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A beauty brand built by Black women, Bolden aims to empower people of color and embolden them to celebrate the natural beauty of their skin. We spoke to sisters Chinelo Chidozie and Ndidi Obidoa about how everything started on the beach, how their brand continues to grow and why they have every confidence in their product.
Customer Stories is a feature where we interview eCommerce founders and ask: what's helped you grow so far? Read about how they got started and the tools they used to build the business.
Where did Bolden start?
Bolden is a skincare brand tailored for women of color. A brand built by black women, Bolden has a vision: to serve girls and women everywhere with products that empower them to celebrate the natural beauty of their skin.
Chinelo Chidozie and Ndidi Obidoa wanted to create products that catered to the skincare issues faced by people of color. A simple example: sunblock. On a vacation in Florida, Chidozie found that sunblock from the drug store left her skin covered in a white sheen, no matter how much she rubbed it into her skin. “It wasn’t wearable, you just looked like a ghost,” Chidozie recalls.
The two set out to try to solve the problem. They discovered that zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, two typical ingredients in sunblock, left a white residue that was markedly visible on people of color.
After much experimentation, Bolden launched their Brightening Moisturizer, a combination moisturizer and sunscreen specially formulated for darker skin tones. It was an easy success. The cream colored-serum dried on the skin without leaving a cast. Feedback was overwhelmingly positive among customers. And the reason why they knew it was going to succeed?
“We use our own products,” Chidozie explains proudly. “We are our own customers.”
Ndidi Obidoa (left) and Chinelo Chidozie, the founders of Bolden USA
How did you keep growing?
Word of Mouth and Initial Press Buzz
Word of mouth remains the most powerful channel for Bolden’s continued growth.
Chinelo shared that their target customers are primarily women, 80-85% people of color, in the 25-50 age range. “They tend to be quite knowledgeable about skincare, and they have an established routine, and they know more than you think.
“A lot of them like to shop online, and they’re into social media.” For their audience, Chinelo observes, social proof was extremely important. “It’s about trust. The people that I like and follow, if they like this brand, then I tend to listen.”
An Influencer reviewing Bolden’s Brightening Moisturizer. Via YouTube
“And then you know, the product works,” notes Obidoa confidently.
“Our product is not just marketing, it works really well. Word-of-mouth ends up being strong when your product actually solves specific skincare issues.”
“In the initial stage, we had to hustle some, and we got some decent press,” reflects Chidozie. She’s being a little modest - the sisters were interviewed and featured across outlets like Elle, Huffington Post, and NBC News.
“We were lucky. The Brightening Moisturizer was very timely; black women were looking for a sunscreen that works for their skin tone.” Bolden built on their early success and expanded to other products, including several kits to address hyperpigmentation, a skin concern especially prevalent in women of color.
These days, the brand focuses on building engagement through content on Instagram and Facebook and working with specific influencers and bloggers.
Bolden proudly declaring who they are. Via Instagram
“I think for a lot of small businesses, that’s really what the internet is - Facebook and Instagram and ads. You can do some Google Search ads, but those are really expensive."
“If it wasn’t profitable, you wouldn’t be advertising,” observes Chinelo wryly. “But in terms of cost of customer acquisition, it is going up.” For the team, it’s all about figuring out what works and how.
Using ReferralCandy to accelerate organic growth
“We make products that are very effective; so when people try it, it’s very sticky. They stay with us and they tell their friends, and that drives a lot of organic growth.”
For Bolden, ReferralCandy is an opportunity to keep the flywheel of organic growth going. “If you made a purchase and liked our products, and if we give you an incentive, maybe you’ll refer us and that’ll accelerate our organic growth. That’s our hope.”
Bolden’s skincare is visible on YouTube
What Marketing Challenges does Bolden face?
“Trying to understand the market is a challenge most businesses face,” Chinelo observed. “Facebook and Amazon are two major platforms we sell on, and it’s a challenge to constantly understand how things are evolving.
“I can’t explain to you why some ads work more than others, or why something that was working three months ago suddenly might not work after a while.
“Sometimes we think we can figure it out, but it’s not always quite so quick. So we just keep trying new things.”
“It’s also about trying to find something that’s engaging or being able to tell a story, depending on where in the journey the customer is. Are they familiar with your brand at all? Do they know your brand from somewhere, but just haven’t tried it themselves? Or are they coming in cold, and have never heard of your brand? You need to tell the right story at the right time.”
“So different types of content will convert differently. Platforms like Facebook and Amazon are constantly evolving, so for us, it’s all about adapting and learning to see what's working.”
What next for the Brand?
When asked about opening a retail concept, it’s a firm no from Chinelo.
“We think eCommerce is the future. It's only going to get bigger. For consumers, the convenience of shopping online and the simplicity is just hard to beat.”
But the expectations from customers can be challenging. “The only thing is that customers expect to receive their items instantly. Amazon has set the bar for what customers expect, with next-day delivery.”
On the product front, the brand has more products in the pipeline. “We’re listening to our customers, and we are going to continue to provide solutions. There are still skincare issues that are to be addressed.
“We want to add new products and simplify routines. We want to make beauty and skincare so easy.”
Beauty comes in all shades - and that is Bolden’s bold message. Via IG