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‘I Took My Pain and I Turned It Into Purpose’: Black Beauty Entrepreneur Continues to Push for Diversity In Beauty with Her Latest Venture

Beauty care expert Nyakio Grieco has created a new skin care product that she claims will revolutionize the market with technology that enhances the topical needs of all people regardless of their race, gender, or age. In other words a product that is totally inclusive. Her brand, Relevant: Your Skin Seen, has debuted its game-changing product — a multitasking cream called One & Done Everyday Cream.

Beauty care entrepreneur Nyakio Grieco (Photo from LinkedIn)

There has long been a call for the beauty industy to be more inclusive in its products. And while that has been some movement toward this, Grieco says it has taken too long.

Grieco said in an interview with Oprah Daily, “It’s made for everyone, and that definitely includes Black and brown people.”

Skin care, the second-largest branch of the beauty industry, generated approximately $136.4 billion in revenue in 2020. This market will increase to roughly $187.68 billion by 2026, according to the Consumer Market Outlook.

Grieco has already made a dent in the industry.

Even after 20 years in the business, Grieco says she is still excited about the business. While Relevant is her latest brand, she started in 2002 with the brand Nyakio Beauty. She later launched Thirteen Lune in 2020, an e-commerce beauty website that supports Black and brown founders. Thirteen Lune’s latest funding round was a seed for $3 million on Nov 2021. 

“The journey of being a Black female founder in the beauty industry has been wonderful. There have been many wins, but it’s also been deeply challenging,” she told Well + Good. “And in the summer of 2020, after the murder of George Floyd, I was on all the lists: top Black-owned, Black-founded brands to shop and follow. At that point, I’d been a beauty founder for 18 years and I had never — in my life of Nyakio — received as much attention as I did that month. While it was beautiful and I was excited for people to discover the brand, it was built on the precipice of this really difficult time for all of us. I just found it so strange that this is what it takes for people to discover us.”

It also gave her the opportunity to support other Black beauty brands.

“I took my pain and I turned it into purpose and just started shopping those lists. As a Black female founder, it often felt like a very lonely journey. And I couldn’t believe how many other people there were who I could have been reaching out to and supporting and receiving support from,” she said. This revelation led to the founding of Thirteen Lune.

Thirteen Lune, which Grieco founded with Patrick Herning (who previously founded plus-sized fashion brand 11 Honoré), has continued to grow. Thirteen Lune, according to CBS Morning, services over 140 beauty brands, and 90 percent of the founders of the company are Black, Indigenous, or people of color.

Outside of the site, Thirteen Lune has partnered with JC Penny to build the distribution portfolios of the clients’ brands and place them in 650 stores nationwide. 

Now, with Relevant, she aims to increase the footprint of Blacks in the beauty industry.

“I started as an indie beauty founder who was doing customer service, shipping, receiving — all the things. And with the creation of this new brand, it really is a culmination of the last 20 years of key learnings, but also an opportunity to show that when you give a Black woman the runway, the support, and the opportunity to create whatever she knows she can create, she’s going to create the brand of her dreams,” she told Well + Good.

She added, “And that’s what I think is the most healing part of Relevant: Your Skin Seen. There was no one telling me ‘No budget for you, you can’t do that.’ I got to work with whatever chemists I wanted and I chose chemists of color because they know our skin the best. It’s so emotional for me because it’s just time.

She’s hoping One & Done, which is not only a moisturizer, but a serum, primer, and sunscreen with SPF 40, will make be a breakthrough product.

“There’s still this underlying myth that Black and brown people don’t need sunscreen, which isn’t true. Melanoma rates are on the rise in our community,” she told Oprah Daily.

Grieco has created a career that has been committed “to clean, plant-based beauty is rooted in her upbringing.” 

Her passion was instilled in her by her grandmother, a Kenyan coffee farmer who taught her lessons about using natural plants, nuts, fruits, and herbs to benefit the body’s largest organ, the skin. An example she used that was taught to her was rubbing coffee beans on skin to exfoliate dead cells and promote new healthy ones. Her grandfather, an African medicine man, further instilled the power of plants and cold-pressed oils in her skincare routines — and now in her businesses.

“I felt that the continent of Africa was very underrepresented in premium beauty when I was at the ripe old age of 27. So I decided to quit my job and make my grandmother’s coffee scrub and my grandfather’s oils. And that’s how it began,” she told Well + Good.

“My vision for Relevant is to take my two decades of experience as a beauty founder, and now a retailer, to find ways to better serve all people on our beauty shelves,” Grieco said.

“I saw the whitespace in the market by doing a deeper dive into ingredients that are safe for all skin tones, and not to leave anyone out when it comes to treatments, percentages, and levels that impact people the most with more melanated skin.”

“As a retailer, I’m able to identify a niche where we can do better, and we can serve more,” she continued. “That’s what’s exciting about Relevant, and this experience with Thirteen Lune.”

Grieco is ready to continue to push the envelope in the future, but she hasn’t forgotten her struggle.

“Looking back, I’m so thankful for my naïveté to go for my dream so unapologetically,” she said. “But as I went through the process of trying to raise capital, there were a lot of doors slammed in my face. 

She said, “I remember a lot of stops and starts because I didn’t have enough money to fill my orders. It was devastating and soul-crushing.”

Her goal is now to pave a way for others in lanes that were once closed for her.

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