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Germaine Bolds-Leftridge Is Ready for Her Skincare Close-Up

January 21, 2022
January 21, 2022
Germaine Bolds-Leftridge

Germaine Bolds-Leftridge, President of the beauty sales and marketing firm GBL Sales, Inc., is known throughout the industry as the woman with the Midas touch. Her knack for nurturing independent, Black-owned haircare brands like Mielle Organics, Taliah Waajid Black Earth Products, Oyin Handmade, and Kenya Moore Haircare and transforming them to retail gold is legendary!

Now, the beauty biz maven has her sights set on the platinum group: she’s just launched IKNOW Skincare Solution Treatments to address the needs of an older demographic of Black women who she lovingly refers to as the 50+, the Platinum Set. Here, she tells READY to BEAUTY for BeautyMatter how she came into the beauty industry, how her mother influenced her, and why the win happens in the fourth quarter.

What is your earliest beauty memory?

My earliest beauty memory is getting my hair pressed by my mother. I was a tomboy and wanted to lift weights and play basketball with my brother and his friends. At a certain point my mom was like, “I've had enough and it's time for you to act like a little girl and keep your hair neat and wear earrings.” It's different for girls now, but that was the way I was expected to look. If my sisters and I came downstairs in the morning not properly dressed with our hair combed and making sure that we looked nice, that was an issue in my house with mother. 


In terms of skincare, who made an impression on you early on?


Again, my mom. She was very confident and took pride in her appearance. After attending a party or social function, she used to tell my siblings and me, “When I walked in the room, I got a standing ovation!” She had beautiful skin. I remember her using oatmeal to make facial masks. And when I started wearing makeup, she instructed me to use upward motion rather than drag or pull at my skin when applying it. She would always say, “Take care of your skin today so that it will take care of you tomorrow.” She passed last year, and when I was caring for her during her final days, everyone who visited her commented on how beautiful her skin still looked at her advanced age and with an equally advanced disease too. 
 How did you enter the beauty industry?

After graduating from HBCU Morgan State University, I had various jobs. I sold Datsuns, then worked for an insurance company and I hated it. But through those experiences I realized that I had the personality for sales. One year while attending my college homecoming, I met my Delta Sigma Theta sorority sister who worked for M&M Hair Care products. I asked her to keep me in mind for job opportunities. With her help and guidance, I landed my first position as a merchandiser for Soft-Sheen Carson in 1984.

Later I became a sales rep for the beauty firm Sales Impressions, where I advised clients on marketing and sales initiatives, then worked for World of Curls, a popular brand in the 1980s and ’90s that was based in California. During that time, a friend who worked for Luster products, the maker of Pink Oil, approached me about becoming an independent beauty broker. She felt that the broker system at that time was somewhat broken and needed a shaking up, and I would be the ideal person to do it. I opened GBL Sales in March of 1990. Luster was my first client, and I was instrumental in increasing their market share. The rest is history.

"I want Black women to have a different relationship with their skin and to be their best selves where they are right now. For me, it’s more than just coming out with products— it’s changing the narrative about this important demographic."
By Germaine Bolds-Leftridge, founder, IKNOW Skincare

You’ve had a super-successful career as a beauty broker, helping to grow several independent Black-owned brands to prominence and making them very profitable. To what do you attribute that success?

The little accounts were always important to me, and working with them taught me that it is important to treat every client the same because they may be small today, but if you nurture them they can be bigger tomorrow.

Why turn to skincare at this point of your career?

Once during a salon visit, my stylist used a product specifically formulated for older women. I found that interesting, so I started doing focus groups on women in the Baby Boomer generation. I've always been interested in this demographic, which I refer to as the 50+ Platinum Set, and started doing my research on it when I was in my early fifties. Launching a hair product would have been too much of a conflict of interest with my GBL clients, so I parlayed to skincare instead. Especially in honor of my mother!

What sets IKNOW Skincare apart from other products that address mature skin?

First and foremost, we focus on a forgotten demographic of Black women who are in the prime of their lives at 50+! Their beauty needs and wants are just demonstrably different from their general-market counterparts. So let’s start from there and know that I don’t buy into youthful-looking skin nor anti-aging—the only way to stop aging is to be dead. I want Black women to have a different relationship with their skin and to be their best selves where they are right now. For me, it’s more than just coming out with products— it’s changing the narrative about this important demographic. Platinum Black women have different concerns about their skin. We don’t wrinkle a lot because of the melanin in our skin, but our skin has a tendency to sag as we age. IKNOW products are formulated with ingredients to plump up the skin, improve elasticity and the appearance of hyperpigmentation, and give it a vibrant #RealAge glow.

What is the meaning behind the brand name?

I was talking to a friend and telling her, “There are things I know at this point in my life,” and the words “I Know” resonated with me. And that was it! Because there are things, when you get to a certain age, that you have to know so that you can become your authentic self—we know who we are, who God created us to be, so that we can win.

The names of some of your products—Me First Cleanser, Immerse Facial Oil, Eyes Matter Eye Treatment—sound like positive affirmations and self-care reminders. How did you come up with them?

The names are based on how we need to think about ourselves at this point in our lives, and a reminder to put ourselves first. Again, I want Black Platinum women to have a different type of relationship with their skin. One that is more intimate and personal!

What is your favorite Black beauty moment?

I have two. The first was when Vanessa Williams was crowned Miss America. I remember feeling a sense of pride that the world was seeing us from a different perspective. She was so beautiful. And she opened up the possibility that other Black women would have the possibility of winning on that stage. My second favorite moment is when my client Mielle Organics haircare products, a Black woman-owned business, struck a deal for over nine figures in her first investor evaluation after being in business for just six years. Keep in mind that when I got in the industry, haircare companies were owned by men, especially in the Black haircare market. More recently there has been a serious paradigm shift where men are now the minority and women are the majority. Now, most of these beauty brands are owned by women.

What’s your beauty mantra?

My beauty mantra is the win happens in the fourth quarter. The 50+ Platinum Club is the fourth quarter.

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