Yewande Masi (’09) had already made the tough decision to pivot her business away from hair extensions at the end of 2019, but the Northeastern criminal justice graduate had no idea how important her decision to focus on skin care and self-care would be in 2020.
“For us, as women in general, the bathroom is kind of a ritual for us and a place to decompress. There’s nothing really centered on making that a self-care experience, and so that was what I wanted to do with Ornami,” Masi says about her skincare brand.
The name means “to adorn,” and it comes from a little-known international language called Esperanto. Masi named her signature lotion “Let that Mango,” marketing her brand as a focus on self-care by eliminating toxic products and relationships. She launched in April 2020, just weeks into the pandemic.
“That was around the time that everybody kept saying, ‘Oh, this is just going to be for two weeks,’ about the shut down, so I didn’t know it was going to affect me as much as it did,” Masi says. ”But the funny thing is it actually affected us in a positive way because people were really seeking experiences in their home.”
Once Masi realized that retail stores and open-air markets were unlikely to reopen, her focus moved to e-commerce where she sought to gain name recognition. She partnered up with online stores similar to Credo or BLK + GRN that promoted natural skincare lines as well as Black-owned businesses.
“We started getting some press coverage in late summer, and that’s when things started to pick up,” she says.
But Masi’s biggest business bounce came in October, when superstar singer Beyoncé Knowles chose Ornami to receive a $10,000 grant as part of her ”Bey Good” initiative focused on helping small Black-owned businesses during the pandemic.
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