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Building Credibility: Discuss Cosmoprof & Angel Min Cheque Sizes with Ami Colé Founder Diarrha N'Diaye-Mbaye


Building Credibility: Cosmoprof & Angel Min Discuss Business Strategies with Ami Colé Founder Diarrha N'Diaye-Mbaye

Hello everyone and welcome back to the show! It’s Doone here - your host and hype girl.


We're learning from Diarrha N’Diaye, the founder of Ami Colé. Born and raised in Harlem, U.S.A., Diarrha N’Diaye-Mbaye is a first- generation Senegalese-American entrepreneur. Over the past decade, Diarrha has worked in marketing, communications and social media for multi-million dollar brands such as Rebecca Minkoff, VIBE Magazine, and L’Oreal Paris. She then began to lead and execute new product launches while working in product development and innovation at Glossier. Bringing her 8+ years of experience, today she is the Founder and CEO of emerging beauty brand, Ami Colé, a "better-for-you" brand made to celebrate melanin-rich skin.


Okay, so this episode is insane. It's packed with so much goodness. We're covering a lot of that juicy stuff that happens in the lead-up to building a brand. How you get from idea to sample, and from sample to money, and from money to launch. So if you're in that really early stage, this is an episode for you! You better believe there's going to be a pt.2 coming, so bookmark and stay tuned.


FOUNDER STORY

  • Nascent entrepreneurs just have this itch; I was always thinking about how can I do something adventurous? Born and raised in Harlem USA - the mecca of pan-Americanism

  • My mom has a salon there and I was always around “it” - I was always a dreamer and loved the idea of escapism around beauty 

  • Got a foundation of the make-up world in Temp2(??) (pro make-up artistry brand) before graduation to work at L’Oreal, every beauty marketer’s dream! Doing social media marketing

  • Long story short: I was missing the hunger of building and creating, so I quit without a real plan and ended up working in product development at Glossier - it was the coolest job ever

  • Then 2019: quarter life crisis, leaving my dream job, not ready to start something, who am I?! I booked a solo trip to Thailand; brought my notebook, bare minimum, and spent every single day asking myself: if the sky truly was the limit, what would you do? It just started to pour.

  • I wanted to create beauty for a cohort of women that had not been considered thoughtfully

  • I got back to NYC, started consulting still to pay my bills, but chip away every day to use my connections, go to CosmoProf, go out there confidently and delusionally; I got out there to Vegas and knocked on every booth: “I have this brilliant idea, I know people are looking for this solution because I have been talking to people, we need real solutions” and one CM (contract manufacturer) took a bet on me with my very simple brief of wanting three products 

  • It took us multiple rounds to get the formula right but in the mean-time I was online all day talking about what we were doing, getting very vulnerable and at the end of 2020 I finally got funding to bring this too life and we finally launched in 2021

Juicy learning from R&D; how would you tell an early-stage founder today to think about the product dev piece of the puzzle? I think it’s the most important piece of the puzzle - you win when you remember at every step of the game what the customer wants to feel, how they feel elevated, how are you making their lives just a little bit different? Whatever your end goal is; you have to work backwards from that. What am I solving for? How do I want someone to talk about this in the comment section? What am I sharing with my friends in the group chat? That’s where I want to live. The comment section is where the magic happens. 

CONTRACT MANUFACTURING

They gave us three rounds of a grace period (depending how friendly you are haha) or maybe five rounds of iterations. You want to negotiate the unit economics up-front, all in I didn’t pay for the development piece - it was all negotiated into the first purchasing order. We had no credibility up front, so they did us a favour by starting with 2,500 MOQ of the lip treatment oil but the next round would have to be 5,000. I was already freaking out about 2,500. 

THE MONEY PIECE

Very naively I just kept posting on Instagram, even if it was just to 10 people a day. That gradually got to about 5,000 / 10,000. But that attracted investors… This ex-glossier girl is creating something new. Glossier has become a bit of an incubation. Your career is never in vain! Additionally, sometimes I would randomly pitch someone my story and the idea so far for PR, send out some samples, make it super exclusive, get people excited. So by the time we launched we had a waitlist of 6,000 people. Whenever I did a panel and they couldn’t pay me, I would negotiate the audience to be filtered into my waitlist. The most expensive currency that I have right now is email. It is the slow burn, but eventually you land at 6,000. It’s so important to take those actions and repeat the message a million times. And 1,000 is a lot! Imagine that many people showing up to your party? 


The strategy to raise: I’m more creative-led and I had no idea where to start. I got lucky because around that time I had other founder friends that were also fundraising; I had daily calls with other female founders fundraising and sharing notes. 

  • STEP 1: get that pitch right; working on a deck, especially when you’re pre-market. This is the problem; I’m the person for this job. Here’s my solution, here’s my experience, here’s the data to back this up; knowing where she shops, the demographic, how I’m going to do this. Investors want to see as little work as possible in their future. My deck took a crazy amount of work; I had my samples and I would go into my network and see who was out there. I went back to everyone throughout my career and reached out to them. It can be the smallest check in the world but it’s about getting that traction. 

  • The smallest check was $2,500 and I would regularly take $5,000 but find a way, could I be in your podcast? How else can we get more value from this connection? 


What shifted the needle? Very strong product market fit, the brand story, the human element (I’m not a celebrity), my career. 


Advice: you always have to listen to your gut - that’s telling you the product needs to exist, that you need to reach out to this person. Now is not the time to be modest. Especially introverts, push yourself and know that you’re working towards this goal. The second thing, you have to be a good listener. You have to be open to changing your idea enough to fit the market. Really understand what kind of company you want to run, but also what kind of lifestyle. It’s hard work. You have to be willing to juggle it all and have a plan for it; especially if you’re planning to start a family. Write down and visualise the life that you want to create; having some kind of guard rails is so important. Understand who you want to be on top of what you want to create. 


6 QUICK QUESTIONS

  • My why is always the little girl in me that wanted the [beauty] industry the way to love her back the way she loved it 


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