instagram, and within 24 hours, everything went viral — and we received a bigger outpouring of love, support, and protection than we could have imagined. It was absolutely incredible.
I’m often asked whether or not I took offense to what those anonymous reviewers wrote about my business. But when I think about that moment, I feel lucky. On one side, people were trying to hurt me and my company. But on the other, stronger side, people were lifting us up and coming to our defense. It felt harmonious, and I found myself in a place of love and determination. I realized that I know exactly who I am as a person and a business owner. I can stand with confidence in that space.
This is the consistent lesson of my life: We have the power to transform tragedy into positivity. I first learned it the moment I was born, when I nearly died.
Here. Now. Grateful. Present. These are words I use frequently. I’m 37 years old, and when I look back on my life, it’s been a roller-coaster ride, both personally and professionally. But it’s one that has repeatedly taught me to move through life with intention and gratitude, no matter what the world throws my way.
To start at the beginning: When I was born in 1982, I didn’t have a forehead, or a nose, and my brain was exposed. The doctors had to construct these parts of my face, and thanks to their skill and my mother’s deep commitment to me, I was given the chance to live a healthy life.
And I did, until I was 12 years old. One day, sitting in front of the television, my body started to feel strange and unfamiliar. I was having a stroke. After a scary week that came with multiple, unexplained seizures, I had a complete recovery.
Despite these scares, my mother never treated me as fragile or delicate. She spoiled me with attention and care, and demonstrated unconditional love. That love came with extreme discipline from a young age. When I was 15, she taught me to stand on my own two feet. I, like many teenagers, wanted to get my driving permit. (I needed some independence!) She allowed it but said that I would have to pay for driving school. So I got a job at McDonald’s, and I quickly found my own sense of strength and resolve.
If I ever lost sight of these lessons, she’d quickly remind me: “No one can be responsible for your life or happiness but you. Time should be respected and revered. Don’t waste it being unhappy.”
That thinking has served me well. And in fact, my next medical scare inspired my career.
It happened when I was 29. I spent a year struggling with bacterial vaginosis, visiting doctors and being prescribed various unsuccessful antibiotics. In a vivid dream, my grandmother visited me and handed me a piece of paper with a list of ingredients on it. When I woke up, I got to work. I gathered those ingredients and made a natural wash. The formula saved my vaginal health — and opened up my entire world. In 2014, I created The Honey Pot, to help other women with similar problems. That formula is now our popular Normal Wash.
Over the past six years, we’ve built a very small but strong team, one where each person wears many hats. This forces us to push ourselves and expand beyond what’s expected. We’re agile and resourceful, and we’ve got a lot of grit and tenacity. I’m proud to work with these humans. Our Honey Pot family embodies the very characteristics that my mother worked so hard to instill within me. And this year especially, that’s been a very good thing.
As a Black, female business owner, I have been approached with racism and sexism on more than one occasion. In those moments, it’s hard not to absorb that negative energy. It’s hard not to get offended. It’s hard not to lash out. But after years of personal work (which helped me stay calm throughout this year’s Target situation), I’ve learned to choose. I can choose which energies to engage with. I can choose how to respond. And I can, and always will, choose myself.
Over the past few decades, we’ve seen a collective awakening of human consciousness, and more people are coming together to choose to create new ideals for how we live. Whether we’re peacefully protesting or expressing rage in fiery, resistance-fueled riots, humans are out there fighting for something better. We have to put heat on 2020’s pandemics — to let out the pus, and to move forward together as a changed world.
For me, part of choosing myself has been about overcoming my fears, many of which we’re facing this year. I’m no longer asking for permission to belong to a nation that doles out racism and brutality with ease, all the while struggling to admit its faults and repair its wrongdoings. My ancestors were brought to this country against their will hundreds of years ago. So I’m taking up my own form of reparations through peace and equality within myself — and I will take my place wherever I choose, as a human, a woman, and an entrepreneur. I’m choosing to see every moment as a gift: life, death, joy, pain, all of the above.
That’s not to say I’m perfect, or that I’m at perfect peace. I have my moments — of fear, of anger — but I work hard to get through them swiftly, move through the chaos, and get back to the calmer side of life, where I prefer to exist and thrive.
We’re all experiencing the here and now in a raw and remarkable way. Don’t fight the waves of change that are crashing over all of us. Times like these are proof that we’re alive, and they expose control as an illusion. Find the lessons — and make life work for you. There’s so much beauty to create.