By Sarah Thompson
Minna Murphy, owner of Zeni Beauty®, has been helping people through the art of makeup for more than two decades and has a heart for helping everyone look and feel like the best versions of themselves. Zeni Beauty® truly is the brand for the everyday woman.
In the early 2000s, Murphy started working as a freelance makeup artist for a film and video production company.
“I started custom blending onset because as every makeup artist knows, trying to carry over 20 shades of foundation in your kit is heavy and expensive,” said Murphy. “The production company repeatedly hired me for almost a decade because I could match anyone’s skin tone—from the lightest to the darkest person. My beauty business was born from the requests I received from the actors and actresses asking how they could get a bottle of the color I just created, because they couldn’t find a better match at the cosmetic counters.”
In 2005, Murphy launched her first business—Makeup Mixology, Inc.—focused on custom blending for women of color, with the hopes of making custom blended foundation readily available to women like her who struggled to find the right shade of foundation. “Historically, Black women have not had as many color options available as other ethnicities,” she said. After years of working with people of every skin tone on set and private clients she refocused her business model to be more inclusive.
“While working in the film and media industry, I met people of all cultures and ethnicities. I realized that despite our perceived difference we all want the same thing and that is to be happy and look fabulous,” she shared.
Murphy combined her years of knowledge, education, and expertise and in February 2019, she launched Zeni Beauty®. Zeni is the shortened form of the word Zarazeni, which is the Czech word for inclusion. She created Zeni Beauty® because her business was growing, and she needed to separate the cosmetic brand from her cosmetic manufacturing business now known as The Makeup Mix Cosmetic Co.
“While working in the film and media industry, I met people of all cultures and ethnicities. I realized that despite our perceived difference we all want the same thing and that is to be happy and look fabulous.”
Murphy took hundreds of custom foundation formulas and created a normalized array of colors that represents the global range of skin tones. Her products are now accessible to an even wider range people.
“There’s a person behind every foundation color in the Zeni Beauty® Cosmetics line,” said Murphy.
“Today, most cosmetic companies offer various shades of brown foundation,” she added. “Custom foundation is different, understanding how to match an individual’s unique undertones is a science. While there are other companies that offer ‘custom blending,’ I understand how to adjust the formula to compensate for the way your skin will react to environmental factors. I have combined my experience as a makeup artist with my training as a cosmetic formulator and created a line of made-to-order products that can be personalized to your skins needs. This is what sets my products apart from other brands.”
All Zeni Beauty® products are environmentally conscious and free from parabens, mineral oil and talc. “Your skin is an organ, it breathes and absorbs,” she explained,” the ingredients in the products you use matter!”
While foundation is her passion and the first product she started making, Murphy’s manufacturing company produces a full line of cosmetic products including foundation powders, concealers, eyeshadows, blushes, lipsticks and lip glosses, all of which can be purchased on her website, zenibeauty.com.
One of Murphy’s future goals is to work with up-and-coming beauty businesses, helping them validate and scale their product formulas. She wants to help others pursue their passions—a beauty entrepreneur helping other entrepreneurs!
“My manufacturing company is preparing to offer small scale production runs for indie beauty businesses,” she said.
She believes that beauty is much more than physical appearance. It’s a reflection of all that is good about people at their core.
“This business is an expression of who I am. I was born to do this,” said Murphy. “I’m finally living my dream.”
Find Zeni Beauty® on TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube or visit www.zenibeauty.com. Zeni Beauty® offers virtual consultations and in-person services by appointment at The Alms House Salon, 53 Warwick Street, Middletown, Connecticut.
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By Alicia Brown
It’s that time of year again, to look for the perfect gifts to give friends, family and coworkers. Keiwana Hanley, owner of lash extension, brow tinting and beauty product business High Kei Beauty, reminds everyone to also put themselves on their gift list in the midst of the busy holiday season. After all, self-care is the greatest gift out there.
Hanley is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to boosting esteem—“konfidence” as she calls it—for people of all ages. Her motto is “accessorize with confidence” but she makes it clear that the items she sells and services she provides aren’t intended to give the confidence, but the other way around—the wearers give the items confidence. She reminds customers to never to rely on clothing or accessories give them beauty, because they are simply there to accent the beauty that already exists in the person wearing them.
Having learned how to braid hair at the age of eight from her cousin, Hanley would often give back to her community by teaching young girls how to do their own hair. Doing this helped her see how girls were gaining confidence, power and self-esteem through the knowledge she was sharing. It served as an inspiration to launch High Kei Beauty.
After struggling with what to name her business, she asked her late father for assistance.
“With his help, I woke up with a completely different name. I didn’t choose any of the options I had. My dad is Keith, and his name is scrambled through my name. That’s when I knew it was perfect.”
Having learned how to braid hair at the age of eight from her cousin, Hanley would often give back to her community by teaching young girls how to do their own hair.
Since she earned her official lash tech certification from Lash Snob in 2019, Hanley has been kicking up the glam one girl at a time. Hanley takes the time to get to know her customers and provide them with quality products with unmatched detail.
But launching High Kei Beauty wasn’t an easy path. When Hanley relocated to Connecticut in 2009 from St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, college credits weren’t transferred, which caused a setback. And when she officially made Connecticut her home, she struggled to find a place that would allow her to run her business due to certification requirements. But through it all, she was determined to start a business that would spread confidence and help women look and feel their best.
High Kei Beauty provides a plethora of accessories, including hair bows for young girls, wig caps with different hairstyles, mink lashes and so much more. Seasonal items include Christmas wreaths. One of her popular products are her money catchers—adorable bags for going out on the town or for a date night. Hanley will be adding more items and bundles to her online shop for the holiday season, including double-lined beanie hats for winter. She also offers in-home beauty appointments, which can be schedule through her website.
One thing’s for sure—Hanley is here to help women keeping up with their “konfidence” this season!
Find High Kei Beauty on Facebook, Instagram or on their website. Appointments can be made through social media or by phone at (203) 802-5817.
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By Lajeune Hollis
It’s often said that there’s no love like a mother’s love. After Val McCray, owner of Heavenly Hair Growth Oil, underwent back surgery in 2019 and soon after suffered a heart attack, her mother was so worried about her daughter’s health that she began to suffer from hair loss. Eventually, she lost all of her hair until she was completely bald.
As soon as McCray recovered from her heart attack, she knew she needed to help her mother with her hair growth but didn’t know where to begin. She had always combed and styled her mother’s hair, and hated to see her in pain. So, she searched and found a local dermatologist who administered monthly scalp injections for her mother for three months. Sadly, the painful injections yielded no results.
"I truly want women to feel good about themselves. It makes me happy to see my product work."
Frustrated and heartbroken, McCray was determined to do some research to discover what could be done to help her mother’s hair grow back. She began experimenting on her mother’s scalp with organic herbs, oils and rice water, which contained the protein that was needed for her to strengthen her hair follicles. Her tender loving care paid off and her mother’s hair grew back, along with her confidence.
Since the mixture McCray created worked for her elderly mother, she thought it could work for other family members who suffered from hair loss. Each time she applied her mixture to their hair on a regular basis, it worked! She was onto something.
Her hair growth oil was, in her eyes, truly made with love.
Because McCray and her husband own McCray Realty in Bridgeport, her time is flexible enough for her to operate her online business, which she officially opened in 2020 on a full-time basis and began operating out of her living room, then dining room, then kitchen. When she ran out of room she took all of the products and created her own “laboratory” in their basement, where she now has plenty of privacy and room to work. She hopes to one day be able to operate her business out of a free-standing building so she can hire more employees and help quickly get her products into the hands of those who need it most.
McCray’s best friend, Sarah Brooks, was her “tester” because she too was losing hair on her temples from wearing her braids too tight. The Heavenly Hair Growth Oil worked so well for Brooks that she took a leap of faith and quit her job in customer service to partner with McCray.
She says she never went into the hair growth business to make money. She simply wanted to bring joy back into her mother’s life. And now, her primary focus is seeing her customers gain the results they want from her product line.
“I’m not looking to be a millionaire,” she explained. “I truly want women to feel good about themselves. It makes me happy to see my product work. I know it works, as it is helping women (and some men) grow their hair back.”
Heavenly Hair Growth Oil is ideal for women who are losing their hair due to advanced age, poor health, Alopecia or even long-term chronic illnesses like cancer. But, her product line also includes Heavenly Hair Beard Oil, which, according to McCray, brings together alma and vitamin E to create a glorious oil that lends a rich, voluminous look to beards.
Learn more about Heavenly Hair Products on their website, which includes descriptions and information on everything they offer:
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By Mahalia Anderson
Beauty can go a long way, and Waterbury business owner Cherron Freeman is making sure every customer that visits her store leaves feeling even more beautiful then when they walked in.
Just a few months ago, Cherron’s Beauty Supply was only an idea for Freeman, who is a recent HBCU graduate from North Carolina Central University and holds two degrees—one in political science with a concentration in prelaw and another in mass communication with a concentration in public relations.
“I got the idea to open my store after my mom showed me the space for rent and kept telling me it was a perfect location for a business,” she shared. “I wanted to open something Waterbury didn’t have already and then we came up with a beauty supply store to bring something different.”
Since then, the Cherron Beauty Supply has been flourishing.
“We carry everything you need in a beauty supply store, from all varieties of colorful wigs to natural hair care products such as Mielle and ORS,” shared Freeman. “We also [do] hair braiding and crocheting, [have] hair accessories, jewelry and a lot more.”
When it comes to hair, Freeman knows that quality is important, and she knows that her customers can depend on her store for the right products to suit their needs and help enhance their natural beauty.
“We make sure we have the best quality wigs and products for our customers,” she said. “We only want to have products which really work for your hair and wigs that will last.”
Cherron’s Beauty Supply is able to cater to each customer’s personality, with affordability as a priority. Her best-selling products show how Freeman’s customers are all about being fun and creative. “Our customers love our wigs! We have so many unique colors and styles, and we’re still adding more every day,” she shared. “One of our most popular products if our Tie Dye Wig—people love it. We have to restock it all the time!”
“We really take the time to research everything and choose what is best. From the wigs the products and how to use them, we want to be able to give honest information.”
Freeman understands the value of each customer and her goal is to make sure that when they leave the store that not only are the happy but are radiating from the inside out.
“The best customer service is having knowledge about your products and be able to inform your customers properly. You also need a very friendly, outgoing personality,” explained Freeman. “We really take the time to research everything and choose what is best. From the wigs the products and how to use them, we want to be able to give honest information.”
Cherron’s Beauty Supply stocks beautiful wigs in many different colors, styles and materials, including synthetic to human hair, to set the look for a special night out or even a casual day in the park.
With success already knocking at her door, Freeman’s dream is to grow her business and be able to teach other girls how, with following their passion and putting in hard work, they can do the same. “Wanting to expand keeps me going! I want to have multiple stores in different cities all around and be able to teach other girls how to do it too,” she shared.
Freeman has already made a huge difference in her community and has high hopes to do more in the future. “We had a toy giveaway for Christmas in partnership with The New Woman’s Club,” she shared. “We plan on doing a lot more in the spring!”
One way or another, Cherron is beautifying her community, one product at a time.
Cherron’s Beauty Supply is located at 68 Willow Street in Waterbury, Connecticut and is open Monday-Friday, 10:00am-7:00pm, Saturday 9:00am-7:00pm and Sunday 12:00-5:00pm. Shop on their website or find Cherron’s Beauty Supply on Instagram or Facebook.
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By Brenda De Los Santos
Augusta, Georgia native Brittany Curry has taken a winding journey to create Love on You, a Norwich-based business that offers natural hair and body care products, salon services and self-care education.
Today, Love on You serves as a hub for women to pamper themselves with salon services, learn how to care for their hair and scalp, and purchase the products they need to do so. Curry’s line of products includes Butter Love, her signature handmade body butter, sugar scrubs, candles, shampoo, a deep conditioning hair mask and even other products like beard oil and soaps. The shampoo and mask are both vegan. Curry says, “One of the things I wanted to do was create a professional grade product that was clean.” Providing her own line of products has allowed her to share her tried and true system for maintaining hair and scalp health while also educating her clients on what they are putting on themselves. She is motivated because there is a need. “There are marketing tricks that keep people misinformed,” she says of mainstream products for Black hair care.
"I am sowing that seed for them to be able to care for their hair on their own and normalize being able to maintain their hair."
Butter Love, her hair and body balm, is one of her best sellers, along with her “Heal and Seal” package, which includes her shampoo, hair mask and Butter Love. She also carries earrings and other jewelry for sale, and clients can also book makeup services in addition to salon services like silk presses and natural and protective styles.
Curry has been a licensed cosmetologist for twelve years, though her initial plans were to be in the nail industry. “I actually wanted to be a nail tech but the school I went to didn’t have a nail program, so I went to cosmetology.” When her husband, who serves in the US Navy, was stationed at the Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton from 2010 to 2015, Curry took a break from doing hair and instead focused on real estate.
While living in Hawaii in 2017, Curry transitioned back to doing hair. She noticed that many of the Black women she met there as a hairstylist had very dry hair, and she wanted to do something to help. She started experimenting in her kitchen and her line of products was born. Clients asked her about the products she was using and said that they would buy them if she sold them. “That's how it started, women loving on themselves,” she says. She sold her products in a small retail space there until her husband was given new orders to return to Groton.
Once back in Connecticut, Curry noticed her previous clients from Hawaii struggling to maintain their hair health, and with renewed purpose, decided to focus on teaching her clients to care for their scalp and hair in addition to the services and products she already offered so clients can care for their hair in between visits to her salon. She says that seeing this happen with her past clients in Hawaii was a lesson learned. “With this focus, I am sowing that seed for them to be able to care for their hair on their own and normalize being able to maintain their hair,” says Curry.
However, it became clear to her that in order to do this, she needed to open her own salon. “The vision of what I wanted didn’t fit in the culture of places I was in. I felt led. God led me to do it,” says Curry of opening her own full-service salon.
Opening her own space wasn’t without challenges. “I didn’t even have funds,” Curry says. Despite financial obstacles, Curry says that things just aligned, “I called a wholesaler that did fixtures, and they were closing and their fixtures were all marked down. I had passed by this space so often and I didn’t even see it - I finally just peeked inside.” She signed the lease for her space in Norwich in February of 2020. “I just took a leap of faith,” she says.
After renovations, Curry opened Love on You in the midst of the pandemic, and it was worth it. Curry says “I am definitely grateful that I can bring Love on You to this area, this is a very underserved community.” Her goal is to treat people how she would want to be treated and create a welcoming environment. She says, “I aim for people to feel hospitality like from the down South. They are safe here.”
Love on You is located at 460 North Main Street in Norwich, Connecticut and open Wednesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Find or shop at Love on You online at this link or find Love on You on Instagram or Facebook.
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10/16/2020 3 Comments
By Terrence Irving
“My whole purpose is...if you can’t eat it, you probably shouldn’t have it on your skin.”
It’s a warmish fall day and I’ve just arrived at the suburban Willimantic studio of Isankofa Natural Skin Care, owned and operated by Sahra Deer. She greets me outside along with her marketing manager. Kids, including Sahra’s daughter, are outside enjoying the weather. The smell of leaves is in the air, but so is something else. Something really, really good.
Not even a Covid-19 mask could prevent the first impression that Isankofa inevitably leaves its visitors: the wonderful scent of the products that await inside. Ingredients such as apple, peach, and pumpkin are autumn-appropriate.
Once we get started, Sahra quickly makes it clear that Isankofa is about much more than just nice smells.
THE ISANKOFA WAY
We’re in the studio now and the source of the enticing aroma is before me on several rustic wall shelves. The professionalism and care is obvious: everything is neatly organized and aligned. The products are carefully labeled with a description and list of ingredients, complete with Isankofa’s branding. Sahra also accepts online orders that can either be picked up in person at the studio or shipped directly to customers.
Early on in our talk, Sahra points out a subtle fact about human anatomy: our skin is our largest organ. When asked about Isankofa’s “why,” Sahra expands:
“The company started for [a] couple different reasons. My mother, and a few of my cousins, and one of my aunts had breast cancer.”
Questioning the concept of conventional deodorants and antiperspirants, which are well known for containing chemicals which aren’t exactly healthy, Sahra’s outlook on self-care evolved. She took action, gaining an interest in natural skin wellness, then developing her own deodorant.
Eventually, her resolve was only strengthened by one of her children’s skin conditions: “And then when my daughter was a little bit older, she ended up having horrific eczema…[Her prescribed treatment consisted of] all these chemicals that never seemed to help. So then, that’s how the body butter started.”
MORE THAN JUST A NAME
Sahra’s father is a Rastafarian who used to be an antique dealer in her native Jamaica. Naturally, then, she admits an affinity for mixing old with new in her business.
Her strong connection to (and fondness for) the island nation is evident beyond her accent. It also explains the “I” in “Isankofa”:
“The Rastas don’t believe in the you, the me, or the we, they believe in just the ‘I’,” she explains.
Enter Iyaric, the Rastafari English dialect. A manner of speaking created to combat oppression, convey piousness, and maintain African roots, Iyaric makes extensive use of “I”, both as a word and as a concept.
With the “I” portion of her business’s name, Sahra goes on to explain the rest. The Rastafarian culture, popularized in America by the late and great Bob Marley, is widely associated with Jamaica only. Few are aware of its African roots, including the West African nation of Ghana. Enter “sankofa,” an ancient concept born there. The exact definition varies slightly depending on where you look. Sahra’s does great a great job of conveying the point:
“‘Sankofa’ means...to look into the past in order to have a prosperous future.”
Sahra is very up front about Sankofa’s influence on her business philosophy and product development: she borrows from ancient self-care methods and recipes, modernizing them for her customers. She puts it frankly:
“Sometimes I feel that people have gotten so smart that they need a 360, back to stupid.”
In other words, when it comes to keeping your skin healthy, simple is best. From Africa to Asia to North and South America, people have been caring for their skin naturally for millenia. Figuratively, then, the Isankofa brand challenges us to ask ourselves, “Why fix what isn’t broken?”
“My whole purpose is...if you can’t eat it, you probably shouldn’t
QUALITY YOU CAN SENSE
Meeting Department of Consumer Protection standards in Connecticut isn’t easy. Sahra takes great care to ensure that Isankofa’s facility, ingredients, and production methods do so.
“I am making [each product], so my name is out there on the line...I try to use locally-sourced, organic, fair trade...and most of all, food grade, ingredients. Even down to the lye that we use,” Sahra explains.
I already described the pleasant effect Isankofa products have on your sense of smell, so we can scratch scent off of the list.
Let’s move on to what you can see. The products are clearly packaged well; Sahra also makes it a point to use biodegradable shrink-wrap on Isankofa’s soaps. This stuff isn’t mass-produced, so you can see just about every speckle, hue, and swirl of the unprocessed ingredients used to make them.
Touch is an easy one. Isankofa is primarily, after all, a small business focused on natural skincare products. From oils to balms to butters to soaps...with actual grains of rice in them. The list goes on. Everything here is created to keep your largest organ feeling and looking healthy.
And what about taste? A bar of “Aren’t Figs Rose-mantic?” soap literally looks like pudding. The reason is that it actually contains, well, food. Figs, olive oil, and coconut.
Perhaps noticing that I was staring at the soap as if we were in a pastry shop, Sahra offers a lighthearted dose of reality:
“It’d be really nasty, but yes, you could eat it.”
STAYING ON COURSE
Like many other small businesses around the state, Isankofa was hit hard by this year’s Covid-19 pandemic. In addition to in-person retail, Sahra is used to inviting customers into the studio for classes as well as attending markets with like-minded vendors.
She explained, “Last year was a really great year for the business. It grew leaps and bounds. And I felt like...finally, 2020 was gonna be my year...and that did not happen.”
Still, Sahra remains optimistic and focused on the Isankofa’s mission of continuing to provide quality skincare products that respect our bodies and our environment. As of this writing, new email list subscribers are eligible for a discount as well as those who return Isakofa glass bottles to the studio for recycling.
“I want to make sure that I have an affordable, natural product...for people that look like us...I tell people all the time: I don’t expect you to drink the [natural skincare] Kool Aid. But, try one thing [before writing it off].”
So what are you waiting for? Give Isankofa Natural Skincare a try today. Your skin—and your conscience—will thank you for it.
Click here to visit Isankofa Natural Skincare's website.
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CONGRATULATIONS TO THE WINNER: MELANIE S.!!
To celebrate the launch of www.shopblackct.com, we're giving away a self-care gift basket packed with great items from Black-owned businesses listed on this site!
INCLUDED IN THE GIFT BASKET:
Lavender Mint Massaging Soap Bar (Heavenly Bodied)
King Me Loofah Soap (Heavenly Bodied)
The King's Butter (Heavenly Bodied)
A Kingly Scrub (Heavenly Bodied)
Earrings (Shanta's Vintage Boutique)
Necklace (Shanta's Vintage Boutique)
Shea Lip Butter (Royal House Products)
Sea Moss Face Masque (Royal House Products)
"Love" Clip (Clouded Boutique)
Sativa Seed Lip Oil (Clouded Boutique)
Coconut Lip Gloss (Clouded Boutique)
"The Penthouse" Gold Paparazzi Necklace and Earrings (Jewels Exclusive $5 Bling)
Whipped Unscented Shea Butter (Ray of Sol)
Soap Tray (Ray of Sol)
Handmade Body Soap (Ray of Sol)
CBD Bath Bombs (Your CBD Store - Simsbury)
Pure Uncut Egyptian Musk Oil for Body and Burning (Royal House Products)
Retail value: $210+
HERE's HOW TO ENTER:
1. Comment in the blog comment section with your name and which item you are most excited about winning!
2. Follow SHOPBLACKCT.com on Facebook (CLICK HERE) and Instagram (CLICK HERE).
3. Share this giveaway page on your social media.
4. Complete the form below.
The winner will be chosen at random on July 8, 2020 and will be contacted by email and announced on SHOPBLACKCT.com social media.
The gift basket items will be shipped to the winner. Open to US residents only. No purchase necessary.