Throughout Women’s History Month, REVOLT has been highlighting stories of struggle, resilience, and triumph told through the lens of female trailblazers who’ve not only lived that experience, but have also broken barriers in their respective fields. The “She Is” series aims to spotlight those women across industries who are shattering the status quo and proving that the future is female because women are the real architects of society.
Before the annual celebration comes to an end, REVOLT sat down with one final trailblazer for today’s (March 28) episode, Olamide Ayomikun Olowe. She is a self-proclaimed serial entrepreneur; the co-founder of SheaGIRL, a Sundial Brands subsidiary now owned by Unilever; and the history-making CEO and founder of Topicals, the fast-growing Gen-Z-targeted skincare brand. Olowe has prioritized mental health in her life and in her products, aiming to make Topicals, which launched in August 2020, a brand that not only transforms how you feel about your skin through effective science-backed products, but through advocacy as well.
As the first-generation daughter of immigrants, the young boss knew the significance of her parents’ hard work and the sacrifices they made to provide a better life for their family early on. Olowe shared she often used that as fuel to motivate her to do everything in life with “the spirit of excellence.” The businesswoman lives by the words of her mother, who would often tell her, “Anything that’s worth doing is worth doing well.” She added, “My team knows that whether it’s branding, or it’s the way that we treat our vendors or it’s the way we build products, everything has to be done with attention to detail because that’s what separates good from great.”
Still, Olowe doesn’t believe in striving for perfection. She opened up about recently reading a book that focused on the idea that “Perfection is us trying to get closer to something that we’ve seen before.” The young trailblazer argued, “In aiming for perfection, you’re actually becoming less like yourself and more like something else because you’re trying to measure up to something else.”
Since launching, Topicals has garnered significant success, including selling out 48 hours after its launch in Sephora in March 2021. At 23, Olowe became the youngest Black female entrepreneur ever to raise over $2 million in venture funding after amassing $2.6 million.
However, for the skincare mogul, those achievements come secondary to the opportunity to create more space for mental health advocacy, as she shares a close connection to the subject. She recalled being fearful of wearing swimming attire at one point. “I didn’t wear a swimsuit until deep into college because I was really insecure about ingrown hairs and bumps because I was someone who shaved when I was really young,” Olowe candidly shared. Due to a lack of knowledge surrounding proper shaving care, she ended up having dark spots and ingrown hair in her bikini area.
After opening up about her situation, Olowe soon realized, “A lot of things that we’re insecure about or we’re fearful about actually connect us more than they separate us.” She added, “And so that’s why, for me, it’s a personal mission to continue to advocate about the connection between skin health and mental health.” The funding has since increased to a reported $10 million, but the moment seems bittersweet for the entrepreneur who feels that although “it’s great to break boundaries and to do things that we’ve never seen folks do before… we’re still years behind, decades behind because I shouldn’t be the youngest; I shouldn’t be one of few.”
The Topicals CEO continued, “I know that there are women who are just as smart as me, if not smarter, more experienced, more creative, but this idea of mismatch between access and opportunity.” Creating space for other women to not only “surpass” her, but “to be our ancestors’ wildest dreams” is a task Olowe said she takes to heart. She accomplishes this by never taking “the pressure seriously because I think it’s man-made.” Yet, Olowe also believes, “Pressure creates diamonds” and that she is a testament to that, coupled with “what discipline, access, opportunity, and creativity look like.”
When it comes to being a woman, this trailblazer admires “our ability to tap into the divine feminine.” She noted that oftentimes, when navigating through male-dominated industries, the initial reaction is to display a sense of power.
Olowe explained, “You want to be a lot more aggressive, and I’ve come to understand and learn that flow, being nurturing, being empathetic and being what it is that a woman is actually serves you a lot better than trying to use aggression or power to occupy spaces.”
If there was any advice she’d offer aspiring entrepreneurs, dream chasers, or just anyone looking to start a new journey, it is to always speak from a place of power, however. Olowe believes that due to personal insecurities, people often “speak from a place of timidity.” When working with potential clients, Olowe said she “always pitched it as an opportunity for you to get on board for a train that was leaving if you wanted… to be a part of it or not.” She continued, “And so I think for a lot of us women, especially when we go into these conversations where we’re the only one, we really need to go in with power.”
She added, “I tell people all the time that if you’re a Black woman starting any brand in pretty much any category, we know that Black women are the originators of a lot of culture, and so because of that, a lot of the categories, products, and spaces you’re trying to occupy are quite literally billion-dollar industries, and so you have to speak from a place of the fact that your culture and you just [existing] can produce billions.”
Be sure to watch REVOLT’s “She Is” episode featuring Olamide Ayomikun Olowe here.
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