Psyche Terry x Macy’s Vendor Highlight Interview
1.What inspired you to start your own beauty business? Were you always interested in skin & hair care?
Urban Hydration were developed and inspired out of a need for a better experience when it comes to products for dry skin. As someone who always experienced dry skin and dry hair, I was making multiple doctor’s office trips and testing out various products in search of a solution. While using a drugstore product for eczema prone skin, I realized the clinical packaging and unfamiliar ingredients I couldn’t even pronounce did not promote the feel-good experience I knew I deserved. That’s when I realized there was a gap in the market for products specifically targeting dry skin and dry hair formulated using clean, transparent ingredients. Taking a home-grown approach, my husband Vontoba and I set out to build a brand that used effective and recognizable ingredients to create products people could understand and love. Starting within our own community, we introduced the collection to our friends, family, and children. As the demand grew, Vontoba and I were inspired to make this a brand accessible to everyone, everywhere.
2. When did you found Urban Hydration?
We founded Urban Hydration as a small online store in 2010. In 2015, celebrity baseball player Torii Hunter and his wife Katrina Hunter became investors and partners in Urban Hydration. Today, millions of Urban Hydration products are sold in more than 10,000 retail doors across the nation including CVS, Bed Bath & Beyond and H-E-B stores.
3.Can you explain your own experiences as a Black woman looking for products that cater to your skin type and hair texture?
My skin is brown, my hair is brown, and my skin gets dry and my hair gets dry. Those 4 facts are the facts of my entire life. I’ve tried so many chemical-based products over the years but unfortunately because the formulations and the founders or the R&D teams didn’t have my type of hair or skin in mind, they just didn’t work. I had to rely on the resources that my friends and my family with similar skin and hair types as me would do. We shared several secrets of what we would do and what would work best for us. I leaned to try natural oils. But even making products at home or drinking raw aloe juice and a wrapping myself in shucked aloe leaves was just too much. It was and had always been more difficult to not just be a minority but to have minority share in retailers where I would have to make do with what they had; realizing they could only supply what had been made. I created Urban Hydration for communities of dry skin and dry hair. I love that all the personal research and personal work that I’ve done over 30 years to find the best for me is the best for us. My experience had helped my husband, my kids, and my friends all live happier more healthy lives because if it.
4.Can you describe how you feel the beauty industry has regarded the skin & hair needs of Black consumers?
I think the beauty industry has come a long way. I’m very proud of the acceptance of differences. It has always seemed like cosmetics and fashion and music had been willing to be accepting of different shades and definitions of beauty so now to have actual personal care accepting and cognizant too, my world is happy. It’s been a long struggle of having to fit into a box. But now the industry is approving all types of diversity and it should make us all proud. Telling me that I should use the shampoo or lotion you sell but you don’t use my image, my skin tone, my deeper voice, my thicker thighs, my wider hips in messaging was confusing. I think the industry is woke and not only are they accepting Black beauty but all beauty. And that is what I think is most rewarding.
5.Can you tell us a little bit about Urban Hydration’s charity work?
From the start, Vontoba and I have aimed to be a force for global good with a record of charitable contributions across a multitude of deserving organizations. Driven by our dedication to community, giving back and saving the planet through clean beauty, in 2016 we committed to providing clean drinking water for communities in need through a keystone partnership with WATERisLIFE. Through this partnership, with each purchase of an Urban Hydration product, one gallon of water is donated to a community without the ease of access to clean drinking water. Due to the outpouring of consumer support for this initiative, we raised enough money to contribute to the construction of two clean drinking water wells in communities in Kenya, which were completed from 2018 – 2019. Additionally, we’ve committed to building our very own Urban Hydration Giving Wells by 2021 through our “Give Good. Give Well. Give Life.” campaign.
6.Can you reflect on the hardest challenge you’ve faced as a Black woman business owner?
As a Black Woman Business Owner, it’s always been hard not being a white owned business owner. I say that in just, but some opportunities are just easier to come by when you don’t look or sound or have a name like mine. Why? Because not only am I different but I don’t have a legacy of huge wins on store floors like so many other brands. Why don’t I have the wins? Because we are unicorns. A store wants to usually stay safe and play it’s cards where they know they will make a great return. Well, if there are not a lot of Black Woman Owned Businesses in general, then there is an even bigger gap of opportunity that the store isn’t going to believe that mine will be successful. It’s not their fault, they just hadn’t seen a lot of history of it happening yet. So being a Black Woman Owned business is sometimes hard because I’m blazing trails and knocking on doors that have never been knocked down. Sometimes I must do so much more or test so much longer than other people or brands just to get a seat at a table that if I were different it would be much easier for me to sit down.
7.Can you explain your philosophy/motto/mantra for overcoming obstacles as the brand grows?
Ha, we don’t get to mess up. I must win. I have so many other brands behind me that need to see me win so that doors are opened, and our paths are proved. My mantra is WIN. I use the philosophy, be fierce and be kind. It helps me unlock and powerfully keep it open.
8.What do you wish you knew when you started out?
I wish I knew how much I liked my own self. I grew up in corporate America. I learned what was acceptable and what wasn’t. It took me years to realize that I am an individual, good and flawed and I am ok with being me; not someone else’s version of me.
9.What advice would you give to a young entrepreneur?
Stay the course. Don’t quit. And lastly, be honorable. It is my favorite word. Honesty and joy are important.
10.What are some challenges you’ve faced during the pandemic?
We lost money, we lost deals, we lost employees. We were not sure at times how we would make it. All our business was mostly tied up in retailers that were closed. We had to learn how to pivot and recreate what we do to stay alive. Our prayers were to just stay actively in business because we had so many non-profits we planned to donate to.
11.During the pandemic, when we’re going out less and staying home more, what role do you see Urban Hydration products playing in establishing a self-care routine?
Our goal is for Urban Hydration to provide everyone, every home and every community with clean and naturally inspired products that offer a holistic personal care experience for the whole family. We want to help make life easier for “Luhvies”, providing affordable yet effective products that deliver beautiful results!
12. What has your experience been like with Macy’s supporting your brand?
The magic of Macy’s is real. I remember being brand new and not knowing very much about fashion or beauty but the miracle on 34th street was always in effect for me. There was always a hero of some sort pulling for me or teaching me or pushing me to be not just better but best. Having Macy’s in my corner from the start made me legit.
13.And why is it important that big retailers show their support for rising Black-owned businesses?
If big retailers believe in our black magic, then the world will see us. If the world could only see how phenomenal our sales could be in white spaces that are untouched, unfathomed because of our unique and diverse take on problem solving.
14. How do you balance work and family?
I do my best to be a great wife, I’ve been married 16 years to my college sweetheart. I try to learn what matters to my kids and my husband got learning them and their needs from me. I balance meeting needs, not necessarily work and family.
15. And how important do you think it is for your children to see you and your husband as successful entrepreneurs?
My kids are dope. It seems like their first words were Macy’s. I mean I had just had my first of 3 when I entered the Workshop at Macy’s. Now my kids are almost 11 and under. They have seen me cry, struggle, and win. They really believe that their future is limitless, and that mommy and daddy could make and sell teddy bears and water parks if we really wanted too. It’s important that my kids see my husband lead and rule and make good and bad choices. It’s important for me to explain what getting into a retailer means for our family, our community and our legacy. Our kids are our future and I’m doing my best to create good citizens.