The latest #myBOBstory is one that balances wanting to be a profitable small business while also directly giving back to your community. This myBOB story introduces you to Founder and Owner of Taupe Coat, Bethany Peak. You can listen to the full interview with Bethany, as well as read the abridged version below.
You may have noticed that Taupe Coat was featured on our Instagram profile. If you’re interested in being featured in the #myBOBstory, reach out via email. This series brings awareness to Black businesses from the owner's perspective. At myblackbox co it's important to know the vision and purpose behind a business.
Bethany was inspired to begin her business due to the day-to-day struggles of being a Black woman in a White male dominated space: law. What sprung from her creativity and passion is a growing nail polish brand that gives a portion of its proceeds back to charity programs each quarter.
Why did you start your business?
When I think back, I realized it was out of self-care, but I don't think at the time that I really realized that. For my day job, I'm a practicing attorney. And several years ago, early in my practice I already started getting disillusioned and very grouchy about my job. I realized that I needed a hobby. I needed something to do after work that I liked so that I can decompressed from my day because my attitude is getting real stank and all my friends are probably about to cut me off. I've always really been into nail polish and so I learned that there were these indie brands that were making their own nail polish. I figured oh, if those ladies can do it then I probably can too, cause I'm smart. I started buying a bunch of products and just making my own nail polish at home after work; something fun to do. And I did that for a couple of years and then started sharing my polish with my mom and with some other people. And then one day it clicked for me, I was like, you should just sell your nail polish that you've been making at home. I came up with the name, Taupe Coat and 'Taupe' is spelled like the color Taupe. I love plays on words and so I was like, that's it. I kind of just, you know, decided that I was going to launch into entrepreneurship. I've never ran a business before, so it was weird and scary for me. But that's why I started doing it—I really needed something to keep myself sane from my day-to-day.
How have you found managing your time between your day-to-day job and then your small business?
What I found is that I have to be very proactive about scheduling my time that I'm going to work on my business. One of the things that I did [is] now I wake up every day at 5:00 am and I pretty much start my day then. I try to give myself 30 minutes just to me when I wake up. I do jumping jacks and drink some tea or coffee or whatever, then I give myself at least one hour before work to do Taupe Coat. That's usually when I'm reading my emails; deciding] what kind of stuff do I need to tackle? I create my to-do list and then I go through my workday. When I come home in the evening, I have "my office hours" and I block them out because some days I like to do fun things with my friends. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday night are office hours and that's when I dedicate those blocks, Taupe Coat. I've found that that really helps me especially with all the social media... hustle porn gets you that you're always supposed to be working on your business and if you're not, you're not committed! 'How dare you watch Game of Thrones!' I don't feel bad because I know these are the times that I decided to do my life or work on my business, and as long as I do that then I know I'm pursuing my goals. I don't have to feel guilty when I do want to hang out with my friends and watch the Bachelorette or whatever.
I think that ability to give yourself permission to still live your life even though you are an entrepreneur is something important to keep in mind because as you said, hustle porn is really prevalent and it makes people think that if they're not spending every waking hour on their business, then they're a failure. And that's not true. On that note, I'd really like to hear from you what drives you or fuels your entrepreneurial journey as you continue with it?
One of the things I'm really trying to do is break the cycle of generational poverty in my family. I feel we come from these families where our family worked super hard, they were trying to make ends meet; they're just trying to survive in America and we're kind of raised that you get your job, you work your 9 to 5, and you don't cause any problems and just be happy. But then that doesn't really create any wealth for us. We're not creating anything extra for our families to be able to live off of in the future. Sometimes with my business, I'll get discouraged because things aren't going as well as I want them to and I have all these lofty ideas that sometimes I'm like, 'You're not even qualified for that. Do you even know how to do that Bethany?' I have to remind myself that what I'm doing is not just for me. I'm not a mother yet, but I plan to be at some point. I am doing all of this, laying the groundwork so that me and my kids and my family in the future can be able to create some wealth so that maybe they don't have to work a 9 to 5 that they dislike. They have some flexibility or maybe if they want to be able to, have the freedom to try different things in their life, they'll be able to do that because we as a family have created wealth. I'll talk to my friends that are like, 'Oh my gosh, you starting Taupe Coat inspired me! Now I'm gonna pursue my dreams.' And knowing that I'm creating and helping to funnel this community of other women that are starting businesses gives me so much life.
I think that's very powerful, especially in Black families where sometimes the main goal is simply finding a job to be able to survive and life really shouldn't be felt as this thing that you're surviving. You should be able to live it and do amazing things while you are on this planet. My next question, as we talk about your journey and the inspiration that you've sparked for your friends to try something new or start a business, is who do you consider a great example of Black entrepreneurship?
The people that I consider great entrepreneurs are actually people that I consider within my tribe. I've started to meet a whole bunch of other Black women that are running businesses and they inspire me on a day-to-day basis. I have a friend she has a stylist company in Atlanta. She like you, had a day job, left that, and now she pursues her stylist company full time. She's amazing at it! She just had an app that launched. I have someone else, Ivy with a company called Ivy's Tea and she's a hip-hop herbalist. So all of her teas are based in the hip hop culture, and watching them do their thing and grow their businesses that's how I learn. When I see someone has a really great email listserv then I'm going to adopt that and use that in Taupe Coat emails. If I see somebody doing great programming then I'll figure out how I can adopt that into my own business. I look at the entrepreneurs around me that are still doing their thing, creating really great businesses and I use them as my example. It's a little bit more relatable to me than an amazing entrepreneur like Beyoncé. Beyoncé is great, but I'm not on Beyoncé’s level.
This relatability is something that I think can either deter a potential entrepreneur or if they can find relatable entrepreneurs actually spearhead them. In research they're referred to as these Black elites who have done these amazing things, been the first in their areas or just started these businesses that have grown. And it's this question for the everyday person where it's well, I'm not Beyoncé. I'm not Oprah. How can I possibly do it? And knowing these relatable entrepreneurs who started small, similar to you, who may or may not be in the same space as your business, it's still an opportunity to grow and learn from each other; and not feel you have to compete with one another and hold close your tips and tricks of how you succeeded. There's plenty of opportunity for all of us to be a success. My next question, as we dive more into your business, why should consumers purchase from Taupe Coat—what's the value that they're going to get out of purchasing from your business?
There are a lot of really amazing nail polish brands that create a similar product to me. All of my polishes, it's what they call 10 free, that means it doesn't have a lot of the harmful chemicals that are usually a nail polish. It's also vegan and cruelty free, which one point on that—cause my mother, you know how especially black mothers can be sometimes like ‘How is a polish vegan?'—but people don't know that a lot of the effects in some nail polish products are made from animal byproducts and that's why it's not a buzzword all the time. But anyway, I said there are a lot of great companies that are creating [polishes], and you were just saying there's more than enough space for all of us to thrive. Nobody owns one single brand of nail polish. I've never said I make the greatest nail polish in the world, but one of the things that I really pride myself on with Taupe Coat is that I'm trying to use nail polish to make a positive impact in my community. The way that we do that is through our Taupe charity program. Every quarter I pick a different charity and I donate a portion of our sales to that nonprofit. This year what I've done is try to have a more tangible impact. Our last quarter's Taupe charity was this group called Bright Girl LA and they put on workshops and programming for high school and middle school girls to help them develop their creative writing. We definitely need more women in the world telling our stories. Taupe Coat sponsored the snack table because [the program] likes to provide snacks for ladies that way they can keep their brains energized and flowing. One of the reasons that I think that people should really purchase from Taupe Coat, if not for anything else because we make great colors, is that I do use a lot of the money to reinvest into the community. Next, we're partnering with a women's prison book project. They raise money and collect books to send to women and transgender persons that are incarcerated. It's an entirely 100% volunteer—these are all people that volunteered their time. I'm planning on hosting a couple of book drives over the summer, but also all the money that I set aside from Taupe charity is going to go to their wish lists and buy as many books as we can so we can send them to these womxn in prison.
I love that you actually do have very clear defined goals of what you're trying to achieve with the portion of what you do—giving back to your community and selecting these different organizations to contribute to on a quarterly basis. Most companies will pick one charity organization to support once a year and that's it. To kind of touch a little bit on what you are sharing about your products and, and why consumers should want to purchase with Taupe Coat, I'd love to know of all of your polishes in the colors that you have, which is your most favorite and why?
This is such a hard question because every time I feel like 75% of the shades I make, I'm like, 'Oh this is my favorite! This is it. I love it! I should just stop here!' I have a shade called Be Uncommon. It's this really bright electric blue. When I first started playing around with nail polish, I used to have a color similar when I was younger in high school and I loved it. I missed that color. I worked so hard trying to recreate it and it took me forever to try to create Be Uncommon. I had the mental picture of it from when I was 16 and so I finally got it and it was perfect. It continues to be one of my best sellers. I think that is my favorite shade because this is my childhood being manifested into my entrepreneurial journey; also knowing that other people love it and appreciate it. One day this lady walks by and she had Be Uncommon on and she's like, 'This is my favorite color!' and I swear I wanted to cry.
When you actually see that people love what you're doing and love one of your most favorite things about your business, it does bring a really strong sense of joy, pride, and also wholeness. For readers, make sure you check out [Be Uncommon] because it's very popular! My next question, to dive a little bit more into society and the way that Black women try to move within society, I would like to learn what advice you have for Black girls and women who struggle finding their place in society?
I feel this an ongoing journey that I am on myself, especially being in the legal practice. It's no shock that it is definitely a White male dominated business and especially in the area that I practice—pretty much everybody is a White man. It's really weird being in that space and a lot of times not only are you the only woman, you're the only person of color; you're the only person under 40. This is something that I struggle with on a daily basis. I found that one of the things for me was that having my group of people that I knew I can go back to and just fully be myself really impacts my mental well-being. I have my best friends, four of us, and we talk pretty regularly, but recently we got on the Marco Polo app. It's done a lot for my mental well-being because having this group of women that can jump on [and share] like let me tell you about something crazy today; let me tell you why I'm feeling discouraged, or am I being crazy? Having that group, knowing that I can always go to them, they're going to understand me, they're going to give me honest feedback sometimes that I maybe don't want to hear, but nonetheless I need here, that has really helped me. It reminds me that it's OK me being me, I'm not the only person that feels this way. When I go back into my day job and in moments where I'm feeling I'm being shoved into a box, I know that that's not my only reality. There are other experiences that I have in my life that can keep me on track and help me feel more like myself. I can't single-handedly change the legal profession overnight and if I try to, or think I'm going, then I'm going to drive myself crazy.
The encouragement that you're suggesting of having a group of friends or individuals that you can actually connect with outside of these spaces, that connect to your authenticity, to who you are, is something I don't think is explained very well in the arena of how we talk about this nowadays—especially across social media and all these conferences of empowering women and Black women together. My next question, because everyone loves to talk about finances, how did you financially start your business?
When I decided I was going to start my business, I was like, I'm just gonna start it. I literally came up with the name for Taupe Coat, sitting in my bed. I text my brother, 'Isn't this a cool name?' He's like, 'Yeah.' It was not really advanced planning. I had the benefit of my day job, that is one of the only reasons I continue to practice law today is the financial benefits. I can take that money and literally fund it or funnel that into Taupe Coat. I used my extra money from my salary. Now Taupe Coat brings in money, so I'm able to use that. But in the beginning, I went to my budget and I cut out a section. This is what I'm going to devote to Taupe Coat every month. I'll also plug in a very great organization, Buy From a Black Woman. They give out a small business grant. I think they do it quarterly. When I first started Taupe Coat, I only bought a couple bottles; it was a very small investment. I started getting a really good response, so I was like, alright, I need more bottles. It cost way more money than I had on hand and I applied for the Buy From a Black Woman grant and I used that money to be able to buy the new bottles I have that I love and are really great quality. It [was] a combo of me financing my own company but also getting support from my community of Black women.
I think it's very common that a lot of Black women are so beholden to this stereotype that we have to be strong and do it all ourselves, and are too afraid to ask for help. You applying for this grant with Buy From a Black Woman helped you get better quality bottles and it only helped you continue to deliver the service that you want to, and the products that you want to, to your customer base. I appreciate you sharing both avenues of it being self-funded as well as taking the chance on opportunities that you think might be beneficial based on who is actually presenting those financial opportunities with our readers. What advice would you give to someone like you who has an idea but is afraid to take the first step to launch anything?
Honestly, I think the first thing you have to do is just do it. You know, a lot of times we get these ideas and sometimes you have to get out of your own way. I am the queen of that also. When I decided that I wanted to start making nail polish as a hobby, I started buying things right then. A lot of times...people get caught up to where it's like, I have this idea and you're like you need a business plan. Some people will spend 18 years writing a business plan and never actually get to the business part of the plan! You have got to start somewhere, just start doing anything, pick one thing that you know, that you need to do for the business and just do it. I was really insecure about it because being an attorney I have a good job and I was so worried that people were going to be like, 'What are you doing trying to slang nail polish? Go back to your office, bill more hours, and do your law thing and stop trying to nail polish cause that's ridiculous!' For a while I didn't tell anybody. I was fully manufacturing nail polish. I was signing up for markets and stuff, but I wasn't telling people around me. In retrospect, I should've been out, happy, and do what I wanted to do. Don't let yourself hold yourself back. Because really you are the only barrier between you and dreams that you have.
Most of the time these corporations, especially startups that I've worked for, they get lucky. They don't perfect anything. They just get lucky. So, luck will probably be on your side and if not, you will learn from trying it that way and then you can go and put a little bit of perfection into it. But just start somewhere. What can the myblackbox co audience expect from Taupe Coat with the rest of 2019—what's coming?
One of the things I've been wanting to do for the last couple of years is find more ways to get out and have events where I can interact with customers and more people. This is also a request for help from your audience. If anyone has a nail salon or knows of event spaces and would love to partner with Taupe Coat, I'm looking for a space where I can come in, bring some manicurists, have Taupe Coat polish, have wine, champagne, beer, whatever. We get together for an evening of fellowship and fun. I'm really working on trying to get some of those out around end of summer and the fall before things get crazy for the holidays. I love opportunities to create community. I always meet a new business owner that I identify with. I did a show with Project Beauty Expo, which is for Black woman owned beauty brands. I met a bunch of the other vendors and one of them reached out because she wants to do a Christmas box. I'm going to collaborate with her. I share that to say I always have a great time whenever I'm out fellowshipping with other women. I'm trying to find new ways for Taupe Coat to get out there. If anybody has any ideas, you have a business, you want to partner, feel free to reach out to me.
If you're in the Greater Los Angeles area and you have a venue or space where you can partner together to bring fellowship, exchanging knowledge, ideas, innovation, that's the birthing of new ideas can come from joining with others who are committed to seeing growth happen. I wanted to say that most businesses who think, or potential entrepreneurs who think, that a market is too saturated don't think that you cannot enter the nail polish space. That's why there's multiple options so that you can have multiple colors to select from and brands to select from. You will find your audience that will fall in love with your unique offering, your unique position, which I love yours, Bethany. Thank you so much for your time! Plug in where we can find you on social and your website as well.
Awesome! Well, thank you again and I look forward to making a purchase soon myself.
Awesome, thanks Brittinee!
Bethany’s story showcases how you can be committed to supporting underrepresented groups, building community and sisterhood, and still use creativity to deliver products that sale.