Photography: GREY & ELLE

WORDS: Iris & Calvin, Nazz Ebrahimi

What motivated you to start a business and how did you choose the name of your company? 
Well, a couple years ago my mom started developing allergies to department brand products. My parents are both holistic doctors of natural medicine, so my mom actually started making her own creams and lotions for herself and her patients. Shortly after, I developed psoriasis. At the time, I was in college; I started becoming extremely aware of everything I was putting into my body and onto my skin. After shopping and researching the natural + organic market, I realized everything out there was just soo expensive for me, especially as a broke and jobless college student! So I started making my own.. I watched countless YouTube videos, looked up a bunch of recipes on Pinterest, got my hands on aromatherapy books, and I hit the kitchen! "Honey Belle" means 'natural beauty.' When I came up with the name, I wanted essences of both expressions, so I made lists of words that correspond to 'natural', and words that mean 'beauty', and when I put "honey" and "belle" together, I just fell in love.
Who are your ideal customers?
Our mission is to bring health and self-confidence to individuals by making natural + organic products affordable. Since I wasn't able to afford great products in college, my goal is to make natural + organic products more accessible. Honey Belle tends to gravitate towards young women and men ages 18-35. S(he) is more price-conscious, eco-aware, wanting to make an impact on the community, and has just began riding on the wave of the natural + organic movement.
How would you like men and women to think about health and beauty? 
Right now people are becoming so much more health-conscious, and health and beauty has been talked about and coinciding more and more as one category. The health wave and organic movement has taken over the beauty industry, and it's amazing to see more and more companies out there pitching and offering healthy products to the community. Honey Belle's job in all of this isn't about selling products and capitalizing on this wave; our job is to educate people and bring awareness about what we're all putting onto our skin, and offer alternatives. Most people don't know that 60-70% of what we're exposed is absorbed into our bloodstreams, thus creating health impacts in our bodies. We hope to create awareness and share education at a young age, by directing our focus towards the younger generations.
Iris, your mother has had a big influence in your interest with skin. Can you share with us how she inspired you? 
My mom has always been a health nut. I was the one to never have snacks as a kid. So when kids brought gushers, or nerds, or fruit rollups to school, I was always jealous! I think back then, natural beauty wasn't a "thing" yet, the beauty industries were so clever to swallow people in their marketing and 'promising' products, so when my mom discovered and had the realization that she could make her own products, her creativity and innovation inspired me. 
Do you think you can start a business if you don't have a degree from a University? 
In our current times, you definitely don't need a degree from a University to start a business. To start a business, it takes: endurance, innovation, persistence, and being resourceful. I definitely think there's a recipe for being successful in creating a business, but I don't think a degree has to be involved. HOWEVER, I graduated from a four-year University, and I would say it has created a tremendous impact in what I've done so far in my business; NOT the education that I received, but definitely the experience. My college experience has fortified many of the skills it took to be an entrepreneur, including: being in a completely whole new environment starting from nothing, withstanding fears of peer pressure, taking risks in new actions and with new people, being sorority president. Skills I learned from college included: being able to take risks, managing an organization, speaking publicly, able to take actions and strides towards something that I believed (or didn't believe) in. 
 How many retailers can Honey Belle be found in? Any advice on how to get your product in front of retailers?  
We just hit 862.. and growing! It's all about getting your products in the right hands and the right eyes. We started as a very grassroots company, with no investors and no funding. With investors, oftentimes you get connections to people in the industry. Some people have had the advantage of working the beauty industry for years, and thus it's very easy to have their company break through in the industry. For us, we tried really really hard to get retailers to notice us. In 2016 when we began our retail adventure, we researched tons of local boutiques, and began to cold-call and cold-email them. We've had tons of meetings with retailers that didn't go through, and what we did after each 'failed attempt' was, we learned. There is no 'win or lose', there's only 'win or learn'. We finally began doing our first trade-shows towards the end of 2016, and we learned from those too. Since we started our wholesale tradeshow journey in August 2016, we've attended 11 trade-shows so far, heading to New York for our 12th one on in 2 days! 
Your products are handcrafted. Can you tell us the ups and downs about this process? 
 The ups is that we get to experience putting love and care into the product during the small-batch process. A down is that the product tends to have a higher cost, and longer time producing.
Benefits of Matcha? 
Matcha is so jam-packed with antioxidants. It's the most potent form of green tea, and it's is made by crushing green tea leaves into powder form. Not only do these antioxidants increase energy level and endurance, it also boosts the immune system. When applied topically onto the skin, it has anti-aging properties to prevent aging, help with fine lines, and firm the skin. Matcha also has anti-inflammatory properties, able to calm acne inflammation and help with acne scarring.
If you are not a "people person", but have great ideas, can you still run a business?
I've listened to an interview with the Founder of Pinterest, share that he's not a people person, and it still works for him because all he has to do is hire someone that is. But personally, being a people person is a great aspect and advantage of running a successful business. Some people are born and raised a people person, some people aren't. But for those that aren't, being a people person is definitely something that can be learned. We create these "identities" for ourselves, which only limits us. Knowing that we can BE anything and GET anything out of life is very key in being and accomplishing anything you set your heart out to accomplish. Being a people person allows you to create fulfilling relationships with people, and that's what every successful business survives on. 
Who are some eco-friendly and wellness conscious brands in your industry that you admire?
Other eco-friendly and wellness conscious brands I admire are Herbivore Botanicals, and pretty much all of our "competition" at our trade-shows and pop-up markets. They inspire me, and I create relationships with them to let them know that we're all in this together, and that we're all on the same team! 

How can entrepreneurs create a business that 'gives back'?

How can we get involved in your project #SOAPFORSOULS ?

It's simple. There's tons of issues and lack in the world. Pick something that fulfills and moves you, and see how your business can fit into it. The #SoapsforSouls project was born out of an accidental turn into Skid Row of Downtown Los Angeles. Our mission is to bring health, hygiene, and love with every soap purchased, by donating one to an individual in need. We work with the homeless shelters in that area, and donate our soaps quarterly. To get involved, it's simple. Share our Project with others, and purchase our body soap to help clean someone for a month!

 Best lesson you've learned in business:
The biggest lesson I've learned in business is that people aren't always going to believe you, but you have you. The more you believe in yourself, the more people will align to you. Believing in yourself is so important, especially in times when no one else does. If no one's going to believe you, don't fret. Don't let people and their opinions bring you down. If you know you got something, keep going. Persistence and belief in yourself is successful for any entrepreneur. Remember, there is no success without struggle.



Photography: Alex Mak Photography
WORDS: Carina Chaz & Nazz Ebrahimi

What motivated you to start a business and how did you choose the name of your company?
I created DedCool as an extension of my previous brand, CarinaChaz. DedCool was something that reflected my early twenties. I wanted to create something that was an extension of myself and something I could share with other individuals. It’s so funny, I have been asked so many times where the DedCool name comes from and honestly it's just a saying I came up with like “that’s so dedcool” I fiddled around with names for months and this kind of just stuck. 
Who are your ideal clients?
My ideal clients..hmmm…I would say everyone! I am inspired by people who are inspired by me and I am a lover of all types of people. I sell DedCool to men and women of all ages. I appreciate people who are passionate about fragrance but then again it becomes a challenge for me to convert non fragrance wears to the DedCool movement, which I LOVE. 

DedCool can be found in  Neiman Marcus, Fred Segal, Free People, and TAGS NYC.

What inspired you to make products that are vegan and cruelty free? What are some of your favorite ingredients you use? 
I was inspired to create Vegan and cruelty free products because of the harms and toxins in most name brand fragrances and products. I am totally against animal testing and will never buy a product that follows those values. Most people are unaware of the brands they are buying/using that harm poor innocent animals.. I like to educate my consumer and people around me. 
Who are some eco-friendly and wellness conscious brands in your industry that you admire?
I am a big fan of LaNatura, not only because the creator of the brand birthed me but every product is made with the best ingredients and if it wasn’t for the LaNatura brand, I wouldn’t be where I am today. 
How important do you think customer reviews are, such as the ones posted on Yelp and Facebook?
I believe reviews are SUPER important. There is no better feedback than the consumer feedback. I am confident that my brand ensures satisfaction as the reviews have been nothing but positive.
Your 3 keys tips for negotiating a deal:
Believe in what you are selling. Always make a deal. Be confident.
The illustrations of bar codes and sculls on your products are seriously cool. Can you take us through the steps of your product development and branding?
The bar codes represent simplicity and the branding goes back to the whole idea of being uni-sex. The code is universal and can appeal to all types of people. I am always drawn to minimal design and chic displays. 
You chose names like Taunt and Blonde for your fragrances. We love that! Do you feel the names that brands choose for their products can make or break their success? 
I try and keep the names of fragrance on the down low. Not all fragrances have specific names but there are some that speak for the fragrances. While making a gender-neutral fragrance or product, you want to make sure that you don’t make anything too suggestive so people can create their own associations to the product. 
It is so wonderful to see DedCool creating UNI-SEX products. How did you make that decision? 
I created DedCool to be unisex due to my infatuation with male fragrance/cologne. The idea behind DedCool is for women wanting to wear male scents without actually having to shop in the men’s section as well as making it universal for all genders. 

Did you have any doubts when you were first starting out/ how has failure changed you to keep on pushing?

Of course I had doubts, I hoped people would connect with my vision as much as I connected with it. In the beginning, I was nervous people wouldn’t be interested in the brand because there is a lot of other competitors out there /and of course all good things take time. 

 Do you think you can start a business if you don't have a degree from a University?
Totally, if you are a hard working individual with passion and have a vision you can 100% create a successful business. Personally, school has never been my “thing”. I love to learn and be around peers, but I had trouble focusing and completing homework due to my scattered mind and excitement to create. I am a student currently and will be graduating in June 2017, but my degree doesn’t have much relevance to my business. 
How does it feel to be an entrepreneur at such a young age? What are the highs and lows?
I love being someone that creates things for others. There is nothing more satisfying than people loving your creations and works. I love to inspire people and stand out with the things I do in my day-to-day life. Of course, I have had some backlash over the years and I am quite sensitive so having negativity and being the “fragrance girl” hasn’t always been easy. 
What is your management style?
Since I am a student in school, it can get a little tricky to stay on top of everything. I have an office/studio where I work on my off days. Sometimes I am in the office or sometimes I am on the road, overall my management style requires lots of post it notes and staying organized. 
Looking back, what would you tell yourself when you were first starting out?
Looking back I would tell myself PATIENCE. Nothing comes easy and nothing is instant.
 Best lesson you've learned in business:
Best lesson I learned is to have thick skin. There is no doubt that owning your own business if tough..you will run into all kinds of people..some nice, some not so nice. It’s important to stay true to yourself and your passion. 



Photography by Alex Mak Photography
WORDSNeha Assar & Nazz Ebrahimi 
Painting by Nicole Fani

Describe life before Neha Assar Henna Artistry: Before Neha Assar Henna Artistry, I had 17 years of life. I was very artistic as a child and I would do normal things that normal kids would do. Go to school, do homework, hang out with friends, play sports. I started doing henna when I was 14 years old. That was the first time I picked up a henna cone. I got hired by a salon and did henna on my very first client - a bride. At age 17 I branched off on my own and thats when Neha Assar Henna Artistry began. 
What motivated you to start a business and how did you choose the name of your company?
I was moving away for college and I knew I wouldn't be able to support the clients at the salon I was working at. So I decided to go off on my own to see where it would take me. You have to remember that I was a teenager at the time and little things would stick in my head such as lyrics to a song or things I would hear on TV. I was very observant and I noticed that Oprah, being as successful as she is, always had her name on everything. Harpo Productions was her name spelled backwards. Now her network, the OWN Network, also stands for the Oprah Winfrey Network. MC Breed also had a song called "No Future in Your Frontin" and he specified that he puts his name "Breed" on everything he owns. It just made sense so I used my name! :) 
Who are your ideal clients?
I don't have a set of "ideal clients". I like to work on everyone. I have worked on tiny babies, the elderly, women, men, heterosexual couples, homosexual couples, celebrities, non celebrities. At the end of the day, I love the fact that I can make them smile.
You explained to me how Bridal Mehndi (henna) is very traditional and is often created with the Groom's name hidden in the design. Can you go more in detail on that? 
Traditionally the groom's name is hidden in the bridal mehndi. On the night of the wedding he is supposed to find his name. They say the faster he finds it, the more he loves you. Often brides ask me, "Well, what if he doesn't find it?!?!?" I jokingly tell them, "Then he doesn't get any!"
Many years ago arranged marriages were the norm. The brides would get the groom's name hidden in the henna and on the night of the wedding he would look for it. It was a way for the couple to break the ice by him feeling her arms and looking closely at the design. 
What are the health and beauty benefits of henna?
One of the most notable uses of henna is for protecting the skin against infections and eliminating inflammation. Henna has been applied to burns, wounds and scrapes for generations, not only because it can add a protective layer against foreign pathogens and substances, but also because it has natural cooling abilities that suck the heat from the skin. It also works as a natural sunscreen.
Getting your name heard and services out to the public can be frightening when first starting out. Can you give some advice to people who are a service based company? 
Be fearless. If you don't go out and market your services, nobody will. Also, when you put your heart and soul into a service it shows. People will appreciate good service and will spread the word for more potential clients. 
How important do you think customer reviews are, such as the ones posted on Yelp and Facebook?
I think customer reviews are everything. We live in a generation where online reviews determine where we will go for our services. Always do your best to make sure you are offering the best service.
How do you feel one should approach potential partners? 
I am still learning new things about this day after day. Always have everything in writing. Know exactly how you want to go about a partnership and keep documenting everything. Always be professional. Do not devalue your service. Be confident in what you are bringing to the table. What you put out there is how your potential partner sees. Making a good impression is super important. 
Your paintings are breathtaking! How do you feel your work as a painter benefits your henna designs? 
Thank you! I believe my work as a painter benefits my henna by making me realize that I am able to create anything. I create on a large scale with my paints and brushes and canvases. With my henna, I am able to create on a much smaller level. I am also forced to do line work with henna rather than blend colors to get the effect I want. It pushes me to think in different dimensions even though the concepts are very similar. 
Do you have any tips on linking with Event Planners, Wedding Photographers, and other people in the event business?
When you work a wedding or any large event, be sure to communicate with everyone. Let them know your role in the event so your work doesn't go overlooked. Exchange contact information and remain in touch. You never know when you will be working with them or even referred by them to other potential clients. 
Your celebrity clients range from Kylie Jenner to Nazanin Mandi. What were those experiences like?
Meeting and working with various celebrities is pretty cool. At the end of the day they are normal people like you and I. The part that gives me that incredible feeling is after I am done working on them, I look back and think, "Did that really happen?" Its a cool feeling knowing that my artwork was considered for their special event. 
Where were some of your favorite places you've traveled to for work?
This may sound so weird, but one of my most memorable trips for work was when I travelled to San Antonio, TX. I was 18 at the time and I was scheduled to work on two brides that were marrying a set of brothers. I had my own hotel room and an all expenses paid trip. Mexico, the East Coast and Vegas were pretty cool too. I don't get much time to get out and have fun since its a work related trip. Working in Southern California on a regular basis is a blessing in itself! 
Did you have any doubts when you were first starting out/ how has failure changed you to keep on pushing?
The doubts I had when first starting out was how to price my services. Clients used to laugh in my face when I gave them quotes for my services. I would never budge. I value my work. I kept pushing and I am so glad I did. 
If you are not a "people person", but have great ideas, can you still run a business?
I believe that you can do anything. I believe that when someone has a great idea that they want to capitalize on, they themselves get excited about it when they talk about it. If they are that passionate about what they do then they will sell it forward. They will do what it takes to make it. They will become a people person. 
Do you think you can start a business if you don't have a degree from a University?
DEFINITELY. While a degree is something nobody can ever take away from you, it is not necessary to have one in order to run a successful business. Many times life experiences shape the greatest business people. If you know your product/service and believe in it, you will do whatever it takes to push the product or service. 
Advice on standing out in a crowd and maintaining a competitive edge?
For this you have to know your crowd. You have to know what your clients are looking for. Even then, take it up a notch and give them something more. Something unexpected and out of the norm.

What's next for Neha Assar Henna Artistry? 

Not sure. I take it a day at a time and accept every opportunity I can with open arms.
Looking back, what would you tell yourself when you were first starting out?
I had a vision of how I wanted my brand to be. I took lots of baby steps to steer it in the right direction. I told myself to be patient, humble and strong. Till this day, I tell myself the same exact thing.
Best lesson you've learned in business: 
Do not let other people’s opinions influence you. Opinions are not facts. Back home in India, being a “mehndi lady” is a profession that is looked down upon. Even in the states, some people still carry that same mentality. I have clients that announce at their home upon my arrival “The mehndi lady is here!” I personally don’t let those opinions and thoughts affect me. I myself know that I am an educated woman who has a full time career as an engineer. I am a wife to a husband that supports me and has my back. I am a mother to two fantastic children that look up to me. I have my two hands that all of this artwork flows from. I love doing mehndi. I bring joy and relaxation to a bride on one of the most life changing and special moments of her life. I get to meet people and connect with them on different levels. At the end of the day, I do what I love. 
Always follow your heart. Do what makes you happy regardless of opinions and external influences. Do not accept criticism unless it is constructive. Always have an open mind to feedback and learn how to achieve the best of your capabilities. The sky is the limit.