Don’t you dare give up. If it’s in your heart God has put it there for a good reason. — Karen “Koko” Iyere
Meet Karen “Koko” Iyere, first generation Nigerian-American, Nurse Practitioner and Luxury Skincare Line Creator. Her passion for skincare comes from her desire to infiltrate the beauty industry. She developed Kokanni Cosmetics, a natural luxury skincare line to deliver a solution to problems women of color encounter. Addressing issues such as, hyper-pigmentation, acne, excessive dryness etc., Kokanni was created for women to love their skin. Koko’s interests include, beauty and fashion, traveling, professional basketball and the arts. She enjoys cooking, Broadway plays, and live sporting events.
Check out this Q&A with Koko below:
What inspired your entrepreneurial journey or event?
Initially my younger brother inspired my entrepreneurial journey. When I was finished with my Master’s Degree and started working as a nurse practitioner he could see that I wasn’t completely living in my fullest potential so he asked me what did I really want to do? What was my passion. I explained to him that I wanted to merge the healthcare and beauty industries. He encouraged me to start my business but I still was hesitant about it. As I really delved into healthcare I started to realize that most black women were more concerned about physical appearance than health. I immediately thought “what if I could create something that would make women of color feel good about their appearance while maintaining health through the products that they use”. Around this time I was in conversation with my late friend Manny and the day before he passed he said “I love my beautiful black skin I wish everyone else would too” and then boom it hit me, I was going to create a skincare line that merged the healthcare and beauty industries.
Tell me about what problem your business solves?
Kokanni Cosmetics seeks to allow women of color to love their skin before makeup by combatting issues like hyper-pigmentation,excessive oiliness or dryness, acne etc. The goal here is to provide a product that allows women of color to appreciate their skin in its natural state without using harmful chemicals and promoting an eco-conscious lifestyle.
What do you define as failure?
Anytime one continues to do something with a lack of fulfillment that to me is failure.
What have you felt you have failed at? What might you have done to prevent those failures?
I consider myself a very tactful person, so by my definition I don’t believe I have failed at anything. Now that isn’t to say I haven’t made any mistakes because mistakes and failure are very different. I always make sure that whatever it is I am doing is fulfilling to me first and can help someone else as well.
What kind of impact do you want your product to leave on your customer?
I want that “WOW” factor. I want people to use these products and it exceed their expectations from beginning to end. From their purchasing experience, customer service and satisfaction with the product. My goal is to have customers coming back for my skincare products because they feel like they can’t use anything else except Kokanni Cosmetics.
Do you feel your product met the needs of the market at the time of conception? Does it still?
Absolutely. As soon as Kokanni Cosmetics did it’s soft launch in May 2020, I started to see A-list celebrities start their skincare line for women of color. Black women are some of the highest if not the highest consumers in the beauty industry. We will always be purchasing products to help us look and feel good, and if it has a the health benefit attached to it then even better.
Why did you choose entrepreneurship?
I chose entrepreneurship because I knew that I had to create something to solve a problem for women that looked like me. There was no way I was going to work for a cooperation that was going to do things how I envisioned them. Merging healthcare and beauty is huge there aren’t many black-owned skincare lines that make that their brand focus, Kokanni Cosmetics does.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs and small business owners who may not be achieving their goals?
Don’t you dare give up. If it’s in your heart God has put it there for a good reason. I haven’t achieved all of my goals either but when you wake up in the morning and your business is the first thing on your mind you better pay attention to that because it isn’t going anywhere this is what you were made to do, this is your stamp on the universe don’t let anyone or anything take you away from it. There is a saying “Rome wasn’t built in a day” but guess what everyday they laid some brick down. Build that strong foundation nothing good will ever come easy, these are your growing pains embrace them.
What would you say is your most driving motivation to keep doing what you to do?
My most driving motivation I would say is my mother’s endurance. She has gone through some of life’s biggest obstacles and she still stands so tall, I admire that about her. Sometimes when I’m down I call her and she will say to me “ you have something don’t stop you have no excuse to stop” and immediately I’m ready to get back in action.
What are you most excited or passionate about? (In both business and life or both)
In business I’m most excited about making a difference in the skincare world for women of color. I want to be the first brand everyone thinks of when they discuss a luxury skincare line. In life it’s difficult to say what I’m most excited about because at this time I do feel like I am living in my purpose and not many people get to say that so I’m happy and grateful for that. So any new things that will promote that is what I am most excited about .
Did you have any key mentors or people who deeply influenced who you are, what you believe in and what you’re committed to in your work and life? Tell me about them.
I don’t have any key mentors in real life . The person that I’m most influenced by is JAY-Z. I think we all know about him. His work ethic and mindset are unmatched and that is who I look to emulate in my business endeavors.
Did you have any life-changing experiences that put you on the path that led you to be doing what you’re doing today? Tell me about them.
My most life-changing experience was my mother’s second divorce. It was life-changing because it liberated the rest of my family in truly achieving success. It allowed me to focus more on my business and my success rather than family and domestic issues and stress. It also taught me about the importance of having supportive people around you and not allowing “man” to stop you from living to your full potential and living your dream.
What’s next for you in your business?
The ladies can definitely look forward to an expansion of the line to include acne specific formulations and the Kokanni Body line, the men can look forward to the beard line coming soon.
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