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From “Growing Up Hip Hop” to her Simmons Beauty skincare brand, Angela Simmons is a multi-hyphenate. The daughter of Run-DMC legend Rev Run and niece of Russell Simmons, she’s been working since a young age to build a lucrative and influential empire of her own. Angela got her entrepreneurial start in 2007 with her and her sister’s Pastry shoe line, and last year, at the height of the pandemic, the businesswoman launched her latest venture, Simmons Beauty.
“It was a really tough time, but it was also time for us all to sit back and reevaluate exactly what we’re doing in business, and how to make it make sense in the moment that we’re in now,” she told REVOLT.
Last month, Angela also premiered her new TV show “Just Angela” on AspireTV. After growing up in TV, namely on the beloved series “Run’s House” which chronicled the life of her famous father and their family, she’s excited to have a television space that’s all about her. Besides giving fans an intimate glimpse into her day-to-day, Angela will use the show to spotlight other Black business owners, share entrepreneurial insights and more.
“For me, being able to help individuals change their lives and also their perspectives on themselves is the most powerful part of anything,” she says.
We caught up with Angela for Financial Literacy Month to discuss her decision to start a business during the pandemic, using her platform to support Black-owned businesses, advice she’d give to other entrepreneurs and more. Read below!
You’re a multi-business owner and we’re coming off a year that was really tough for a lot of entrepreneurs. How did you adapt during the pandemic to keep your businesses going strong?
I actually started a business during quarantine, Simmons Beauty, and it’s coming up on a year of being in business this May. So, I feel like I just thought outside of the box, you know? It was a really tough time, but it was also time for us all to sit back and reevaluate exactly what we’re doing in business, and how to make it make sense in the moment that we’re in now.
You planned and launched Simmons Beauty during the early months of the pandemic. How did you push through and find the courage to just go for it during that challenging time?
I just wanted to do something that I love to do and skincare, especially being at home, we had a lot of time to do whatever we needed, right? Facials, masks, a lot of sitting around. I was like, you know what, I’ve always loved it and I just felt like it was time to go forward with it, and I just dove right on into it.
How do you feel you’ve evolved as a businesswoman from launching Pastry with your sister in 2007 to now?
Absolutely, I mean I feel like as a woman, as I’ve evolved, I’ve definitely changed direction and changed businesses to where I’m at now vs. then. I learned a lot at a very early age about business. So, I definitely have evolved and have become a different type of businesswoman, for sure.
Skincare and makeup is also an exciting space right now, especially with more spotlight being put on Black women entrepreneurs from Rihanna to Sharon Chuter. Are there any women you were inspired by before launching your line?
Yeah, I mean I think Rihanna’s phenomenal, what she’s doing. It’s so incredible to see strong, powerful women, especially African-American women, doing their thing. I do love what Kylie’s been doing, too. Kylie’s doing her thing with the makeup and skincare, and I just think that there’s space for everyone. So, to see everyone thriving and doing well, and just seeing the support from them for other women, lifting each other up, is just amazing.
You also just launched your new AspireTV series, “Just Angela.” Are you excited to have a space that’s entirely your own?
Absolutely! I think it gives me a space where I actually can tell my story through the lens of my eyes and I’m going to let you guys in on my real life. I’m gonna share like little diaries and secrets — things that normally people maybe wouldn’t know about me unless they were close to me or my friends.
You’re also going to use the show to highlight other Black-owned businesses, including a favorite products haul. Why was that important to you?
I feel that it’s super important that we support our community, especially African-American businesses, at this time. It’s like reaching out to one another and using my platform to do that is really, really important to me because if I have the platform, and the eyes and something that could help you get to the next level with your business, then by all means, I would love to use my platform to do that.
You also have an episode where you mentor a fellow businesswoman. What was that experience like?
I just feel like that’s one of the best things ever; to be able to extend information or things that I’ve learned along my journey and, by the way, I’m still learning because I feel like you learn in business as you go. It’s important to always keep a learning and listening ear. I’ve never felt like I know everything. There’s always more to learn in life.
You also have several self-empowerment and mentoring organizations. What does helping others build wealth and self-sufficiency mean to you?
Those are thing that I’ve always been passionate about — helping and doing what I can for others — since I was a little girl. People always ask what’s the best thing you’ve ever done and for me, the answer’s always been when I’ve been able to help someone else because that is powerful in itself. It’s one thing to help someone financially, but mentally when you help someone, you help them change their lives. So, for me, being able to help individuals change their lives and also their perspectives on themselves is the most powerful part of anything.
Is there a piece of business advice that’s stuck with you over the years?
For me, growing up around my family and being in the life that they’ve been in really helped me as an individual. I learned a lot early on, and I think that really helped me in life. Just watching all these greats do what they do, and then also picking up on that along the way. Definitely like my uncle Russell, my father, Kimora [Lee Simmons] — like there were just so many individuals who I learned from along the way.
What were some of the challenges you faced when you were first starting out as an entrepreneur and what lessons did you learn from them?
I think you always have to be willing to readjust if things aren’t going the way that you want them to go in business. I think it’s important to not be afraid to change it up or to fail. I mean, I’ve had times where I may have done something and I didn’t like how it went, and sometimes you cut your ties and you move on, and that’s it. But, it’s all about learning and growing as you go.
You definitely put that into practice with your skincare line!
For sure! Simmons Beauty is going strong. I’m coming out with a whole new kit that’s gonna have a couple more serums and eye serums, and just some incredible things to help you guys glow and be your best. Just helping to redefine beauty and giving people what they need. I’m putting a lot of my focus into that and skincare right now.
I’m sure lots of aspiring entrepreneurs will be watching your show hoping for tips and advice on how to grow or start their business. What’s something you would tell them?
To stick with it even if you feel like you’re not getting the support that you need. Stick with it. And to believe in yourself more than anyone else around you. It’s good to have support, but it’s nice to really believe in yourself, so I would say definitely really believe in yourself.
We spoke with a few successful female music executives last month for Women’s History Month, and one theme that came up was not being intimidated by others when you’re chasing your goals. Would you give that advice to female entrepreneurs, too?
Yeah, I think it’s definitely easy to feel intimidated. But, you have to focus in and really pull energy on yourself, you know? It’s good to know your competition when you’re getting into business, but it’s important to be confident in what you’re doing. So, definitely building your confidence, and sticking with your business and your business plan, and keeping those around you who are gonna help you go forward — no distractions.