Student entrepreneur starts her own company, Bad Gyal Cosmetics, as freshman
Monique Nembhard, a black entrepreneur, proud Jamaican and “lip gloss fanatic,” began finding ways to make money in middle school, with no plans to work a nine-to-five.
She would walk around her middle school cafeteria selling brownies, as her friends remember.
Then, as a freshmanat UB, Nembhard started Bad Gyal Cosmetics in May, selling lip products to people across the world.
Nembhard, a sophomore psychology major, said she saw very few, if any, UB students selling lip products and saw space in the market for herself. She began researching, buying supplies from vendors and asking friends to sample her products throughout the spring semester. The products are vibrant and sparkly with names like “Sunkiss” and “Island Breeze” and she even ships her products in blue boxes decorated with palm trees, hoping to give her customers a “Carribean feel.”
Nembhard said she wants to make her company as Carribean as possible so it is a reflection of herself.
“I wanted to create colors [and names] that reminded people of the Caribbean,” Nembhard said. “Everybody loves Jamaicans, I love Jamaica and I’m Jamaican, so I might as well reflect who I am by calling it Bad Gyal Cosmetics.”
The entrepreneur said she recognizes the numerous other lip companies, but seeing other black business women –– such as Jesseca Dupart and Wuzzam Supa –– start from the bottom and create million-dollar businesses in hair and makeup, she realized the potential of her goals.
“Nobody can make enough products to serve seven-plus billion people in this world,” Nembhard said. “Knowing that and seeing other black women succeed doing that off of social media, it really just helps me stay focused so that I can do the same.”
Nembhard makes her products wherever she can, whether it’s her dining room or even her residence hall lounge at UB. She takes orders in the Student Union and gives customers their products either the same or next day. And when she’s home in Queens, Nembhard receives orders in person or on Instagram and ships them to her customers.
Nembhard said being her own boss comes with its struggles. When she first released her lip products, she received some negative feedback.
Consumers told her that opening the lip gloss was “a bit messy” and has been told the peppermint oil she puts in her product tasted “a little bit weird.”
“Any issue my consumers notice, I notice.” Nembhard said. “So when they said it, I realized I definitely had to fix that.”
Allison De Leon, a sophomore at NYU and Nembhard’s friend, said her favorite lip gloss is Very Berry, because it’s “smooth” and “not sticky.”
“So if my hair gets in my face, I’m not dealing with a mess,” De Leon said. “It smells really nice and has so much glitter, which I love.”
De Leon, who Nembhard used to always yell at for not wearing lip gloss, knew Bad Gyal Cosmetics was important for her best friend and was eager to show her support.
“I was actually really excited to help her. We had conversations about what kind of image she wanted for her brand and I was like, ‘It's gotta look really cute and professional,’” De Leon said. “So I helped her create the Instagram page and I made the promo video and the logo.”
Nembhard said she even has customers consuming her lip scrubs, literally.
“I had a friend who was just like, ‘It tastes so good, I eat it raw,’” Nembhard said. “My coworker said the same thing.”
With all this ambition, Nembhard doesn’t plan to just stop at lip glosses and scrubs.
“I hope to expand into lipsticks, skincare products, maybe even hair care products –– I am a natural girl,” Nembhard said. “[I also hope to] have eyeshadow palettes, highlighters, all of those things.”
Although Nembhard had her ups and downs when establishing her business, she wants those interested in entrepreneurship to know they shouldn’t let mistakes get to them.
“Just never be deterred, because at the end of the day, you have a great idea and there are other people that are going to be willing to support it, friends or not,” Nebhard said. “As long as you are dedicated, you do what you need to and you’re responsible, you will definitely prevail.”
Alexandra Moyen is the assistant news editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @AlexandraMoyen.