When did you start your brand?
I founded Dehiya the Spring of 2019
Did you always have a dream of starting a skincare brand?
No, actually. I'm a polymath. I have a Phd in American Studies but I’ve also worked as a makeup artist for Chanel and Smashbox and owned a women’s clothing boutique. I love fashion, beauty, and design. When I decided to start the brand, I knew that it would be bigger than the products–it would be a vehicle to have larger conversations about global beauty. The long-standing definition of beauty we’ve been shown is too narrow; the story is incomplete, and our goal with Dehiya is to disrupt the current beauty narrative, explore alternative ways to see beauty, and ultimately create a fuller, more comprehensive story while serving up highly effective, high-performing plant-based skincare.
What was your inspiration for starting the brand?
Sacred, ritual skin care. I was living abroad in Italy for several years. While there, my family and I had the opportunity to travel all over Europe and Northern Africa. Morocco had always been on my bucket list and when I was doing the research, I was reading so much about their beauty and wellness practices. I was really excited to experience some of that. I met, who I now refer to as, The Herbalist. We met in the Jewish Quarter of Marrakech when I wandered into his pharmacy. He is a 4th generation herbalist whose family has owned a pharmacy for over a century. They were the first Muslim business to move into the Jewish Quarter. There is such a rich history and he shared it all with me. Over the course of a couple years, he taught me so much about herbology, Moroccan native and wild plants, and Morocco’s ancient beauty rituals.
When you think back to your childhood, were there any signs that you would one day be the founder of a skin care line?
I see glimpses of them. I loved to read Seventeen, Cosmo, Glamour and back then they had step -by-step makeup tutorials. I would recreate them in the mirror and talk to myself like I was on television or something. More than anything, I knew I would create.
What is your brand ethos?
A return to simple, time-honored beauty. We are champions of diverse and inclusive beauty; passionate about creating highly-effective, plant-based skin care. We use ethically sourced, highly-active, native and wild botanical ingredients from all over the world and prioritize sustainability in every facet of the business. Through the combination of modern skin care practices and time honored beauty rituals, our goal is to uncomplicate skin care routines for women everywhere.
How is Moroccan culture reflected in your brand?
Dehiya’s namesake was an African queen and warrior who led her people to battle (and won many) in an effort to liberate Northern Africa from colonization in the 7th Century. Dehiya is very much a sensorial experience. The scent profiles are comprised of botanicals native to Morocco. Neroli, Moroccan Rose, Frankincense, Sandalwood, Jasmine…they transport you there.
I am a researcher and storyteller and so telling the stories of the artisans, their craft, the processes and the culture is integral. It is very important that we tell the story accurately so I consult The Herbalist on everything. There is little credit given to enslaved African herbalists, healers, doulas, and witch-doctors who shared their knowledge throughout the African Diaspora, so I wanted to celebrate some of these ancient practices and include them in the narrative. We are rooted in Africa, inspired by Morocco and created in California.
What is your brand’s signature product?
Our hero product duo are based off of two of Northern Africa’s oldest beauty secrets––Alia argan beldi and the Mihakka. They go hand in hand. Beldi, traditionally made from olive oil, is a multi-functional North African cleanser dating back 12 centuries. We have an artisan in Morocco who makes our beldi from pure argan oil. It makes a divine facial cleanser. Mihakkat are exfoliating tools crafted of terra-cotta and covered with organic cotton, dyed with natural pigments extracted from the flowers and clay indigenous to the Atlas Mountains by female artisans of the Amazigh tribe in Marrakech, Morocco. They are perfect for applying your beldi cleanser, to exfoliate face and body, dry brush to detox, increase circulation and prevent bikini line and underarm in-grown hairs. They also date back 12 centuries.
What have been your greatest challenges as black female entrepreneur?
C.R.E.A.M. Wu Tang said it best, Cash Rules Everything Around Me. My lack of capital requires me to be scrappy but as we scale, I am good with having my back up against the wall. I think I perform best in tight spaces. All the photography and website design is done in-house. We haven’t spent any money on marketing or PR so our growth is slower as a result. I have always been good with that business model. After winning the ESSENCE Best in Beauty Award, we really started to gain exposure––Allure, then Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, Cosmopolitan. It’s working for now but I know at some point we will need capital so I am trying to get the systems in place to be ready for when that moment comes.
If you had access to an unlimited amount of capital, how would you use it for the brand?
If I had unlimited capital, I would buy a big ole piece of land and take Dehiya vertical. We would grow our own herbs, build a huge prep kitchen with office and meeting spaces. A warehouse for distribution. That’s where I am right now…working on manifesting it.
What has been your greatest achievement as a business owner?
I feel there have been a lot of big wins but I’ll say being featured in Allure Magazine’s May 2020 print issue. Jessica Chia wrote a feature on me for a piece on Ph.D-founded beauty brands. It felt like such a big moment because it not only celebrated my accomplishments with Dehiya as brand but my academic achievements as well.
What can we expect in the future from Dehiya Beauty?
You can expect to see us playing in the Body space a bit more this year.