As a licensed esthetician with more than 15 years of experience in the industry, entrepreneur Kimo Bentley knows plenty about how to achieve healthy skin. When her daughter experienced skin care issues at a young age, Bentley took matters into her own hands and created a homemade soap that not only cured her daughter’s skin condition, but also jump started her career as the CEO of the all-natural beauty brand Shea Gourmet.
BlackEnterprise.com caught up with Bentley to get insights on how she’s grown her skin care line from a home-based business in Brooklyn, to a respectable brand that has landed her on national television and on the shelves of a major retailer.
[RELATED: WATCH Live Below as Kimo Bentley Brand Gets a Makeover on National TV]
Black Enterprise.com: How did you get your start in the beauty business?
Kimo Bentley: Initially I got started because my daughter had eczema at a very young age. I went to the doctor to find out what can be done and he gave me a corrective measure, which was a prescription drug. She was my first baby and obviously, I didn’t want to put anything on her that I thought would harm her, so I pretty much never took it. I went home, went online, and started researching the natural side of curing and relieving eczema and that’s how I stumbled upon my business. Based on that I made a soap and it worked. I went back for follow up with the doctor and he asked was I using what he gave me and I said “Doc, I have to be honest. I never did put it on her. I’ve been using my soap that I made.” He was really amazed and happy with the results, and [my daughter], who just turned 11 in September, has been eczema free since.
Along that journey a lot of people would ask me “Oh my gosh! I know your daughter had eczema, what are you using?” So, I would give away my products to close friends, family members, and anyone who had eczema and they started giving me money for it. Based off that my mom was like you should look more into it, so I went back to school for esthetics and got my license in that. I’ve been around for about 17 years and I’ve worked with a lot of celebrity doctors assisting them with anti-aging procedures, laser hair removal, liposuction, augmentations, you name it. After a while of doing that and gaining experience and meeting people, I decided to take the plunge and go into this full fledge for myself. About three years ago, I quit my job where I was a medical director of a clinic making six figures and went into doing my business 100 percent. People know about me based on my product. I don’t have marketing. I don’t have a lot of advertising out there. It’s literally people that tell other people about me and they know what my product offers is not like any other. Yes, I give you the product, but I also give you the knowledge along with the product on how to take care of whatever condition you’re experiencing. So if you decide not to use the product anymore, you have the blueprint on what to do to continue to get your results.
What skills did you learn while working in the medical field that helped you successfully run your own business?
I would say managerial training. I was training staff, I was interviewing people and also teaching the spa owner, who did not have experience, the business. So it was 100 percent business on the ins and outs of learning what to do and what to buy, and at the end of the day it all comes down to connecting with the client, which for me is very important. The Kimo Bentley brand is a very personal brand. Being as though it was first started for my daughter, I connect with every single one of my clients on a very personal level. Part of me doing what I’m doing right now is to maintain that relationship of trust because once people trust you they will spend money.
You appeared on the Bethenny show. Can you talk about how that national television appearance came about?
A very good friend of mine referred me to one of her friend’s for a spa party because that’s another big part of my business. She was looking to have a spa party for her daughter who was turning 10 and I had no idea that she was the producer of the Bethenny show. We casually started talking about the spa party in terms of her theme and what she was looking for, and I told her about my business and what I do. I went ahead and explained all of this to her and sent her some pictures from past parties and she said, “Ok, can I call you back?” So I thought nothing of it, and when she called back she said, “I have something to tell you. I don’t know if your friend told you, but I’m the producer of the Bethenny Frankel show.” So we casually started talking and I told her that I won tickets to the show, but got sick and wasn’t able to come. She was like “Oh well I want you to be on the show.” I said, “Ok, great. I’ll let you know my schedule.” And she said, “No, I don’t think you understand. I want you to be a guest.” I’m like “A guest as in sit on the couch?” And she says “Absolutely.” And that’s how it happened. Within that week everything happened really fast where they researched my product, my journey and how I got to where I am. They pretty much went into my life to see if everything that I’m saying was legitimate.
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