Zandra Beauty

By: Zandra Cunningham

Information Access , Caretaker

Did you know that girls around the world are still being sold into slavery? Forced to marry and deny their education? Can you imagine not being able to go to school? It makes me sad, angry even.

On the laurels of having been a female entrepreneur since the age of nine, I was asked to be an International Day of the Girl ambassador when I was thirteen years old. It was a pivotal moment for me, because until that time, I had never really considered the highs and lows in the lives of other girls. 

In 2013, I was able to get the Mayor from my hometown to issue a proclamation announcing October 11 as “Day of the Girl Buffalo.”  Since that time, I have hosted this event each year -- and it has grown in both participation with girls and sponsors.  Last year, the event was so big, we had to have it hosted at the University of Buffalo; there were over 200 girls at this event!

Once I understood that educating girls breaks cycles of poverty in just one generation, I knew I had to shift my business model to one of impact by funding girls education programs. Because once you educate a girl, they are less likely to be victims and more likely to stand up for their rights. They marry later, educate their own children, and as a result, their families and communities thrive. 

When I started my company, Zandra, I had no idea that I was going to have the impact It would end up having. The whole thing started when I was 9-years old and I ran out of lip-balm. When I asked my father if I could have more, he told me ‘No!’ So that was a problem I had to solve. 

I spent weeks researching the internet, watching how-to-videos and my parents took my entrepreneurial ambitions seriously enough to invest in me and put me through Kids Biz Small Business program at Buffalo State College.  

I was almost 10 years old when I made my first public sale and this put me on the path to developing a brand that could grow both revenues and customers. It wasn’t until 2014, after I had already been serving as a Girl Rising Ambassador that I realized I wanted to rebrand my company and use it as a vehicle for social change. 

I decided the most powerful thing I could do was develop a product line that advanced messages of “empowering” and “educatating” girls.  I also realized I should build an army of Zandra beauty ambassadors that will help me lead the charge for girl's education. 

Currently, my products are available throughout the US; in small retail businesses and online.  My hometown of Buffalo NY is very supportive of my brand and what it stands for; in fact, our city Mayor attends just about everything I’m involved in.

Over the next 5 years, I plan on expanding the Zandra brand into mass partnerships.  By doing so, we will have an elevated platform to reach more girls, because on each one of my product label contains and uplifting and inspirational quote to encourage girls to be great and confident with themselves.  

I also plan to grow my motivational speaking platform. I would like to personally reach out more to girls all over the world.  Also within the plan is to have other girls using my business to create their own through my Z+ME program.  This ambassador platform allows other girls to use my products to create their own business and provide for their families.  I would love for this program to become international. 

In addition, I plan to teach soap and other personal care product creation to girls and woman in underserved areas , so they too can build their own businesses to provide for their family's.

My work as a business leader, philanthropist, educator, role model, etc.. is very important to me because it gives me the platform to help others; and not just young people, but all people.  I love my country and the benefits it provides to its citizens, especially girls/women. In other countries, education is not allowed for girls.  

The world needs my solution because we are faced with so much negative no matter which way you turn. We have to create the positive we want to see, create our own opportunities, become the change maker. If girls don’t learn to push pass their fears to chase their goals, nothing will change. Cycles of abuse, poverty, malnutrition and the misuse of girls across the world. I always tell girls when I meet them...”Why not you?"

Team Members

  • Hi! I'm the CEO and Founder of Zandra, a natural skin care line that I created when I was 9 years old. I give 10% of profits to a support girl’s education. I am passionate about making a difference for girls across the globe. I want girls like myself -- who have the access -- to help create that same opportunity for the girls who do not. As the youngest business owner to graduate from the all adult class of the Minority and Women Entrepreneurial Program at the University of Buffalo, I also teach classes on teenpreneurship and natural body product creation/ education.

Impact

Advice for my peers

BE OBSESSED: My foray into entrepreneurship began with an obsession with lip-gloss. If I hadn't constantly asked my father for lip balm, I don't think he would have challenged me with the idea of making my own. I give a lot of credit to my mother for helping me find a recipe online and helping me make my first batch. I needed to solve my problem and that lead to me building a brand that can now help solve problems for girls everywhere.

GO TO MARKET EARLY: I asked members of my church if they'd consider buying my lip-gloss, and I was able to make $82-dollars on my first batch! Keep trying until you get it right; work to build a tribe around you that will give you honest feeback.

YOUR BRAND IS LIKE A SIGNATURE: I've incorporated my eye-glasses into my actual signature because it helps with brand and name recognition. My glasses are a part of who I am, a necessity. They also represent " the vision" and plan I have for my future. 

LEARN WHAT YOU DON'T KNOW: I joined the Kids Biz Small Business program at Buffalo State College when I was 9-years old, then went on to be the youngest person to graduate from the Univeristy At Buffalo' Center of Entrepreneurial Leadership. Those were major steps in my journey as an entrepreneur, because I learned some of the basic business principles (such as business development, marketing and finance) which are critical to being successful.

FAIL FAST -- IT COSTS LESS: In the beginning I thought having an expansive product line was a sign of success. At one point we had more than 75 different products and fragrances. Then we realized that we were all over the place. As my mom says, "it was great for creativity, but bad for business." In order to get back on track, we decided to re-brand and only keep the products that I felt most passionately about as our core offering.

REALIZE THE BENEFITS OF YOUR OPPORTUNITIES: One of my biggest failures was not fully realizing the benefits of some opportunities; therefore, not maximizing on them.  For example, I had met Lauren Maillian and we had a great time together, but I failed to follow up with her a bit more aggressively than I should have.  Perhaps I missed out on an opportunity to be involved in her new successful television series "Quit Your Day Job". I have totally learned from that.

SURROUND YOURSELF BY LIKE-MINDED PEOPLE: The journey of an entrepreneur is hard, so you need someone to relate to who will understand the things that are happening in your world. Those people are valuable to your journey and will be able to assist when needed because they will have a better understanding of your entrepreneurial lifestyle.

I am blessed to have both parents encourage the fulfillment of my dreams.  What's really cool about it; they do the same for my other siblings.  The support and encouragement my family provides to me daily is what inspires me to keep doing what it takes to inspire others that may not be as fortunate as myself.  Other successful entrepreneurs should also provide encouragement to others attempting to follow their lead.  I have been blessed again to have a couple of industry leaders helping to guide me in the right direction and to avoid some of the traps they experienced.

BE READY FOR THE NEXT STEP: I have learned that a person should always be ready for the next step; in other words, be prepared to be blessed and NEVER give up on your DREAMS; NO MATTER HOW HARD IT GETS! Its really important to educate yourself and do the research on what your passionate about. Networking is also a very critical, the more people you connect with the larger impact you can have.

YOUR TIME WILL BE YOUR BIGGEST SACRIFICE: You're not going to have all the extra time to do the stuff that everyone else is doing, but that's okay. You're doing something that they're not doing either!

ENTREPRENEURS ARE AGENTS-OF-CHANGE! If you are able to make money, you are able to make change. I am giving 10% of my profits to nonprofits focused on educating girls. Having a social mission is a powerful way of advancing your marketplace impact while also making a positive shift in the world.

JUST DO IT ALREADY!: Stop telling yourself that you're too young, that your idea isn't good enough, or that you don't have enough money to make it happen! There are tons of free resources out there for kids. Researching how to make your idea come to life is really no different than learning anything else. 

My role is to remind every girl that success is within us; and it is our duty to encourage and educate every girl, they too can be successful at whatever they want. If we empower our girls, we change the world!


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