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Young, Smart, And Bossy

Teen entrepreneur Zandra Cunningham dishes about business, motivation and having no fear

If you’re looking for new personal care products like lip balms, body washes, and lotions that are good and good for you, then Zandra Cunningham of Zandrabeauty.com is your girl. We recently got a chance to chat with the 18-year-old entrepreneur for our latest edition of TSL Dish. Check out what this inspiring boss had to say!

TrueStar.Life: What was the thing that made you want to start your business?

Zandra Cunningham: My dad inspired me with his refusal to buy me any more lip balm. That inspired me to learn to create my own.

TSL: What was the most changeling part about starting your own business?

ZC: I would say the most changeling part was not only getting people to take me seriously, but it wasn’t a lot of outlets during the time for young kids wanting to get into ownership, so it was a lot of me just being the only kid in the room, and the lack of resources that were available to me.

TSL: What was the flavor of your first product?

ZC: Pink bubblegum lip balm, no, bubblegum is in the product line, but when we do classes that’s an option. But the flavors that we have in the lip balms are mint, Japanese Kumquat, lemon tea tree, lavender vanilla chai, and almond alfresco.

TSL: We read that your goal is female empowerment and that you plan to spread it through education about STEAM and entrepreneurship. What you are doing now to push towards that goal?

ZC: Ten percent of the proceeds go to girls education. I’m connected with some non-for-profits and campaigns dedicated to girls’ rights and gaining education for other girls in other countries where that right isn’t given to them. I give out classes throughout my community and then also host a “Day of Girl” Buffalo [New York] event; a celebration of girl empowerment, inspiration, and education. I target other girls in communities around my city, and expose them to all the different opportunities. I let them know that they can believe in themselves, beat the odds, and get involved with tech and engineering.

TSL: What’s your personal experience with STEAM?

ZC: My mom used to buy us science kits. I like to experiment with things. In the beginning with making the lip balm, the actual creation was really interesting to me; to watch the creation of it, build it and follow the steps. Then watching it turn out to be something that people can actually use on their skin was something that really interested me.

TSL: What part of STEAM do you enjoy the most?

ZC: I don’t know. I feel like there isn’t a field that I enjoy the most because I use literally all of them in my day-to-day work as an entrepreneur.

TSL: So how are you balancing school and work?

ZC: I’m a freshman at the University at Buffalo right now majoring in business. I want to get my MBA; that’s the goal. This semester I had to take a leave of absence for travel, but we worked it out. I just focus on making a connection with my professors, letting them know what I’m doing, and also that I’m still getting the work done. Sometimes I’ll do things ahead of time.

TSL: Do you remember who your first customer was?

ZC: The first time I actually sold something and made a transaction was when I was at my grandfather’s church. I was like, “Oh, snap I could make money off of this thing.” But when we first started to do soaps and scrubs I was selling at a local farmers market and my first transaction wasn’t money. I traded it for strawberries, and I don’t even like strawberries *laughs*. She’s a loyal customer now.

TSL: Outside of business what are your goals?

ZC: Outside of business my goals are to graduate. This year a goal for me is I want to be able to purchase my first house and really just travel. I want to focus on speaking and being able to share my story, and hopefully inspire other people around the world—especially young people.

TSL: Who inspires you?

ZC: My parents first off. They inspire me to push forward; and also my supporters and customers. Hearing my story touches them so that they start their own businesses or they decided to take action on whatever it is that they wanted to do. That inspires me and motivates me to keep going.

TSL: What do you like to do for fun?

ZC: Sleep, I like to sleep. I like to eat really good food [like] salmon with everything and then pasta, cajun pasta with shrimp. Sometimes I hang out with my friends. We go out sometimes, but really just catching up on sleep and watch TV.

TSL: Lip gloss or lipstick?

ZC: Lip-gloss. I like shining.

TSL: Favorite color?

ZC: I don’t really have a favorite color. I like really vibrant colors, but I guess the color I’ve been rocking with is neon orange.

TSL: Favorite form of social media?

ZC: I love Twitter. I think it’s just hilarious, and that’s really where I get my news.

TSL: Favorite celebrity?

ZC: Rihanna because she inspires me. I just love her and what she stands for. She’s one of the top well-known female artists to this day and isn’t necessarily recognized, but she still continues to put out music. And now she’s creating Fenty and I just love it.

TSL: Celebrity crush?

ZC: Drake. I love Drake. His music is crazy-good. He’s not considered just a rapper and I love it. His approach to things is inspiring.

TSL: What is one thing you love about yourself?

ZC: One thing that I really love about myself is my mindset, my passion to learn new things. I feel like I’m a really an open-minded person. We live in a day and age where being close-minded and stuck in your ways is a thing.

TSL: The last song you downloaded?

ZC: “Counting Up” by Rico Nasty. I love her too.

TSL: The last thing you binge-watched?

ZC: On My Block, season two.

TSL: Where do you see yourself in five years?

ZC: Already living in my new house. Being able to travel whenever I want. In regards to Zandra’s, the empire will already be built. I see myself running a multi-million company globally, but I also see me selling it for millions and millions of dollars and to be able to create other ventures. Giving back and investing in other peoples businesses, too.

TSL: Do you have a favorite product that you’ve created?

ZC: Yes, the souffle. Me and my family live by it. We fight over it in the house. It’s a moisturizer for your hair and body. It leaves you with a shine, but it doesn’t leave you super greasy and it lasts all day! Besides that, lip balm.

TSL: What advice do you have for young teens who would like to start their own business?

ZC: I was on a panel with Marsai Martin and one of my co-panelist, Mikaila of Me and the Bees Lemonade, said that allowing other kids to be young and be a kid and be[ing] able to dream like a kid till you’re not a kid anymore is really important. I feel like sometimes we tell adults, “Oh, I really want to do this” or “I’m really interested in this.” [Adults tend to think] this is going to be a faze or it’s not going be that big of a deal, but we have no fear and I think that’s the biggest part. I know a lot of adults today won’t start businesses because of the fear of financial instability, but taking that risk is a really big step.

Make sure you check out Zandra Beauty online and try some of her all natural products at zandrabeauty.com.

 

By Jordan Danae, Northern Illinois Alumna

IG & Twitter: jordaniaa_

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Written by Jordan Danae

Jordan Danaè, an urban literature nerd and a hip-hop enthusiast. Northern Illinois Alumna hailing from Louisville, Kentucky. I am because you are!

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