The JessicaSimien.com “She’s A Boss” series is all about women in leadership positions. Women are not celebrated enough for their amazing and one-of-a-kind accomplishments and we decided to use our platform to shine light on some very talented and intelligent ladies working toward (and realizing) their dreams. Not only will you have an opportunity to learn about them, you will also get to learn from them as they share their business advice and pointers on how to maintain balance.
Kameka Johnson is the founder of luxury beauty brand, KAMI Cosmetics. The 33-year-old Kingston, Jamaica native and Atlanta resident is a graduate of Northern Caribbean University and is currently studying at Kennesaw State.
Read our interview with Kameka below.
JESSICASIMIEN.COM: At JessicaSimien.com we love celebrating women who are fearlessly creating their own unique paths to success. What inspired you to become a business owner?
Kameka Johnson: I’ve always had an entrepreneurial mind, always wanting to have something of my own. Also, it creates freedom.
JESSICASIMIEN.COM: Why did you choose the beauty industry?
KJ: I chose the beauty industry because it grows and it evolves. I love to see a transformation. It has always been a pleasure to see a big beautiful smile on a woman’s face when she gets a makeover. She exudes confidence, she walks away with a purpose, and there is that glow that illuminates from her.
I love what it does for me too. No matter how society defines what beauty is – add a little makeup, even if it’s just lipstick, it makes a difference. A woman’s bare face is like a blank canvas. Applying quality makeup and amazing artistry technique can transform her into a more confident woman. This intertwines with my logo and purpose for KAMI Cosmetics. Also it’s a billion dollar industry, why not get a piece of the pie? (Smile)
JESSICASIMIEN.COM: I read that you were born in Kingston, Jamaica. What influence does your Jamaican roots have on the way you view beauty?
KJ: Growing up on the beautiful island of Jamaica where the culture is rich and the people are diverse, I was highly influenced by my surroundings and influential family members such as my mother Sylvia and my Aunty Joy. Aunty Joy always paid particular attention to her appearance and encouraged me to do the same. My mother always said ” remember, confidence is beauty, beauty is confidence.”
JESSICASIMIEN.COM: What about how it influences your work ethic?
KJ: My work ethic was influenced at an early age. I attended Vaz Preparatory School in Kingston where our motto was “Honest Labour Bears A Lovely Face.” From the age of three I was taught the principles of hard work and diligence, the deep trust and commitment to a God who never fails. At the age of nine I attended Wolmers High School, also in Kingston, where the motto is “Age Quod Agis” meaning whatever you do, you must do it to the best of your ability.
JESSICASIMIEN.COM: Tell us a little about KAMI Cosmetics and how you got started.
KJ: KAMI Cosmetics is a luxury beauty brand for the sophisticated, chic and bold woman. It’s a beauty brand with a purpose. If you take a close look at the logo, the butterfly is actually a reflection of a woman’s face that’s shaped in to a butterfly. It symbolizes the transformation, the journey and the freedom to feel beautiful. The components used during the manufacturing process are of superb quality. This lends itself to the luxurious experience of using KAMI cosmetics for the first time over and over again.
I’ve sold other beauty brands and have been to their meetings where they tell you to brand yourself, when in fact you are branding them. I said to myself, ‘if I can open and close a sale about a brand that I really don’t know much about or I’ve never met the owner and make them a lot of money,’ why not build my own beauty brand? A brand that I will know about, a brand that I will stay true to and be confident about. A brand that has a meaning and a purpose. A brand that women can relate to.
After being told by a “makeup artist” at one of the popular makeup counters that I’m too dark skinned to wear a red lip, the feeling I felt after walking away, I said I never wanted to experience that feeling again. Also I never wanted any other woman to experience that no matter what skin tone or ethnicity.
I began doing my own research among family and friends and I asked questions such as what they look for in a beauty product, particularly makeup. I got various answers but the four that stuck out to me were pigment, health, luxury and quality. Google became my best friend as I researched various manufacturers and having them send me samples to test. I chose specific manufacturers and KAMI was born in August 2013.
JESSICASIMIEN.COM: What challenges did you face starting up your company and how did you manage to overcome them?
KJ: It was a bit tedious in the beginning, trying to find reputable manufacturers that will yield top shelf beauty products. Also another challenge I faced was some people not understanding that you do not have to be a makeup artist to have your own beauty brand. I over came that obstacle by being true to my brand.
JESSICASIMIEN.COM: What is your favorite or go-to item from your line and why that particular one out of all that you offer?
KJ: My go to products are my St. Tropez Blush/bronzer and I love my “Rich Girl” lippie. It’s a hot pink…Love it. The blush gives me that soft youthful glow, it’s a must have!
JESSICASIMIEN.COM: I read that Kami Cosmetics’ Black Orchid Collection captured the attention of Beyonce’s makeup artist, Francesca Tolot. How did that feel?
KJ: I was so excited when Beyonce’s makeup artist Francesca Tolot’s office contacted me requesting our January 2014 Black Orchid Collection. After sending it to her, she loved them and took pictures and posted it to her social media. So you never know which celebrity is wearing KAMI!
JESSICASIMIEN.COM: As an entrepreneur myself, I know that there are days when things can get a little crazy and you can easily become overwhelmed. What do you do to stay sane and maintain a personal life at the same time?
KJ: Yes it can be a bit overwhelming. I will take a break and read a motivational book or listen to something positive that will remind me to keep going. I would often recite my favorite poem called “Success” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It’s an amazing poem. I try to juggle the two. In everything you do, you must take a moment for yourself to breathe and enjoy.
JESSICASIMIEN.COM: Are there any female bosses that you look up to?
KJ: Yes I look up to a few women who I consider as bosses – Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Anna Wintour, Beyonce and Kandi Burruss.
JESSICASIMIEN.COM: What advice do you have for women who aspire to own their own cosmetic line or break into the beauty industry?
KJ: I will say never begin a business for the only reason to make a lot of money. In the beginning when the money isn’t flowing as you expect you will loose your drive. Always have passion for what you do. Passion is what fuels your drive of determination to continue even when the mountains get harder to climb. Stay true to your brand and beliefs. Do your own research, know your market and target audience. Work hard and do not give up! Always remember this Coca Cola sold 25 bottles in their first year. Look at Coca Cola today. It’s an empire.