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.