Off the Record Episode 1 : Andrea Ichite
Welcome to Off the Record, a series meant to inform, inspire and highlight women of color creating their own lane in their respective industries. If you were looking for boss women, you found them.
Today, meet Andrea Ichite, CEO and Founder of Aini Organix.
How did you get started?
Being Nigerian, I've always been into the natural: the shea butters, the black soaps. That's something I grew up with. So I've always been curious with mixing [natural products] and started giving it to my friends and my family. Everyone was like, "Wow we love this!" and it just grew. I just made a website, put a label on it and this is what it is. It was organically formed.
Did you always know you wanted to be a businesswoman?
I didn't necessarily know that I wanted to own a business, but I always knew that I was a leader, I was creative and I liked to make money.
Do you think the things that you studied in school helped you on your journey?
My degree was in Exercise Science. I was on the Pre-Med track and I did a lot of Biochemistry, so I learned about the skin and different elements. My line is botanically based and through my nutrition classes I learned that if you ingest this, it's really good for the skin. And I used that to play on how these [natural products] could be topically effective.
What were some of the challenges you faced when creating Aini Organix?
Initially, financial backing was my biggest hang up. I've been lucky and blessed that God has been very faithful and that people have had a lot of interest and I was able to generate some revenue. And then, people supporting you, believing in you and knowing that [they] can give you [their] money and it's worth it rather than giving [their] money to Target.
What is a time that you failed and what did you learn from it?
I've made a number of bad investments by putting money in places and it not coming back into form. I learned that no one is going to have the same energy that I have and until I can put people on a payroll, I know that my energy has to match what I want to get done.
What attributes do you think you need to be successful in the beauty and skincare industry?
I would say you have to keep your ear to the ground. It's such an evolving industry in the African American community so you have to stay hip to what's coming out. And then, I think it's important to find your niche and stay loyal to it. In beauty, black women have not had a place for so long and now that we're starting to get a place, you have to be careful to not say, "we don't want you anymore."
What attributes do you think make you a successful businesswoman?
- I work hard.
- I believe in myself.
- I believe in my brand.
- I know that when I make [each product] my intentions are pure.
- I put who I am into [my products] and people can tell.
What is the best advice you've ever been given?
The best piece of advice I've been given is that you cannot cast your pearls to the swine. That means that whatever your dream is, you can't just share it with anybody. Everybody can't come with you. You have friends and family who see this dream and want a piece of that pie, but they don't have the same energy or that same desire so you give them that piece and they squander it.
It's so easy to get caught up in life and then your dream falls to the wayside. So, if you keep [your dream] in the front of your mind and every single day you make yourself a to do list, and one of the things is something toward your business, there's no way it can't happen. There's no way it can't be successful.
What aspects of your work bring you the most joy and why?
I love when people tell me, "Oh my god, my skin is so much better!" That's the most fulfilling because I believe in [my product]. When I sell someone something I know it's going to work for [them] and I know they're buying a viable product. So, it's always fulfilling when someone comes back and says it works.