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Beatrice Dixon: Hi, my name is Beatrice Dixon. I am the Co-Founder, CEO, and Chief Innovation Officer at The Honey Pot Company. And to me, It’s A Matter of Responsibility.
Kelly Kovack: Entrepreneurs have become the superstars of our era. I’m Kelly Kovack, Founder of BeautyMatter. The journey of founders has become idealized and oversimplified, filled with disruptive ideas, unicorns, and big exits. In reality, the moment you realize the potential of a product market fit is just when the difficult journey begins. And not all founders have the benefit of attending the right schools or being born into wealth, which affords access to funding that makes things just a little bit easier. While the paths of founders are not created equal, persistence pays off. Beatrice Dixon, the Founder and CEO of The Honey Pot, may not have had two nickels to rub together when she realized product market fit, but she found a way to make it work with a $21,000 loan. Fast-forward, her brand is sold at Whole Foods, Target, and Walgreens, and she’s just getting started.
So Beatrice, thank you so much for joining us. We have never met but I have been following your path. And I’ve been really excited about this conversation because sort of reading the interviews that you do, there’s sort of an honesty and frankness that is so refreshing. So I’m super excited to kind of dig into things with you today.
Beatrice Dixon: I appreciate that. I’m grateful to be here.
Kelly Kovack: So I think it’s important to say that you launched The Honey Pot in 2014, when the landscape for period care and vaginal wellness was very, very, very different. You were one of the first indie brands that made the industry think about the category and the needs of consumers in a totally different way. And your founding story was a very personal one. As a way to set the stage, can you share a bit about the impetus for starting the brand? And also sort of a little bit about what the category was like when you started down this path for sort of shaking things up.
Beatrice Dixon: I’m going to start with the category part. I never like to speak negatively about my competitors because I think that it’s really important for all of us to be here, because humans have to be able to make a choice, right? And they should be able to choose whatever they want. But when we got started, there was a lot of white space in the lane of herbal, clean, effective feminine care.
Kelly Kovack: Clean didn’t exist in feminine care.
Beatrice Dixon: No, it really didn’t. This was around the same time that Cora was coming out and Lola was coming out, all of us clean, better-for-you, vagina care, vagina wellness brands were starting to really pop up at that time.
Kelly Kovack: I mean, you would never even use that word related to this.
Beatrice Dixon: You wouldn’t. You wouldn’t. I remember we would do trade shows—because that’s how we started our business because we didn’t have any money. We were broke, right? And this isn’t a race thing to me, but I’m just pulling out some things that were very interesting, right, because we got started doing hair shows. Which made sense because there’s nothing but humans with vaginas walking around because they want to figure out what’s going on with their hair, right? And so naturally, we started with what we knew. So we started with Black hair shows. We started Bronner Brothers; we did the natural hair show. We did Taliah Waajid. We did all these shows. And those humans would literally talk to us about everything with their vaginas. Like, you cannot even believe it. It was crazy. We would have husbands coming up and wives and it was insane. They would come, they would buy, they would come back the next day, they would bring all their friends. But when we went to shows—and I don’t want to make it a race thing because it’s not—but when we went to shows where the mass amount of people did not look like us, those humans were like, look, I am not about to talk to you about my vagina, no way. And they would just keep pushing. Because culturally, having those discussions were more centered around a medical professional and we had all been taught that the vagina was a self-cleaning oven, and you didn’t need to use these things and these things were bad for you. You know, this was the mantra. And I’m not saying that it’s wrong or right because if that’s what you were taught and that’s what you believed, then that’s what you did.
And so this was the landscape, then, talking about your vagina just was not commonplace. Even when we were talking to investors, as you could guess, seven out of the ten humans were men, and for them it was like, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, wait, what are we going to talk about today? So the landscape was very untouched, and we were saying words and making products and trying to have real-life conversations that people just were not conditioned to have. You know, sometimes it worked for us, sometimes it doesn’t.
Kelly Kovack: Everyone talks about white-space opportunities, right, it’s one of those talking points. But white-space opportunities are very, very—it’s easy to identify them and maybe define them, but really building a business around them is really, really difficult. Because sometimes white space exists for a reason. You also mentioned speaking to investors, but your success didn’t come from landing early venture capital the way sort of today indie brands… So if I have it correct, you launched with a $21,000 loan, you worked a full-time job for three years, until you launched with Target. Can you take us back to sort of those early days? And you did sort of in the sense that you said you started at trade shows. But what did it really take to get the business off the ground? And what were some of those early learnings?
Beatrice Dixon: It took a lot, man.
Kelly Kovack: Because white space is also about making a lot of mistakes.
Beatrice Dixon: It is. It took a lot of mistakes. It took a lot of trial and error. Before we got into Target, we were making everything in the kitchen. And so we had a little bit of a freedom in a way, because if we wanted to just introduce something, we could just launch it up real quick. And at the beginning when we started Honey Pot, all we made was washes. And then maybe around 2015, we had thought to ourselves, because there were a lot of subscriptions coming up at that time, and I think The Period Store had a really dope concept. Their concept was, most humans who are buying things for their period, they would really prefer to just come to one place to get it. Because it also wasn’t necessarily comfortable to be at a store buying your vagina needs. It just wasn’t. Not that you didn’t do it, because you did it.
Kelly Kovack: You had to. But it was always kind of embarrassing. You’re like, I’ll stick it under everything in the cart.
Beatrice Dixon: Right, like you’ve got a yeast infection, and you’re like, oh, let me put the Monistat. Which was my play, right? I had bacterial vaginosis for a year, which is, like, the most glorified yeast infection that you could—it’s disgusting. It stinks. It was terrible. And I remember my experience as a consumer, like, I was living on Google. I was going into the store. I was taking the medicine. I was doing all the things. It was crazy. And as an experience as a consumer, I just could not figure it out. My grandmother came to me in a dream and told me what to do, which is how Honey Pot was born.
And so when you think about the guerilla strategy that we put in place, the very first guerilla marketing strategy was, don’t sell it, give it away. Because we had made it and my grandmother’s recipe had worked, but it was strong. I didn’t know—it was like I was cooking something in the kitchen. I just made my own recipe up. Me and her couldn’t be in that dream, and she told me, put two ounces of that, put one cup of—she didn’t have time for that. All she had time to do was give me ingredients and I had to figure out the rest.
So literally, in the beginning, I gave it away, because I needed to get the mix right, I needed to get the formulation correct. And then after giving that away for, like, a year, maybe a little less than a year, a lot of the people that I was giving it away to were like, I can’t just take this from you anymore, I need to pay for it. And my brother would give me a credit card, because he was a CPA at that time, he gave me a credit card, maybe it had a $500 balance on it, because he was just like, you keep coming and asking me for money. Just do this card and then I’ll just pay the bill every month.
And then somebody who we had given the product to, I can’t remember who it was, came and told me about the Bronner Brothers’ Hair Show. And they happened to know a guy, Ernest, I believe his name is, who could help you get into the show. He could organize it for you, you could pay him, he could set up the payments, he’ll set up the booth, he’ll get you all sorted. And he would normally do it for a slightly better rate than if you went directly to them. And so I reached out, got the rate, it was like $2,000, but that was a fortune then. Maybe it was $2,000, I don’t remember the exact amount. But I didn’t have $2,000. So I had to go back to Simon, my brother who is my co-founder, and be like, bro, I’ve got the opportunity to do this show. I really think that this is the time. If we’re going to do it, now is the time to do it. And for him, he was like, “B, I don’t know anything about vaginas other than what I know about vaginas. You know what I’m saying? What do I know about launching a vagina brand? I don’t know anything about that, you know?” And I literally got down on my hands and knees and begged him and said, “We don’t have to know. We’ll figure it out.” And I was like, “If this doesn’t work, I will never bring this shit to your attention again. I will never come back again. You’ll never hear a peep out of me. I will forget about it, and I will just keep working my job.” And he pulled together the money between him and Troy, who is one of our other investors, who was our earliest investor, and we got our money together and with that $21,000 bought bottles, caps, labels, ingredients, everything, pretty much every ounce of it got spent, and we made an assembly line, and we made the product, we made 600 bottles, and we sold 600 bottles in that weekend. And that’s what told us we had something.
And then, for us, it made sense to make that the thing that we did, because it’s only a weekend show. Maybe it’s three or four days, tops. But my thing was cool, this is a version of a growth hacking thing. It wasn’t a tech growth hacking thing. But typically hair show season is right around the same time. So you have one, and then the people who are doing the next hair show are promoting that at the hair show that you’re at, and you can just line them up. And then we would do festivals. And then we would do any kind of opportunity that we got to be in front of—even if it was only a hundred people, we were like, let’s go, let’s do it. That was really how we got our name out and we got started. We launched a website. I worked at Whole Foods. So me working at Whole Foods, I was able to get it into Whole Foods. Now, we may have only been in one Whole Foods store, but that didn’t matter, we could say that we were in Whole Foods, and we used that to our advantage.
And then I left Whole Foods and I became a food broker. So what I would do, now my customers became retailers. It was no longer the customer like me, and you who goes into Whole Foods and buys. And so I became the middleman between brands and stores. So my job was to talk to buyers at co-ops and natural markets, all along the southeast, and I would go in and I would pitch them maybe the 50 products that I was a broker for, and then I would walk out of the store and then I would walk back in, and I would go sell them Honey Pot. At that time, in natural food stores, the natural foods market wasn’t necessarily comfortable with feminine care and so it wasn’t always easy to get things in. So what I would say to those stores is, look, I’m just going to put it on your shelf for free. If it sells, then you can reorder it. If it doesn’t, we’ll forget about it. And that became my thing and that worked. So we just started to get into natural markets, and then 2016 came and we got the email, Target was interested, and they had seen our website. 2017 we were in Target. The rest is history.
Kelly Kovack: You know, you have such a great story because there’s a lot of revisionist history, I feel, that happens with a lot of founding stories and a lot of people may have just started with the moment of success, and we launched in Target and you kind of go from there. But it’s hard getting brands off the ground. And I think those early days and the mistakes are foundational. But talking about the Target launch, that’s also when you raised your first capital. So statistically, Black female founders receive less than 1% of venture funding. I think we’ve all sort of heard these statistics. We still have a long way to go, but there are certainly more opportunities today for Black female founders to access capital than when you were looking for money in 2017. What was it like raising money for Honey Pot?
Beatrice Dixon: Well, I want to say something to something that you said prior, which was a really good point, of how it’s more popular to start with where your success started. I think that that’s cool but it’s not very responsible because especially in the instance of humans who do not have access—the same type of access—to the humans who do have access that are just having a hard time funding, because raising money is hard no matter what color your skin is, no matter what is in between your legs. I don’t care what anybody says. It’s just hard no matter what. It’s the worst, to be frank. Our experience was hard. But I think that raising capital is just hard. We were doing something that really hadn’t been done. Yes, we were doing it while Black. Yes, we were doing it while—it was a man and a woman team because it was me and my brother doing it. And we were doing it with investors that knew about what they knew about. We weren’t at a place where we could go and get venture capital money because normally, in order to do that, either option A is you have ridiculous amazing relationships, you went to the right school, you have really great friends in high places, you belong to a fraternity or something like that. You have to have the right combination of things, typically, to have wicked success right out the gate, or you just have to be extremely lucky. We just didn’t have a lot of those things. But what we did have was my brother had an accounting firm in Georgia, between Georgia and Boston, and he did accounting for high-net-worth individuals. And that was really how we raised our money. We pitched those relationships and then those relationships brought other relationships and then we were able to raise, I want to say it was, our first big round, I think we raised like $725,000, which is a fortune. That’s a lot of money at that time.
Kelly Kovack: That is a lot of money. And I think it is—today you hear sort of these early rounds in sort of millions and millions. But I think there’s been this thing that’s happened, even in the period of time since you launched, that things just keep getting bigger and seem to happen faster. But I think it is important to sort of level-set what it takes, what’s realistic. Because one thing that when you start raising money, you're always marketing the next raise, right? So you have to position your brand in a way that is sort of leading to the next check. Which leads to sort of this revisionist history of founder stories.
Beatrice Dixon: It has to lead to the next check because one thing to understand, to all the humans that are listening to this, if you don’t have an understanding what venture capital and private equity does, the goal has to be either to have a merger acquisition or to have an IPO. Because when venture capitalists or private equity funds invest in your business, they’re not investing in it for it to just keep needing money, right? They’re investing in it because you are going to be able to give them a return on their investment of 4x-plus, and that is just what it is. So you have to have a position of either we’re going to exit this and it’s going to exit to be a multi-hundred-million-dollar brand or a billion-dollar brand, or we’re going to IPO this and it’s going to be so popular and so connected to humanity that we’re going to be able to raise a lot of money on the stock market. You’re going to have to have one of those two positions. And so it’s just the way that it crumbles. It’s just the way that it goes because that type of money requires those types of returns. So yeah, you have to play your position and you can’t be scared about it because in that type of position, you have to think big. You cannot think miniscule. You cannot think conservative. You cannot think play it safe, if that’s the game you’re trying to play. I’m not saying that there’s venture capitalist and private equity funds that maybe decide to go a conservative route; I’ve never met one.
Kelly Kovack: Even patient capital is only so patient.
Beatrice Dixon: Exactly. The day that I become an investor into brands, you’re not there to be patient. When I’m giving you my money, I’m saying that your company is a safe bet for me to invest in because I need this dollar to turn into four, right? But it needs to do that. It’s business at the end of the day. We may be friends and we may be cool, and I may love you and care about you and want you to do well, and under normal circumstances would not want anything to take from you. But if I’m giving you my money, then I need my money back, and that’s the way that this game is. So it’s really important going into this game that you’re thinking big, that you’re thinking logical, that the thing that you’re doing that it makes sense, that it tells the right story. And also, even bigger than that, that you’re beginning with the end in mind so that you understand which way you need to take it because that’s going to tell you how big your company needs to be and who are people you need to go after, what shelves do you need to go after, what products do you need to go after, right? What technology do you need to have? How do you need to build your team? All of these things come into play. It’s crazy because the consumer packaged goods space can be savage. This shit is not easy; it’s really hard.
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You also launched in a complicated channel. So you built Honey Pot in the FDM channel, which makes complete sense because it’s where women shop for feminine care, but it’s complicated because everything is bigger at mass. Target and Walmart have become increasingly important in the beauty and personal care landscape and brands are scrambling to launch with these retailers. But I have two questions for you. And the first question is about what it took to land distribution for a brand with such a disruptive approach to a category owned by strategics. So you’re literally going on the shelf in Target, and you are competing with some of the biggest personal care CPG businesses in the world. Yet you carved out a place and you were successful. And that is truly what white space is. But you need to understand the channel—it’s an expensive channel, mistakes are expensive because it takes a lot of inventory. What did it take to be successful and what were some of the biggest challenges?
Beatrice Dixon: To be successful, I think one of the biggest things that it took was to take on the notion of not wanting to—recreating the wheel. I actually didn’t want to recreate wheels; I wanted to use the wheels and the structures that were already in place, and I wanted to create cleaner, better for you, herbal, science-based products that can sit next to Summer’s Eve. I wanted to be as synonymous—think back to when you were a kid and your mommy told you about the feminine care product that she used. For some people, their mom didn’t tell them anything. For some people, their mom gave them all the gems. My mother, she was in the middle of both of those because she was working from what she had, from what she was taught. My thing was, I want Honey Pot to be what Summer’s Eve is, what Tampax is, what Always is, what Monistat is. I wanted Honey Pot to be what all the legendary brands of feminine care were, but under one brand. And I knew that there would be the shelf space for that because the shelf space already existed. That was one of the things that I learned as a broker: don’t go into shelf spaces that buyers and that humans do not understand. If you have to try to figure out where it goes, it’s probably not the best place for it to go, right? It’s not the best story to tell because—I hate saying “consumers” because it just doesn’t feel connected. But the humans who are buying it are not going to understand it. And if somebody has to understand it, you’ve already wasted their time. You literally have a couple of seconds to grab somebody’s attention when they’re standing in front of that shelf.
And so I think my biggest philosophy is don’t recreate wheels; stick with the structures that are in place and learn from the masters. And to be frank, the Monistat, the Tampaxes, the Procter & Gambles, the Unilevers are the masters of this shit; they’ve already nailed it. They gave me the play. I just needed to be able to line up to the play the way that I innovate. I’m the Co-Founder, CEO, but I’m also the Chief Innovation Officer. The way I innovate is the way I take care of my vagina and my vulva as a human and it’s based on looking at the products that have the highest velocity, the parts of the shelf that most humans are going to, the biggest market sizes that there are, and that’s how we create our innovation strategy. And so that’s how we grew in retail. When we got started in Target, we launched in Target in 1,100 doors with our normal and sensitive washes and our normal and sensitive wipes. Six months later, we were able to get our herbal menstrual pads in, and that’s when Honey Pot became historic, because no company had ever crossed the shelf. It used to be in feminine care, if you were a wash company, you did washes and wipes; that’s what you did: you cleansed. If you were a tampon company, you did tampons. If you were a pad company, you did pads. You stuck to your lane. Honey Pot’s lane is the vagina and the vulva and really, the part that those parts are connected to, which is everything. And I think that that’s how we’ve been successful at what we do, because we just look at the playbook.
Growing in mass-market retail, the thing that worked for those huge players was that they were able to do things faster. I shouldn’t say they were able to do things faster—conglomerates aren’t able to do things faster; actually, smaller brands are able to do things faster, but their checkbook looks completely different. The thing that works for us is that we are able to move fast. When we innovate, some years we’ve had six products, some years we’ve had 20. And so when you’re launching in retail, in mass-market retail, it does come with an expense, but it doesn’t come with the same kind of expense that you have when you’re launching a direct-to-consumer business and you’re having to spend a ton of money to figure out how to buy your customer.
So it actually was an effective way for us to grow our company because we didn’t start off with zillions of dollars to be able to go out and invest and throw money at trying to find our customers digitally. When we figured out that we weren’t going to be able to raise that amount of money, that’s when we just had to pivot. And it was like, cool, so we’re going to be a volume retail brand and we’ve just stuck to keeping our eye on the ball. And it’s not a race, right? Growing in mass-market retail, it takes time. It’s like when you’re driving cross-country. If I’m going from Phoenix to New York, it’s taken however many hours, that is the amount of hours it takes, unless you’re driving at 120 miles per hour, and you don’t care about getting pulled over. I just made this analogy to somebody I was talking to the other day. But if you’re driving 60 to 75 miles per hour, it’s going to take the time it’s going to take, and we’ve just been willing to take the time. And I think that’s how you do it: you don’t rush at it. In order to do it beautifully, you connect to the human that you’re going to sell your product to, because that is important as well. You can’t just throw shit at people; it needs to be done beautifully. It needs to tell the right story. You don’t be a haircare brand and make shampoo and conditioner and then bounce over and then make a body care product and then bounce over and make a facial care product. No, you focus on that hair, and you do that beautifully and you create a corset. And after you do that, now when you’ve really gotten them to where you need them to be, and you’ve gotten to all the hair types and you’ve got the conditioners and the oils and the this and the that and the serum, you’ve done that, then you go off and do the next thing. But it takes time to build a really beautiful shelf. I believe in that.
I come from the old school of doing that. And so I think that that gives me chills because I really love this shit, it really means something to me. When you’re making products for humanity, you don’t take that for granted. It has to be done well. It has to be done with love and dignity and good energy. Because in the beginning, if I was having a bad day when I was making Honey Pot, I didn’t touch it. I said, you know what? I can’t make any products today. I can’t do that now because I don’t make anything anymore, except for products for myself. So now the only way that I know how to do that is we do everything we do with dignity. Everything gets clinically tested. We’re working on everything getting toxicologist tested. Everything is planned out a couple of years ahead. Ingredients are important. Story is important. Narrative is important. Who is going to get this? Why do they need this? A lot of energy and love and respect and honor and patience goes into every one of our products. And I think that that’s how we built our brand in retail and that’s how we continue to stay ahead of the game, because we care. We don’t take this lightly.
Kelly Kovack: That is sort of the secret recipe, right? Because it’s the intangible. You can’t buy passion. And developing brands and products, especially when you care, it takes time. It feels like there’s this unrealistic expectation of, you know, you should launch and exit in this, I don’t know, three to five years. I kind of feel like in three to five years, you’re just sort of figuring out who you are, right? You’re like, wow, yeah, I did that totally wrong.
But, you know, the scale of mass retail is totally compelling. And indie brands, all of a sudden, it is the hottest thing to launch at Walmart and Target. But I also feel like a lot of indie brands don’t understand what it takes to make these big-box retailers work. It takes a lot of money to support this channel. The inventory requirements, yes, you get scale, but you’ve got to make the inventory; being out of stock is not an option. Also, if you get it wrong, you are probably out of business. It is sort of a zero-sum game. You know, what advice do you wish you had? Or what do you wish someone had told you when you started with Target, and then sort of the retailers that followed?
Beatrice Dixon: It’s funny because what you just said, I was told a lot. But here’s the thing: I have a different take on it, actually. Because we’ve had a lot of hiccups along the way, we just have. We didn’t just start out selling a lot of washes per store per week; that wasn’t a thing. We’ve had out-of-stock issues, we had stuff in the beginning when we first got into Target. We have had issue after issue after issue. The key is when you’re willing to go to your partner—because these retailers are your partner. They’re not just retailers; you guys are in business together. This is a relationship. And so you can get through the bad times if you’re just willing to own your shit. If you’re willing to say, I messed up. Or, when we went viral, it was around the same time that COVID happened and everywhere was shut down and we just couldn’t get anything made. And we had maybe—I’m just going to use easy numbers, I don’t know what the exact number was—but say we had 8,000 washes, for example. Literally, we had to go to every single store and say, you get 20 per week, you get 800 per week, you get 100 per week, and we had to go to them and be blatantly honest. And I remember me telling Si, we were just sitting down, Kelly is our CSO, and we were just like, how the hell are we going to do this, you know? And it was like, look, we’re going to have to be very limited with what we’ve got, and we need to be blatantly honest about where we are.
And so you can actually grow really well in retail being a small brand to becoming a big brand if you’re willing to admit that you’re small. There may be a retailer, you know, that has thousands of doors. But the way to do it is to say, look, I only want 50 because that’s all I can handle. I can’t handle 1,000. I can’t handle 3,000. I can’t handle 200. You start somewhere. You don’t be afraid to start online. When you make mistakes, you say, I made a mistake. When something’s not right, it’s not right. If the quality, you know, things happen with manufacturers, right? These things just happen. Especially if you’re not making your product and something happens and it’s not right, then you need to be the person to say, hey, X, Y, and Z happened; we can’t sell this right now. You don’t want it to be the other way around—that’s the hack. When something goes down, don’t let them come tell you about it—you go, and you tell them about it and you be honest and you be straightforward. And when you do that, when the hiccups come, because they will, Murphy’s Law, right? It will happen. The tough things will happen. The mistakes will happen. The balls will get dropped. It’s rough, man, but you just have to be willing to own it and you just have to be willing to say—before you go and tell them that you own it, you also have to have a plan and you have to stick to the plan. And when you can’t stick to the plan, you own that you can’t stick to the plan and you say, this is the new plan. That’s the key to it, is just being honest.
And when it comes to the investments with keeping your product on the shelf—because it’s easy to get your product on the shelf. Kelly, you said it right: it’s real easy to get on there, but keeping it there, that’s the hard part. My mantra, which Kelly taught me this—Kelly is like my big sister—if we’re not in a thousand or more doors, we can’t do big programs. If you’re only in a couple hundred doors, then it doesn’t make sense for you to do a program that’s going to affect all doors, you have to have a program that’s going to work for you. That could be if it’s at Target, that could be a gift card program, where if they buy X amount of numbers, $20 of your product, then they get a $5 gift card. You have to invest in that. That could be a weeklong program, that could be a two-week-long program.
The other thing is, if you don’t have a lot of capital to invest in in-store programming, then you need to be set with what your external program is because every retailer wants to know that. They want to know, what are you doing to promote the brand? And if you’re going to them to say hey, you know that I’m a small fish in a big pond, I don’t have the money to invest in your $20,000 program, I am working with this influencer group. There are influencers that are specific to Walmart and Target and CVS, all the big guys, there’s literally humans that just set up businesses with them and they create a page and they’re clever. And they’re using TikTok. TikTok has become a huge platform for us because literally, you can just have people from your team go in and make a cool TikTok video, but a good song behind it, and you can use these things and show them that you’re actually investing in the product being on their shelf. You can also run ads, which running ads isn’t what it used to look like, but there’s all kinds of ways to skin a cat—working with a PR agency and making sure that you put that you have some sort of budget towards that.
When you go to pitch to your retailer and to try to get in, and when you go to keep continuing to be in as your brands grow, these are the hats that you have to put in place, and you have to make it look beautiful. And as much as you can afford—it doesn’t cost a lot to do things well and do things beautifully all the time. It has to look like it cost a lot, but that doesn’t mean it has to cost a lot. And if you’re going to them with a plan that you have executed, it communicates. So as long as you’re doing that, it’s going to be okay. And even when you mess up—in my opinion, think about your favorite music artist and think about the first album they put out. My most favorite musician, I can listen to them album after album after album. Why? Because their hunger never died. This game is the same way. You’ve got to be hungry for this shit. You’ve got to be starving for it. I am just as hungry today as I was when we were rubbing wooden nickels together. And that’s how you have to go, because if you come at this with that type of mentality, then you’re a monster. There’s nothing that will get in your way. There’s no door that you won’t be able to turn down. There’s no mistake that you won’t be able to admit to. You will just figure out how to do it, time after time after time. It can be done; I know because we’ve done it. But there has to be the right amount of humbleness. You really have to die to your ego. And this is just my opinion—you have to go at it with the respect for those shelves that you want to be on. You treat those shelves like those are your shelves and you communicate with that. Every time you meet with your buyer: look, I respect your shelf.
Another hat to bring into play, especially when you’re in a retailer—like say you get into Target. Only be in Target for two years. Don’t go to anybody else. Or if it’s the other way, let’s say you’re going into Walmart. Don’t go into anybody else for two years. And then you use Walmart or Target as your innovation partner. You innovate, you put products in. Because they’re already two years ahead of the game. Every year you make sure that you create some innovation for them that nobody else is going to have and you take it out to the broader market the next year. And you just keep doing this and you just keep doing this and it will just keep growing.
Kelly Kovack: Your passion is palpable. Even though I’ve been doing this for 20 years, you get me excited. You actually make me think that maybe I want to launch a brand again, which, my God, I haven’t thought about that in ages.
Beatrice Dixon: Because it’s fun, Kelly. It’s really fun.
Kelly Kovack: I would be remiss if I didn’t tackle this subject with you. And I love how you kind of refer to everyone as humans. You mentioned COVID, but we’ve also lived through this cultural reckoning of Black Lives Matter that’s really shined a light on the systemic racism, not only in our culture, but in the beauty and personal care industry. You have a platform; you’re a successful Black female founder and you’ve nurtured a community with Honey Pot. How have you navigated this moment?
Beatrice Dixon: I just try to stay focused, man. I’m Black ’cause somebody said I was, you know what I’m saying? And I know that this is going to sound cliché. I’m very aware of what race has done in this society. It left a terrible, terrible, terrible sea of trauma that is literally hereditary, and sometimes we can’t even help ourselves because all of this stuff has just been deposited. A community cannot be raped and murdered and separated from their family and made to work for free and not be able to bathe and take care of yourself and treated like animals. That can’t happen and then everything is okay just because now we have freedom, right? However, I understand, if we could do it all again and if me and you could just be humans and I’m not better than you and you’re no better than me because you have breasts and a vagina, you’ve got eyes and a nose like I do, you’ve got a mouth; we’ve got the same parts, we are the same. I try to move from the place of being a human in this society. If I’m claiming a gender, I’m going to say I’m a her. If I’m claiming a race I’m going to say I’m Black all day because I love being Black, whatever that means. But I also understand if humanity, if we are going to be able to change the system of racism, which I believe is an illness, if we are really going to be able to change that system, we’re really going to have to do something radical, and that has to be seeing everybody as just human. There’s nobody that’s better, there’s nobody that’s worse. Money doesn’t mean anything; all it does is buy you shit. Nobody is better than anyone. And at the same time, I’m aware of what privilege does. I’m aware of white privilege. I’m aware that when we were out here raising money and doing the things we were doing, if we would have went to Stanford, if we would have had friends in high places, if we would have been white, if both of us would have been male, right, the table probably just would have looked a lot different. I wouldn’t be on here, we probably wouldn’t even be telling this same story, right? But I’m grateful to be in the shoes that I’m in. I’m grateful for all of the challenges we’ve had. I’m grateful we didn’t have nothing but wooden nickels to rub together. I’m grateful to be Black. I’m grateful to have my ancestors. I’m grateful to be in this position because I am what my ancestors dreamed of, all of those that died during slavery, all of those that lived through the civil rights movement, all of those that lived and have even transitioned into today’s time because it’s still a thing, it’s very important in this society with the skin color that I have for me to be respectful and for me to honor that. And for me, the best way to be respectful and to honor that is to do well and is to take this post seriously because a lot of sacrifices had to be made for me to be able to be here having this conversation. And so I get through it with honor, I get through it with love, I get through it with respect for all the humans. And not even just Black humans. Think about what happened with women—we had to fight for our rights as well, and it’s unfortunate that we live in a society where this is a thing, that treats people like animals and then treats people like second-class citizens. It’s so weird. Because of our vagina and because of our skin color. It is absolutely—when you think about it, it is absurd! It’s stupid!
Kelly Kovack: I think it is through sort of having conversations like this and sharing different perspectives because there are a lot of initiatives now and I think the initiatives and accessibility is important. But every brand, every founder, every human has a story. Everybody has baggage. Some people have—it may look like it’s easier for them, but maybe we don’t know.
Beatrice Dixon: Exactly!
Kelly Kovack: And I think at the end of the day, if we could just treat each other like humans, hopefully we get to a place where we understand each other and the needs. But just kind of going back to the beauty industry, there have been a lot of initiatives put in place to try to at least rectify the access. Do you feel like there has been progress made? You made it happen without that.
Beatrice Dixon: Yes, I do feel like there’s progress being made. But I also feel like it sucks that there has to be an initiative and that it’s just not a level playing field out the gate. I mean, it is what it is, like you said. The point of the initiatives is to rectify the lack of initiative that was there prior to. But I look forward to there not having to be initiatives because the playing field is just level for everyone. I look forward to the day in venture capital and private equity and even seed funds that there’s tools and access for brands who haven’t had access to those things to be able to get access to those things and be able to do what they need to do to be able to grow and scale their businesses. I think all of it is beautiful because we’re having this conversation and this conversation has been consistent for the last couple of years. Some of these conversations are happening because people want their press, and they want to be on what is considered the right side of history. And some of these people actually care and they actually want to see the world be a better place and they actually want to be a part of the new culture of the human race and die to the culture of needing to lock into a system that is race, that is gender, that is…
Kelly Kovack: I mean, hopefully one day we won’t need a descriptor, right? I won’t have to be a female founder; you won’t have to be a Black female founder; we’re just founders. Because that’s hard enough to begin with.
Beatrice Dixon: Right! We’re just business owners. And that’s cool for me. I don’t need to be wrapped up in any particular systematic thing. I just want to be here, and I just want to do dope shit with my friends, and I just want to make cool products for humans to use, and I want to do that well and ethically and responsibly and scientifically. And I want to eat well, and I want to travel, and I want to enjoy my life, and I want to help people do that for their life. That’s all I want to do. I don’t care what color you are or who you are, because it doesn’t matter. Each one teach one; that’s how we grow. That’s how we grow and that’s how we’re successful and that’s how we have health and wealth and all those things. So I’m with you. I look forward to the day that I’m not asked, What is it like to be a Black woman in business? I look forward to that shit.
Kelly Kovack: But in the meantime, you are leading by example and you’re showing the next generation what’s possible, and that in and of itself is amazing.
Beatrice Dixon: Thank you, I’m grateful to be here.
Kelly Kovack: Beatrice, thank you so much for everything you shared. Hopefully one day we can meet in person; I would love that. Your passion about everything and your wisdom is really really—thank you for sharing it.
Beatrice Dixon: Thank you for letting me share it.
Kelly Kovack: For Beatrice, It’s A Matter of Responsibility. She’s created a path for the next Black girl with a great idea to have a better opportunity and the access she didn’t have. The current entrepreneurial narrative perpetuates the view that it’s the best way to make money, make a difference, and live a full life. While this all may be true, entrepreneurship is not a walk in the park. Building great brands, defining white space, and developing game-changing products is hard. Beatrice’s success didn’t come from landing early-stage venture capital and access to the right people. She showed up every day with the belief in what she was building. Her persistence and vision eventually led to success, and her side hustle is now her main hustle. So in the end, It’s A Matter of Responsibility. I’m Kelly Kovack, see you next time.
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