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The Unfiltered Version of Building an Indie Beauty Brand with Yve-Car Momperousse, Founder and CEO, Kreyol Essence

It's a Matter Of...Poverty Alleviation

December 6, 2020
December 6, 2020

While the barrier to launch a beauty brand has never been lower, the landscape has never been more complicated, more competitive, and takes far more money than it ever has. Kelly talks with the founder and CEO of Kreyol Essence. A poster child for indie beauty, Yve-Car shares insights on achieving $1 million of seed funding, a slew of press coverage and editorial awards, becoming part of the Sephora accelerator, and how a deal with Mr. Wonderful on Shark Tank saved the company from the brink of failure. 

Yve-Car Momperousse [00:00:25]:
Hi, my name is Yve-Car Momperousse and I am CEO and Founder of Kreyol Essence. For me, it’s a matter of poverty alleviation.

Kelly Kovack [00:00:39]:
Things are not always as they appear. I’m Kelly Kovack, founder of BeautyMatter. There’s a myth floating around the beauty industry that it’s never been easier to launch a beauty brand. I’ve been building brands for over two decades, and perhaps the barrier to launch has never been lower; sure, you can wrap labels on some private label product, throw up a website, and you’re in business…but, do you really have a business? I would argue that the beauty landscape has never been more complicated, more competitive, and takes far more money than it ever has. Yve-Car Momperousse, the founder and CEO of Kreyol Essence, is a poster child for indie beauty. They ticked all of the boxes of success: a commitment of a million-dollars in seed funding, a slew of press coverage and editorial awards, they were a part of the Sephora accelerator program, and retailers were lining up; yet, they were close to going out of business, until they secured a deal with Mr. Wonderful on Shark Tank.

Alright, well, thank you so much for joining us. You know, we’ve met before, sort of at various events, and we’ve interviewed you on the website, but when I saw the Shark Tank episode, and your husband bringing me to tears, I’m like, “I have to have her on the podcast,” and I literally like, immediately sent you an email.

Yve-Car Momperousse [00:02:10]:
Thank you, I appreciated it.

Kelly Kovack [00:02:12]:
So, you know, I think I want to approach kind of our conversation a little differently, because I think you have an amazing story, and kind of it ties to sort of your heritage and background, but your brand has a much bigger mission than just sort of an ingredient story, and you describe it as a for-profit, social impact company. So, can you explain what that is, how it ties into the story, like sort of how that all connects, both sort of from the DNA and the story, but from a business perspective?

Yve-Car Momperousse [00:02:48]:
Yeah. So, Kreyol Essence, as you stated, is not just about the products that we provide to our tribe, and our tribe is our customer base, right, because we are a big family, and I think when I started the company, it was always important to me that I do something that has purpose beyond myself. I think growing up with immigrant parents, I always saw my father helping others; he was born here in Brooklyn, and I saw him teaching GED classes, there was always someone calling us asking us for advice, my mom was a pillar of the community as well, and traveled a lot to Haiti, and I think from a young age, it was instilled in me that I needed to make sure that life wasn’t just about my needs, but I needed to give to others. So, in starting Kreyol Essence, you know, I had a hair catastrophe. I was having a personal problem where my hair fell out, and there’s nothing more devastating for a woman; it’s different to get a haircut, but it’s another thing when your hair falls out, and that devastation that I felt, that I wasn’t beautiful, or, you know, that I wouldn’t be seen as attractive to others, that impacted my self-confidence, thus what I can do in the world, because you need to take bold action confidently. So, my first thing was, there are other women who feel like this, who can’t go out into the world and be their best selves if they’re dealing with hair loss, whether because of a bad style job, a hair dresser that added too much heat, like I went through, or if it’s because of an autoimmune disease, it’s because of cancer, and they need a natural product that’s actually efficacious and works for them. So, that’s the first part in making sure that other women, and men who might be suffering from hair loss, can get what they need so that they feel good and can go out into the world and be amazing; but, the other aspect of that is well, who makes the product, right? Who is behind it, and who wins when the brand grows? And, for us at Kreyol Essence, we work right now with over 300 farmers and women to make our products. So, I can’t say that I’m smart enough to have, you know, planned this all out, we were going to create this supply chain that impacts hundreds of people, but as we started going through this journey of me trying to find this amazing oil, which is Haitian Black Castor Oil, that my mom used when I was growing up, when I couldn’t find it on shelves, that began the journey to go to Haiti and to see, how do you make this oil? And to see that I had to work with farmers in order to get the seeds, because you need castor seeds, and to see that in order to make it, women are actually the ones who are more meticulous and patient in order to cultivate it and create it, and that we would have to export the product out of the country, seeing all of the social benefits there, that was really when the light bulb hit, that what better way to make a beautiful world than making sure people feel good, but that you’re creating work for a country where it’s considered one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere, and I’m like, “If we can create work in Haiti, then guess what? We can create a blueprint for poverty alleviation around the world.”

Kelly Kovack [00:06:01]:
So, was it an export, or what was happening, sort of, with the product they were – the oil they were creating?

Yve-Car Momperousse [00:06:09]:
So, it was never exported, actually. So, the way that we would – well, it’s not formal export. The way we exchanged, if you will, on an informal economy from those from Haiti, I always joke that when my mom, when I begged her to send me some from her immigrant stash, or if you’re a Haiti family, when you go away and you know that you can’t find something in the states, you really hold on tight to it. So, when I got the bottle from my mom, it was in a rum bottle with tape all over it, and it was really secured, and essentially what people would do is try to sneak it into the country, pray TSA doesn’t get ahold of it, and people would just do anything possible to just save a few ounces of the oil, and that’s really how it was exchanged: you waited until a family member was coming in, and you begged them to get you some, and please don’t forget, you wired them the money to get it in. So, it was pretty difficult to find.

Kelly Kovack [00:07:05]:
So, how difficult was it to sort of, I guess, operationalize the whole process? I can’t even imagine.

Yve-Car Momperousse [00:07:11]:
It was extremely difficult, and I like to say naivety is a beautiful thing.

Kelly Kovack [00:07:16]:
I would agree with that. Ignorance is bliss sometimes.

Yve-Car Momperousse [00:07:21]:
Ignorance is bliss. If we knew what we had actually signed up for, we probably wouldn’t have done it, so it was great that we didn’t know. We thought, “Okay, really, how hard can this be? Alright, we just need to get a few women to make the oil in larger batches, we’ll buy it from them, and start to bring it into the country.” Well, I had no realization that there was no supply chain, meaning no one did more, or created more, than maybe a gallon at a time of the product. So, imagine now, I mean, we produce thousands of gallons, but we were the first ones to do this. So, A, we had to go there and win trust – that’s not the first thing I thought I was going to have to do. We had to establish a rapport, because I had no idea how to make Haitian castor oil. I had to get the women to understand, even if you teach me and you show me, I’m not going to cut you out, right? I can’t sit here and make all of this oil, but I do want to learn so I can make the process easier and start to add machines. So, for example, it would take maybe ten women about a week to make five gallons before. We are not going to produce enough for others, if that’s what it takes. So, I really had to sit, and I say part of earning trust is often when you go to a developing country, you think you know best, but this was a time where I had to sit at their feet and humbly learn, ask questions, and really be respectful in order to understand the process, and once we did that, then we had to start thinking about issues like, “Well, I can’t find seeds.” Alright, now, that means I have to work with farmers, and then if the farmer says, “Well, I need to find a way to make sure I increase my yield,” well, now I need to get into agriculture, and I have to start to understand what helps with production, irrigation, what tools can be used. So, it really became a much larger endeavor than we initially anticipated.

Kelly Kovack [00:09:16]:
And were you doing this sort of before you launched, or I guess, at what point in sort of the launch or the lifecycle of the brand was all of this happening? And, I would imagine it continues as you scale.

Yve-Car Momperousse [00:09:29]:
Absolutely, and that’s a great question. I mean, I think like many entrepreneurs, and the best way to go about it, is you need your MBP: your minimum buyable product. So, when we first went to Haiti, we started to gain trust, and I brought back a gallon, to be quite frank. I put it in my suitcase, prayed, and then came back here. Stephane, my partner, life partner and business partner, he created labels, he created bottles, we poured the oil in there.

Kelly Kovack [00:09:56]:
So, you were always doing this together, from the beginning.

Yve-Car Momperousse [00:09:59]:
Yes, from the beginning. And, the first thing was, do people want the product? So, it started initially that way. When we first launched our website and we started to notice it was more than mom and dad buying, you know, that there were others who were interested in the product, we said, “Okay, we have to scale.” So, at each point demand grew, there was another lesson, and as demand continues today, each time demand grows, we learn another lesson.

Kelly Kovack [00:10:27]:
I would imagine. So, you know, you…when did you launch? You launched in 2014?

Yve-Car Momperousse [00:10:31]:
Exactly. So, we launch front-facing in 2014, but I had my hair catastrophe, actually, in 2009, and did my first trip to Haiti with my mom in 2009, and then in 2010, two days before we were going to take our next trip to Haiti, the devastating earthquake happened on January 12th. So, that’s why the Shark Tank episode was actually extremely significant for us, because it marked the 10-year anniversary of the Haiti earthquake. So, I immediately went into relief mode, like most did, you know, I raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, medical supplies, it was about immediate need. But, my mom, sage as she is, but let’s not have her hear that, she said to me, “It’s really great that you are doing all of this, but what Haiti needs, and when Anderson Cooper, and no one else has a camera on Haiti, they need work; they need dignity; they need to be able to take care of their kids and their families,” and that’s when we decided to focus again on the business.

Kelly Kovack [00:11:34]:
Gotcha. You know, I think – and we sort of discussed how a lot of small brands sort of paint this very rosy picture, maybe out of even just they have to, they have to believe it’s perfect, and sort of behind the scenes, it’s sort of anything but sometimes, and you know, I think one of the things that kind of surprised me, in complete honesty, with Shark Tanks, was I was like, from the first time I met you, I was like, “Wow, they are killing it,” right? And so, you know, you checked all the boxes: you had this amazing story, you had this amazing purpose, dynamic founder, you had clean formulations, sustainability, you had celebrities, like you literally checked all the boxes, then you were in the Sephora accelerator, like literally…and yet, you know, when you were on Shark Tank, it wasn’t easy, and there were times when you actually thought you couldn’t keep going, which was, I think I would have to guess, other people in the industry probably had no idea either. I think it’s important to share those stories, because I think there’s sort of a perception these days that it’s never been easier to launch a beauty brand.

Yve-Car Momperousse [00:12:57]:
Yeah, you’ll just put up a website, have a great story.

Kelly Kovack [00:13:01]:
Right, it’s super easy.

Yve-Car Momperousse [00:13:03]:
Yeah, you’ll be a unicorn before you know it.

Kelly Kovack [00:13:04]:
Exactly, and I think it’s important to actually have real conversations. So, thank you for being willing to have a real conversation about your story.

Yve-Car Momperousse [00:13:14]:

Kelly Kovack [00:13:15]:
So, tell us what was really going on.

Yve-Car Momperousse [00:13:16]:
Sure. So, one is around the painting rosy stories. I think – I’ll say for me, from a cultural perspective, as a Haitian American, we grew up, not that you hide what’s going on, but you don’t focus on it, right? So, it’s more so, “Okay, this happened, you’re not happy, but okay, move onto the next, and just keep moving.” So, Stephane also says, he’s like, “Honey, you make it look too easy. You don’t take enough time to talk about the challenges,” but for me, if I’m asked, I’ll talk about it willingly, but I think culturally speaking, it’s just that you just keep moving, you just keep trying, and I think our mission is just so important to me that I’ll sulk and cry and do what one will do when things are tough, and then I’m like, “Alright, time to get back up.” If these women can deal with the challenges they do with hunger, with illnesses, and still get up every day and make it to work and continue on with life, for me, it’s like, who am I to sit there and complain? So, that’s kind of like my reasoning, where I think sometimes, the challenge doesn’t come out. But, in 2016, we actually – and some folks don’t know this – we had raised about a million dollars, and we got all of these international development agencies onboard, and we didn’t actually get all one million dollars, but we quickly learned that there was a schism between what it means to run a growing quick business and deal with institutions that are very process-oriented and so it’s like when the order comes in, you need the money now to buy raw materials, to get production going, and then you have to align for shipping, but if the right box is not checked, or someone’s out on vacation…so, a growing business, you need money now, and it could takes months. That was our first lesson in understanding having smart capital, and that means having folks that understand your business, having folks that understand what the supply chain looks like, and who understand that hey, you might get this large PO, but you have to fund it, and you might not get paid for 60 to 90 days, and someone who’s not in the sphere might not know all of those dynamics. So, that was one of our first lessons, and something that was really hard, because it’s like, “If I raised all of this money, why am I still poor? Why can we not pay the bills?” and it’s just that the timing was off. So, that was the first lesson. The second lesson is that we touched upon a bit that we didn’t know that the supply chain wasn’t there, that’s not what we thought we were going to have to do. So, in the early days of Kreyol Essence, we primarily focused on B-to-B, so we were selling the castor oil to other businesses who would add the castor oil to their formulations. Well, guess what? They don’t really care about our story, our mission, all of the great things we want to do in the world, and keeping the quality high. The two things they cared about was the cost, can you make it cheaper, which we cannot, and can I get it faster? We were sole-sourced, because we were growing so much, from one client, and then also trying, at the same time, to build capacity, when the client could not get their product early enough, they said, “We found someone cheaper. It’s not the same quality,” they told us that. They said, “but we have a deadline we have to meet,” and they left. I think in the Shark Tank episode, we started off year one, great, $150,000, that’s great for a new brand, and then we went to $40,000, and everything stopped; it came to a halt. Stephane talks about the fact that working with your partner is also a different dynamic, because that means it’s not as if I had a hard day at the office and then I just got to come home to my husband and say, “My partner is horrible,” or “my boss is horrible.” He is the partner, he is the one, we’re having fights around, “This should be done. What do we do?” and because I was away so long. So, I was spending months at a time in Haiti, and he was here in the states, so that means, you know, you lose some understanding about what the other party is dealing with both from a personal side and business side while they’re away. I’m in Haiti, dealing with farmers, and sometimes I don’t have any internet, and sometimes I don’t have water, and trying to deal with that dynamic, while he’s here and he’s trying to do marketing, sales, and keep things afloat operationally, so you know, it was a challenge, personally, and then you’re looking at, well, no one’s getting paid, how do we pay the bills? Now, the one thing is, mama always told me, “Have your savings,” so we made sure – literally, we lived on our savings, and budgeted everything. So, to not have that income coming in, not only were we worried about the women, now we were worried about ourselves, like, how do we pay these bills? I actually called my mom during that time, where things seemed like they were just unraveling, and she was just like, “Well, come back to the states, and let’s just have lunch,” and my mom has actually, as an adult, never heard me cry, right, because remember, we’re not criers, we’re doers, we keep going. And, I remember calling her crying, and she was like, “Yep, I’ll buy your ticket, just get back home,” because she’s just like, “This girl never cries,” and she was like, “Have you heard of a place called Whole Foods?” and I’m like, “Yes, mom, I’ve heard of Whole Foods,” she’s very cute, and she’s like, “Let’s have lunch there.” But, my mom didn’t actually know that we had been turned down three times by Whole Foods already. Stephane had gone, I had hired somebody else to go, and as is my custom, I’m a product junkie: if there’s a beauty aisle, I’m walking the beauty aisle and seeing what’s on there, and then I saw an oil that was marked as black castor oil, but really wasn’t black castor oil, I checked. I became so upset, and I was like, “Okay, mom, I’m having lunch with you, but then I need to speak to the buyer,” and I asked to speak to the buyer, and they were like, “Come back later.” I always have product in my car, in my purse. I came back, and she was stocking shelves. I sat on the floor, started stocking shelves with her, started telling her about our story, our mission, having her smell the oil, and she was just like, “This is amazing. This is different than what we have here,” and she’s like, “This mission aligns so well with what we’re looking to do,” and it was from that that we were able to really get our first, “Yes, this is something that fits in here,” and folks were just like, “Oh, it’s amazing that you got into Whole Foods,” but some don’t know that I went to 60 Whole Foods after that, personally in Miami, and then I was like, I’m learning about what does the company need? What are the buyers and the folks on the floor…what’s missing? I really need to know this company for it to be a true partnership, and I was like, I just learned so much by going to a few stores in Miami, let’s do this in New York, let’s do this in Boston.

Kelly Kovack [00:20:21]:
Yeah, because so many people outsource that to someone. 

Yve-Car Momperousse [00:20:23]:
Yes, to someone else, and you know what? In the beginning, I tried to do that; it didn’t work. It wasn’t the same. And, I don’t think it always has to be the founder, but sometimes, that personal connection with the founder, and then if you are going to lead your organization, some things you need to have done first, because even if you’re going to train someone else about how to do it, you have to have done it yourself. So, I kind of kicked myself that I didn’t do it myself the first time, I waited until we were almost about to implode, but doing that really helped.

Kelly Kovack [00:20:54]:
So, that was sort of the beginning of getting things on track.

Yve-Car Momperousse [00:20:57]:
Right, so from there we went from $40,000 to $230,000 in the next year, and I think the key thing, like if no one takes anything else out of this, also what helped push things along, because you see, even when you have a buyer and you have a retailer who is excited about you, it’s a lot of work to onboard a new brand, to take a chance on a new brand. So, sometimes it’s not that the buyer is being lazy or is not excited about you, but someone has to be willing to go push and make sure that you come on, and because we started to focus on our customer, instead of going B-to-B, but started to talk to her, every day, Instagram, emails, Facebook, all of the sudden, we were learning what she wanted; we had a relationship that wasn’t a one-way conversation, and we could also talk to the buyers about what she wanted and what this fit, and also, we kind of had a little campaign where we had our customers’ email each of their different regions to say they want to buy. Well, afterwards, I remember one of my best regions called me and said, “Please stop. We have had hundreds of customers email asking about the product, and they’re excited. We’re bringing you on, no need, we got the message that you have folks who want this product.” So, all throughout the process, really what keeps us going through hard times are our customers. They are the ones who are fanatic about the brand, the mission, and the product.

Kelly Kovack [00:22:32]:
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So, where in the process did the Sephora Inc – it was 2017 you were part of the Sephora Inc Accelerator, so it was one of the early cohorts.

Yve-Car Momperousse [00:23:40]:
Yeah, we were the second cohort.

Kelly Kovack [00:23:42]:
So, what was that process like, being part of that?

Yve-Car Momperousse [00:23:46]:
Okay, so, we like to say at Kreyol Essence, “Nothing is ever easy.” So, you might know, and I think you know, about Leilah Janah, and you know, there aren’t many women in – or there aren’t many brands in the beauty space that are really focused on poverty alleviation and creating work, right?  There are a lot of other give back components, but kind of like being maniacal about that, she’s one of them, and Stephane saw that she was part of something called Sephora Accelerate, and we’re like, “What is that?” because to be quite frank, Sephora was that elusive company that I recall saying to folks, “I want to be in Sephora,” and they’d be like, “Oh, they’ll never take you. Your brand doesn’t fit there. Textured hair, inclusive communities,” that’s not what people were looking for at the time. So, we actually thought that it was out of reach, but, and this is the power of seeing someone similar to you, someone who has a similar ethos to you, or a mission, do something, all of the sudden we were like, “We can do this too!” So, we started to email friends and say, “Does anyone know anyone at Sephora Accelerate?” We actually had a customer who was on one of the marketing teams, and she loved the product, and she started off by pitching it and said, “I think this would be a great brand,” and simultaneously, we applied and at the time, you couldn’t cold apply; you had to be invited to apply.

Kelly Kovack [00:25:16]:
Ah, because now it’s just – it’s sort of open.

Yve-Car Momperousse [00:25:18]:
Now, it’s open. So, we were just like, “We just want an invitation to apply.” So, we finally found – and this is the power of using your network, and you don’t know who is in your network. I emailed everyone who was in our LinkedIn, anyone who was in beauty and business, to say, “Anyone know anyone in charge of the impact area at Sephora?” Someone did, and they said, “We’ll email them some information about you, and we’ll see what happens, no promises,” and then we got an email that said, “Hi, we got this email about you. We love the fact that there’s such an amazing impact component. We’re actually thinking about textured hair.” It was just like, “What?!?” and we had a conversation, and then they were like, “Submit the video. You’re a little late right now, but go ahead and apply,” and the funny thing was, I was in Haiti when I had to submit a video, so you heard the roosters…

Kelly Kovack [00:26:07]:
Oh, that’s amazing.

Yve-Car Momperousse [00:26:08]:
You heard like cars going by. It was real, and I was like, “I’m so sorry. There’s no quiet place right now in Haiti. You’re just going to see it all,” and what was also great, there was a group coming to visit, one of the farming partners, so we were making Sephora and Kreyol Essence videos, it was amazing, and that’s actually how we got into the Sephora Accelerate right as we were also getting involved with Whole Foods, but really, customers and those who believed in us helped to get traction all the way.

Kelly Kovack [00:26:40]:
And President Clinton came.

Yve-Car Momperousse [00:26:42]:

Kelly Kovack [00:26:43]:
Where was that in sort of the trajectory of things?

Yve-Car Momperousse [00:26:47]:
So, in 2015, it was early on, there’s always a lot going on, but in 2015, he visited. Early 2016, Chelsea visited, and the idea was to see, how do businesses actually have an impact when they work with smallholder farmers and smallholder producers, and what’s the synergy between what they call a SEM, a medium-sized business and the smaller co-ops, and how do they help to support each other along the value chain? And, that was nice because he actually had real questions around the business. He had studied what we were doing, so it wasn’t just kind of like fluff, take a picture, and I mean, I couldn’t sleep the night before, I was so nervous. Once he was there walking around with us, it was nice to just have a really intelligent conversation about what we’re doing, and then my mom pushed me away, and then she got to talk to President Clinton, and it’s nice when your parents see that someone else, that they respect, doesn’t think that you’re crazy for quitting your job and being on a farm. So, they’re like, “You might actually be onto something.” Haitian parents don’t give acknowledgement too easily. So, that alone was like a huge deal.

Kelly Kovack [00:28:05]:
So, at what point…so, you raised sort of, theoretically, a million dollars early on. At what point did you start thinking about raising money again, and how did you arrive at Shark Tank as the option to do that?

Yve-Car Momperousse [00:28:20]:
Right, I’ve been asked that like crazy. So, you know, a couple of times during our journey, so 2016, money doesn’t come in, we lost our biggest client, no one is going to invest in you at that point, and in some ways, that was the best thing that ever happened to us, because what the universe was trying to tell us was to pivot, focus on your customers, and once we did that, revenue came, and I remember in the Cornell Business Incubator, they would tell us, “Sales cures all, Yve, sales cures all, so just go sell. Go sell.” So, once revenue started coming in again, when you get your first PO from Whole Foods, who’s going to pay to get the raw material in? This is not even anything fancy, we just needed $50,000 to be able to make it, and we started looking at the options, and all of them were lengthy, all of them didn’t quite fit us, and again, our community, I sent a few emails to my mentors, and they said, “We’ll put in some money,” and they weren’t big sized checks, but they were the most important checks we received in the company, including my mom giving $5,000, Stephane’s mom giving $3,000, and guess what? We hadn’t asked them for it. We would never ask them to take money out of their savings or what have you to invest in the company. They literally were like, “Take the money.” We still signed a contract, they still had their convertible notes, like anyone else, but it was a family and friends round, which we didn’t even think of as an option, and it was actually because they trusted us; they saw how much we were sacrificing, that helped us get the first $50,000 necessary to fill the POs. So, there was no marketing budget, there was nothing fancy, it was just enough money to buy oil and get it from the farmers and women in Haiti, and to fill our POs, which by the way, we were filling in our house in the beginning. Whole Foods will probably hear this now and be like, “What?!” We don’t fill in our house anymore, we do now have a proper 3PL and supply chain here, but that was the beginning, interns and us filling the bottles that came from Haiti.

Kelly Kovack [00:30:30]:
And, so, at what point did you realize that you needed to raise more substantial money to…

Yve-Car Momperousse [00:30:35]:
Plenty of time. I am good at projecting, and several times along the way, we felt like we should look at raising, but I think many founders will tell you, raising capital takes so much time; it’s a full-time job. You could not do anything else for a while, and often, you know, I think, is it more important to just sell and focus on building the business naturally, gradually, organically, or is it important to explode, to get additional capital?

Kelly Kovack [00:31:06]:
Well, it’s interesting, because I think…you know, I often wonder like, what happened to those days of just running a really good business, making a really nice living, being profitable? I mean, that’s a novel concept. Instead of success being dictated somehow on how much money you raise, which is insane.

Yve-Car Momperousse [00:31:28]:
Uh-huh. It is not indicative of if your business will grow, how valuable it will be, and I think we’re seeing these issues with a lot of D-to-C brands who now, valuations are coming in as they expected. Investors have inflated what these companies are worth.

Kelly Kovack [00:31:46]:
Beauty brands are not tech companies.

Yve-Car Momperousse [00:31:47]:
Yeah, yeah, and you need to give it time, and there are going to be those unicorns, and I celebrate that and I think it’s possible, but it’s a bit more nuanced, like anything else, and folks need to think aobut that a bit more strategically, and if you start off with an indie brand, sure, you may not be able to put large amounts of capital, nor is it correct to try to push them to be like 10x, 20x, 30x, sometimes a little bit more time, patient capital, as we call it, will reap large dividends in the future, and that’s a gap; the missing middle is what we usually call it when a brand is not small enough that they don’t need $10,000 or microloans, but they don’t necessarily need to have five to ten million, sometimes $500,000, a million dollars, is just enough to give them enough runway to continue to prove out their concept and grow.

Kelly Kovack [00:32:36]:
Right, and I think there’s plenty of sort of…people are re-evaluating what is small in incubator, so I think it’s definitely changing. You know, I think one of the things, kind of when I watched Shark Tank, I have to say, you are like, a force to be reckoned with. I would not want to negotiate with you.

Yve-Car Momperousse [00:32:57]:
I appreciate that.    

Kelly Kovack [00:32:59]:
But I mean, you totally went head-to-head with Mr. Wonderful. But, really, it seemed like you really did not get flustered. The terms were not acceptable to you, he was the only one on the table, and I’m sure it gets edited for high drama.

Yve-Car Momperousse [00:33:18]:
But, it really was dramatic. It actually…it’s funny, I left the take and slept for about 15 hours, I was so exhausted, because it was so emotional. I think one thing that’s important for me, or a message my mom always said, is that people are people. So, at the end of the day, you always need to be respectful, you always need to be courteous, but you still need to be clear, you still need to know, what do you stand for? Because at the end of the day, that’s what you have that folks are going to judge you on, and I think Stephane and I also feel this extreme responsibility to our community, to the different groups who we are part of. So, we have our social impact entrepreneur community, we have our indie beauty community, we have Sephora, Ulta, we have the Haitian community, we have the African-American community, we have women; there are so many different groups, particularly the marginalized ones, we have to think about what our decisions – what the implication is for them. And, some people might say, “Calm down girl, you don’t need to think about all of these things,” but that’s truly how we feel. So, when it comes to that, I’m not actually thinking about myself.

Kelly Kovack [00:34:31]:
Well, that was clear, because Stephane, it was so emotional.

Yve-Car Momperousse [00:34:36]:
It was.

Kelly Kovack [00:34:37]:
And, it was, I think even sort of everyone on Shark Tank sort of got teary-eyed, too.

Yve-Car Momperousse [00:34:43]:
Well, they didn’t show this, but everyone on Shark Tank cried. They edited that, and I was just like, “Come on!”

Kelly Kovack [00:34:50]:
Because it was so clear that it was not about you guys, that it was…you needed the money because this brand and this business is bigger than you.

Yve-Car Momperousse [00:34:58]:
Exactly, and I think…an interesting conversation came up as a segment around, “Should you cry and be so vulnerable in a business meeting?”        

Kelly Kovack [00:35:08]:
And, it was also, I mean, it was your husband, not you.

Yve-Car Momperousse [00:35:12]:
Yes, and that was another big thing. They were just like, “Men aren’t supposed to cry.” Those were some of the comments around that, and gender norming and gender roles, it was interesting, and still shocking to see that we’re in 2020, and we still assign these very specific roles to folks, which I think causes lots of mental issues among men, particularly black men, because you’re taught you don’t cry, you don’t get to express emotion, and I’m thinking, “Well, Kevin O’Leary, Mark Cuban, Daymond John, they all cried.” They didn’t show it to you, but everyone was in tears and needed a moment, because I don’t think it was a cry to “Please fund the business.” That wasn’t what it was about.

Kelly Kovack [00:35:55]:
No, it wasn’t. It was palpable, it was just sort of like, this is so important, and not about us, and we can do so much good. But, you still weren’t going to take the terms.

Yve-Car Momperousse [00:36:10]:
No, I still wasn’t going to take the terms. I can cry and still…

Kelly Kovack [00:36:14]:
I know, I was like, “Wow, she pulled it right together.”

Yve-Car Momperousse [00:36:17]:
Well, I always say, if you’ve ever seen Haitian women negotiate at the marketplace, I’m nothing compared to them. They will make me cry the way they’re just like, “You’re not getting those plantains and those bananas and all of those things. This is the value I assign to it,” and they stick to it. So, I think I always say subconsciously, I’ve seen that so many times at the marketplace, because it’s a skill, and I love that women are the ones who own that skill in Haiti, because women are the ones who run the household, they’re the ones that have to make sure the bills are paid, and we all know that if you invest in a women, you invest in an entire village, and there’s science and stats that show, most of the time, men are great, my husband is great, but statistics show that often when you give the money to men, it may go to alcohol, their other wives, and other activities, and it goes to show you that inherently, when women are fighting, they’re fighting for a larger community.

Kelly Kovack [00:37:13]:
So, what was it where you were like, “I’m going to…” because Mr. Wonderful loves the royalty deals, and you were like…that was kind of like how you, in the end, secured the deal.

Yve-Car Momperousse [00:37:26]:
Yes. So, I mean, of course, always do your research around who you’re meeting with, one cannot take that for granted. We are avid Shark Tank watchers, we have loved the show for the whole 12 years that it’s been on, but it’s also funny what you forget while you’re in the midst of negotiating, and I’m thinking, “There’s no way we can give up this much of the company.” 37% is what he asked for, and there’s no way the amount he was looking to invest would constitute a 37% ownership stake in the company, and I thought, “Well, how do you make this a win-win?” which is often a thing you need to go through in your mind, “How do we win? But, I also want him to win,” because I do believe in the power of business and capitalism and making money just as much as I believe in helping to provide solid income, wages, for others, and providing a quality product that consumers genuinely love. So, that’s when the royalties came to mind, and I thought, “Alright, let’s talk out loud here, would that be something that you’re interested in?” and he made us all laugh, he’s like, “A royalty deal? That brings a tear to my eye.” So, I think it was a great way to kind of like, “Okay, we’re all on the same page, let’s all get back to where it’s not so contentious, we’re back on the same page to negotiate and think about what works for both parties.”

Kelly Kovack [00:38:58]:
So, what has it been like since Shark Tank and having sort of someone that is sort of that tapped in, and, I mean, you know, can really move a market?

Yve-Car Momperousse [00:39:10]:
Yes. You know, I have to say that again, our community – so, beforehand, once we…

Kelly Kovack [00:39:18]:
It’s sort of an unlikely person to invest in…

Yve-Car Momperousse [00:39:21]:
Yes, a beauty brand from Haiti? Yeah, not who you were thinking about, though I always say, Kevin is my favorite Shark on Shark Tank, along with Mark Cuban, because I do love his prowess, and one of my hopes is that, A, that I continue to learn and grow as a woman, as a woman of color in business, because often, social impact brands aren’t thought to be serious about the numbers in business, and that’s a misnomer, that’s not true; just because we care about impact doesn’t mean I don’t care about margins and debt-to-income ratio and PNLs and all of that stuff. When he was the one that we were negotiating with, it also felt like a good validation around we have business sense, and he was like, “You have sales,” and we’ve worked so hard for it, for those sales, so we really wanted to show, yes, we do, there’s a market here, so that was validating, and I think really, to see how our – again, I have to say, our community, our tribe, reacted, they were the ones who saw the promo before we did, and right from the promo, sales already started to increase online because everyone took it as, this is pride for them. From Ivy and the folks at Beauty Independent to our alma matter, Cornell, to we’re launching at Ulta in a few weeks, and just to see how everyone was energized, it was a reminder of, this is why we’re here, and how amazing is the product as well, and we literally were able to get out of back order yesterday.

Kelly Kovack [00:41:00]:
Oh, congratulations.

Yve-Car Momperousse [00:41:01]:
Thank you very much. That feels like the biggest feat in the whole world.

Kelly Kovack [00:41:04]:
You know, I almost feel like we need to have a part two with you, like you just sort of are getting your sort of feet wet with the new partnership, and it would be really exciting to like, talk to you again in, I don’t know, like six months, and sort of see, because this is like, a huge thing.

Yve-Car Momperousse [00:41:27]:
This is a huge deal for us, like we worked so hard, had several meetings with Ulta to really think through how will the partnership work and what would the impact have. So, to think about it, we’re launching nationally in all 1,200 doors, which is a huge deal. Usually, you start online, then you do like some test stores, and then if you perform well, you go into 1,200 doors, but I think it speaks to like, what’s the highest validation that everyone on the Ulta team really believes in our products and has seen the growth, and they’re excited about the impact that we’re going to have, because it’s going to change the game, A, the first Haitian brand, first Caribbean brand to help set the tone for 30,000 families in Haiti. So, we are so thankful for their partnership and belief in us.

Kelly Kovack [00:42:17]:
So, we’re just going to consider this part one, and we’re going to come back whenever you feel like it’s time to tell a story, because I think it’s important to tell sort of the real side, and like, I love your story, the…it’s not only the story, but it’s the commitment to really making a difference. So, totally pulling for you.

Yve-Car Momperousse [00:42:43]:
Thank you so much, and thank you for allowing us to share our story, and I know for me, when I need inspiration, I scour podcasts, to hear the true story, to hear how do folks make it, so thank you for creating a space for entrepreneurs to know they’re not alone, they can get through it, and it does get challenging, but you can succeed each step of the way.

Kelly Kovack [00:43:03]:
So, how can people connect with you?

Yve-Car Momperousse [00:43:07]:
Sure. So, @KreyolEssence, that is our handle for everything, we were able to keep that,, @KreyolEssence, and we have a team now that is helping on all of our social, but I personally get on our social a lot because I think it’s important as a founder to stay extremely connected to our community, and then my personal handle is all @YveCar on all social media channels, and always looking forward to talking to other entrepreneurs.

Kelly Kovack [00:43:41]:
Alright, so you let us know when it’s time to talk again.

Yve-Car Momperousse [00:43:43]:
Oh yes, can’t wait to be back.

Kelly Kovack [00:43:46]:
Thank you so much, and good luck.

Yve-Car Momperousse [00:43:48]:
Thank you, I appreciate it.

Kelly Kovack [00:43:49]:
I don’t think you need the luck, actually.

Yve-Car Momperousse [00:43:51]:
Appreciate that.

Kelly Kovack [00:43:57]:
For Yve-Car, it’s a matter of poverty alleviation. Kreyol Essence has always had a bigger mission than selling beauty products. They’re on a mission to have a positive and global impact. Their commitment to Haiti and the people of Haiti is more than a marketing story, it’s everything. There’s a certain amount of faking it before you make it as an entrepreneur; there’s also a lot of posturing for all manner of reasons, and for some founders, it’s always 68 degrees and sunny in their world, which has helped perpetuate the myth that you can build a beauty brand and in short order, Estee Lauder or L’Oréal will be showing up at your door with a million-dollar check. Yve-Car has given a true gift to beauty entrepreneurs in sharing the unfiltered version of her story. Even when everything is going your way and things look bigger than they are, building a beauty brand is hard work, and it doesn’t happen overnight. Her grit and her unwavering commitment to building a social business that creates jobs, protects the environment, and empowers women, is a business that deserves to succeed. If you haven’t watched the Shark Tank episode where Yve-Car and her husband landed a deal with Mr. Wonderful, do it, but make sure you have a box of tissues. The level of commitment they have for this mission and the people it serves is worthy of investment, and it’s worthy of wild success. So, in the end, it’s a matter of poverty alleviation. I’m Kelly Kovack, see you next time.

Yve-Car Momperousse [00:45:27]:
My name is Yve-Car Momperousse. What matters to me is poverty alleviation, and to me, beauty is the perfect way to create a billion-dollar business that matters for the consumer and can help change the lives of others around the world.

Kelly Kovack [00:45:43]:
It’s A Matter Of is a production of BeautyMatter LLC, copyright 2020. You can find more content and insights on and follow us on social media @BeautyMatterOfficial.