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Cashmere Nicole: How a Single Mom With Breast Cancer Founded Beauty Bakerie

On talking to God, Beyoncé, and authenticity.

Cashmere Nicole, founder and chief executive officer of Beauty Bakerie Cosmetics, clad in a hot pink pantsuit and sparkly silver bustier, delivered an emotional address to the crowd, expounding on her journey as struggling entrepreneur and single mom during her battle with breast cancer. Now, Nicole’s makeup line Beauty Bakerie, counts 30 employees across two facilities in San Diego, and distribution across 150 international markets and 500 brick-and-mortar stores. She is also the founder of Sugar Homes, a nonprofit that donates money, clothing, toys and other things to children in orphanages. She has also garnered investment from Unilever Ventures.

Below, highlights from Nicole’s presentation:

On being a young entrepreneur:

“By the time I was 14, I had three businesses and pitched one of them to the board of directors at my local hospital. Thinking back to a young child who fervently believes in her idea, that shouldn’t be lost on any of us.”

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On talking to God: 

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“It was this loud, bold speaking in my heart that said, ‘Hey, if you want to go into the beauty industry, recognize that it’s self-centered, and you’re going to have to figure out a way to take care of other people. If you take care of other people, your business will go far. If you do not take care of other people, your business will not go anywhere. Those were his specific words.”

On getting motivation from Beyoncé:

“Her team reached out, and while that didn’t really set my brand on this amazing path in the way you would believe, it gave me a lot of motivation. Unfortunately a few months later, I was sick again and I didn’t really want to work on Beauty Bakerie. I thought, ‘Wow, I just took my little tax refund check and bought my first real web site and now I feel like quitting.’ I decided to take a two-month break. When I looked at the calendar, I saw I was six months from [a five-year promise I had made to myself to work on the business.] I thought, “OK, I can do that, that’s just a layup.”

On Beauty Bakerie’s point of differentiation:

“I realized I wanted to find a lipstick to go on and stay on. I’m insane about moments. It’s that micro-moment when you’re getting off the plane and you’re seeing your man and it’s like, ‘Do I kiss him and ruin the look I put together? Or do I give him the side kiss and miss the moment?’ So I created a lipstick that doesn’t smudge. You don’t have to do that anymore, you can look amazing and be in the moment.

On changing habits: 

“My poor executive team was trying to undo the hood and ghetto way of thinking I’d been indoctrinated with my entire life. When you bring that way of thinking into what I’m doing now, it doesn’t work that way for a team.”

On authenticity: 

“If you were to take a look at anyone who has buzz and chatter behind their business right now, the common denominator seems to be authenticity. People are just being themselves and they are making so much money just by being themselves, which says something about our diversity or lack thereof, if we’re not catering to it properly.

“I once was very terrified of telling my story. I’d go and talk and my lip would just quiver or I’d pour out crying and couldn’t stop. Or I’d write out a Facebook post and it would just sit in drafts because I wasn’t ready to post. Until God came to me one more time and said, ‘Listen, you’re thinking this is about you and it’s not about you. Why this story is important is that it’s my story, everyone in here has a story and that is what the customers want to hear. Whether it’s recycling or diversity and inclusion, it doesn’t matter what the topic may be, they aren’t going to listen to us if we’re [talking in] certain terms. They want to hear from the founders — you have to remove the blankets, covers, they want to hear from you directly.”

On what’s coming next in beauty: 

“Tomorrow involves authenticity and fluidity, and it also involves really good design and innovation. I call it CUE — it’s a thing I made up — continuous unboxing experience, where the customer needs to constantly feel like anytime they pull that package out of their cabinet, they are still unwrapping for for the first time.”