Vickie Joseph: Magnifying the Beauty of Diversity
Vickie Joseph, CEO and co-founder of V Kosmetik.
V Kosmetik was founded just five years ago and the inclusive beauty company is already catching the eye of megastars like Nicki Minaj. Its CEO? Vickie Joseph, an Afro-Montrealer from Saint-Michel who breaks all glass ceilings. Portrait of a committed businesswoman.
How did you react when your company slipped into the 2022 list of the 100 best women's companies from 5 to more than 10 million by the magazine Premières en Affaires?
“I was honored. In our communities, it is so rare that we do not talk about turnover since most companies are subsistence businesses. For a business created by black people, we are often not part of the criteria for having funding or having government support. It is very difficult to go to another level. It is a source of pride to be able to create hope for these women, because it is taboo in our communities and it is not achievable.”
How V Does Kosmetik stand out from other brands on the market?
“We want to meet the needs of diverse women. When we started V Kosmetik market research in 2017, it was just for the black woman. But when we did our focus group and worked with our chemist, we realized there was a serious pigmentation issue for all ethnicities. Whether Latin, Asian or Mediterranean. We therefore said that we had to seek a larger market share.
Beauty products penetrate Caucasian skin more easily and it is less difficult for these people to find their complexion compared to us. Our ingredients are natural and made here in Canada, by people who understand this need. Not by companies that use chemicals and specialize in Caucasian skin.”
Your head office is located in Montreal. How does hiring diverse women enrich the company?
“It opens up new ideas. We innovate differently, just because of our backgrounds, which are different. We don't just work with black women. We have other cultures in our team. It opens doors and it also gives our employees more leverage to express themselves, to have a voice. We are open to the world.”
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What was the hardest thing to get you where you are today?
“The closure of the market in front of people from diverse backgrounds. When you arrive somewhere, the credibility is not there. It's ignorance to say, “We don't want to get into this or maybe it's too risky.” And here I am talking about banks and investors, but also store areas and merchants. I was told: “Sorry, we already have another brand that approached me”. That's another difficulty: you become a competition for the same community and you have to fight to take your place.
Breaking through funding has also been difficult. I was lucky to have a supportive husband and enough revenue from our other businesses to reinvest in V Kosmetik. But not all women-owned businesses are so lucky.”
You are expanding internationally and you are even collaborating with celebrities. Do you have any anecdotes?
“I did a big launch in the States and just got back from a trip to New York, Los Angeles and Atlanta. I met extraordinary media and well-known actors in pop and hip-hop culture.
Nicki Minaj's agent, for example, has our products. Unfortunately, I did not have the chance to meet her personally. Another artist called Crystal Starr, she is in great demand and we met her, she will become our ambassador. It was an extraordinary opportunity.”
What are your plans for the future?
“We want to make a virtual world in the metaverse by the end of 2022. So you will be able to virtually enter a V Kosmetik store with an avatar, choose a product, test the product, and make a virtual cash-in. You will be able to do your full make-up.
We are also in the process of launching the Coco line, a range of products for various skin types. It's coming out in the spring.”
Any advice for black women entrepreneurs?
“Have a clear plan of where you are going with your company. We all have great projects and great ideas, but we have to put them into execution. When you arrive at your banker, your collaborators or your partners, you have to be able to verbalize your action plan. Another thing: don't be afraid of no and surround yourself with people who can help you achieve your goals.”