Vanessa and Angela Simmons want Black aspiring entrepreneurs to know success is possible
REVOLT caught up with Angela and Vanessa Simmons to discuss what it means to be Black entrepreneurs and much more.
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Who remembers “Run’s House”? The iconic reality television show debuted in 2005, chronicling the family life of iconic rapper Rev Run of Run-D.M.C. and his family. Not only did the series highlight the outstanding personalities of each individual in the house, but it shed light on the importance of morals.
In 2007, both Angela and Vanessa Simmons put on their entrepreneurial hats and launched Pastry under their family’s line of footwear called Run Athletics. With their debut Cake Collection being inspired by their favorite desserts, the ladies were able to partake in their love for fashion. Becoming businesswomen at such a young age, they took the brand worldwide and even Pastry became America’s No. 1 sneaker for professional and university dance teams.
Fast forward to 2020, the women are as excited as ever for the launch of their newest venture: Simmons Beauty.
REVOLT caught up with Angela and Vanessa Simmons to discuss what it means to be Black entrepreneurs in the fashion/beauty space and much more. Peep the chat below.
This is the first time you ladies are reuniting for a shoot in forever. How does it feel?
Angela: Man, it feels good. We shot one other time in the last couple years [for Yummy Extensions], but never like this. This is a full-on shoot. The last time we did one would be back in our Pastry days.
Vanessa: This is a full-on collaboration, not only a shoot. We’ll do fun shoots. But, this is a full business collaboration. We’re excited.
What took so long?
Angela: Time. Life. We’ve been working on different projects separately, looking for the right project. It’s important not to just — because we want to collaborate — collaborate on anything. We’re both businesswomen. So, at the same time, it depends on what it is.
Vanessa: Skincare is something we both genuinely care about. In our family, collaboration with each other is really big. Even though we’re usually in many different fields, collaboration is always key for us.
What’s the inspiration behind Simmons Beauty?
Angela: Simmons Beauty is really a quarantine baby of mine. I’ve been wanting to do it. I was in the house stuck and felt everyone’s really concerned about their skin, right? You’re in the house with dry skin, you got time to do it yourself… I’m about seven products deep at this point. I have a toner already, a hydrating toner. My sister and I, I said, “Yo, we should do this toner together.” She was game, I was game. It made sense. She’s already got her own skincare stuff. Listen, can we collaborate here? She was down. It’s super cool.
Vanessa: The rose water toner makes so much sense because literally, for how long have I been walking around spraying stuff on my face? Everyone’s like, “What’re you doing?” I’m that person for years, so I’m excited about it.
What goes into launching a skincare line?
Angela: A lot. It’s a lot of pieces. Having the right manufacturer, your logo, all the things you can think of from the very bottom up.
Vanessa: The test and trials are endless.
Angela: The first thing is testing all the products and formulas. Making sure it makes sense, what skin types is it good for. I have sensitive skin so with this skincare line, it really is a goal of mine to keep it to sensitive skin. I’m really big on that.
How does this beauty line compare to your Pastry days? When did you guys realize you wanted to make sneakers?
Vanessa: It’s just different. The evolution, something new.
Angela: That was fashion and we started that. There were no real sneakers like that at the time and we had our own lane. This is its own lane: African American beauty and skincare. It’s for everyone but at the same time, we gotta embrace our sisters. Our color.
Vanessa: It’s important to highlight that Angela does have sensitive skin and everything doesn’t work for her. This stuff is safe for everyone.
Angela: I break out quick!
What does it mean to be Black women entrepreneurs in the space?
Angela: It means a lot. We’re in a day and age where it’s so many of us coming up. What’s most important right now is the support of one another. Even if we’re all in the same space, the collaborations help each other grow. You see Rihanna doing her thing in skincare, you see Kylie doing her thing, but there’s still room for everyone. What’s most important is supporting one another.
Vanessa: There’s room for everyone. Being a Black woman entrepreneur, it’s about inspiring the generation below us, the people who are looking to start businesses and companies to let them know it’s possible. Even when we started Pastry, that’s what it was about. Obviously sneakers were the main thing, but we’re always meant to be an aspirational brand. That goes into all of the businesses we have. We want to empower the next generation of people coming up.
What’s the secret to sustaining and building longevity in entrepreneurship?
Vanessa: Organization. Having a strong, firm vision every step of the way. Accepting that vision may change over time as you get deep into business. Keeping yourself inspired. Studying other people’s businesses, other people you admire, it all matters. That’s why we look to inspire with our businesses.
What are your ladies’ take on the Black Lives Matter movement?
Vanessa: It’s time. It’s time to see some real changes. The only way we’re going to see those changes is if we all stand up and use our voices, we lean on each other for support because we’re in this together. More than anything, it’s time for change. We as a community are tired of some of the things happening. We’re tired of waking up in the morning and being like “another person?” It’s tiring and it’s exhausting. It’s time to use our voices to elevate our community.
How can you continue to push the narrative?
Angela: It’s using our platform and pushing things out there when we see it fit for us to push it where we can. Making sure that we use our voices and doing the work behind the scenes, too, because it’s not always going to be the posts. It’s far bigger than our communities posting it. It’s for us to see, but it’s for us to actually get to work. It’s more important that people get to work, spread it and let everyone know. But, then get to work behind the scenes, as well.
Vanessa: The posts are such a small part. The social media portion is educating people, educating each other so that we can let each other know what’s going on, then make a plan of action to really move together. There’s so many moving parts and so many moving pieces. But, if we if we work together, we can make some noise and we can be heard.
How was it working with celebrity stylist Winnie Stackz?
Angela: It was a blast, lots of fun fashion moments. We made some really great moments.
Vanessa: We kicked off season six of “Growing Up Hip Hop” today.
Angela: We did, they came and started filming today with us.
Vanessa: I haven’t seen Angela since March. I have seen her since season five of “Growing Up Hip Hop” when everything in the world shut down. This is our first time together since then.
Angela: I flew here. Vanessa mentioned Winnie being a great stylist, so we actually followed him. He reached out. It all came full circle. I wanted to do some shooting for Simmons Beauty, he wanted to do some work. Yo, let’s come together with Vanessa, me, you. He pulled it together, definitely a dope experience.
What have you guys learned watching yourselves on reality TV?
Angela: I learned not to care about what anyone else got going on when it comes to what they say about me. Even if people perceive you a certain way based off of what they see on reality television, they still don’t know you.
Vanessa: At all!
Angela: It’s more about growing thick skin to not really care about what others are seeing or may perceive you to be when you know who you truly are.
Vanessa: Growing up on reality TV has definitely made us have thicker skin. There are times where it was more difficult than other times, but we learned to push through and not care about people’s opinions, but do things that matter. Do things that’ll make people talk in a positive way.
Angela, talk about your journey with fitness brand, Built Not Bought.
Angela: Yes! Actually while I was out here, I shot some content for Built Not Bought. I’m releasing a program called “The Reset.” A lot of programs are geared towards going hard in the gym, but what about resetting your body? Stretching right, doing the right things so you’re able to get in the gym and crush it. People always get the Built Not Bought slogan and what I’m saying confused. I’m not against plastic surgery, but I’m telling you to embrace what you already have. People love what you already have. By all means work with it and do what you can do. But, you don’t have to look around you to see what someone else has and think you need that. That’s my thing. I’m pushing that along because I love the narrative and it’s totally what I’m about. If I can inspire other people, then my day’s made.
If there could be a “Run’s House 2.0” with the Simmons girls household. What would that look like?
Vanessa: Papa Run now is a grandfather. All of his three oldest children are parents now, so you’d see Rev Run as a grandparent. It’s pretty awesome.
Angela: We all have families, it’s so different now.
How’s motherhood been?
Angela: It’s motherhood (laughs).
Vanessa: 2020 is interesting. I love it, I wouldn’t trade it in for the world. I’m now a first grade teacher somehow, I don’t know how that happened. Motherhood is so inspiring.
What are they learning in first grade?
Vanessa: You’d be surprised. She’s learning how to draft a full letter, she’s doing computer, she’s doing Spanish. It’s a long day, she’s in class from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Angela: My son’s actually fluent in Spanish and English. He’s four. I raised him like that because I wanted him to have two languages. I’m going to add a third one. But, alright he’s perfect right now.
What’s the third one going to be?
Angela: I was thinking about Mandarin. He’s interested right now, so I think I may.
Vanessa: Now is the best time.
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