Cashmere Nicole is the founder and CEO of Beauty Bakerie Cosmetics, a brand she launched in 2011 with just one item and has since amassed millions of fans globally and most recently launched at Ulta Beauty. One year into her cooking up her viral beauty brand, Nicole was diagnosed with breast cancer, an experience that not only gave her a different outlook on life, but a completely new approach to both beauty and business. The following interview was told to Aimee Simeon and has been edited for length and clarity.
Baking Her Business
"I've been an entrepreneur since I was 12-years-old. I had major plans to become an architect and in my free time I painted, drew floor plans for homes, and started multiple companies. I was so dedicated to my ventures at the time that I pitched one to my local hospital and tried to get my items sold in its gift shop. I've always been extremely creative and I got the idea to start a cosmetics line at the age of 26.
"I always loved makeup, so creating a beauty brand felt like a natural venture for me. I come from a strong Christian background, so I prayed about it and decided to move forward with my idea. I knew that the industry is pretty focused on 'self,' so I wanted to go into this thinking of others. I decided to start the brand to make other people feel beautiful while simultaneously giving back to breast cancer charities. There wasn't much to my decision to give back beside the fact that I loved the color pink and the cause felt aligned with the brand I was trying to build. So while I worked as an licensed practical nurse, and raised my daughter, I launched Beauty Bakerie with only Cake Pop Lippies.
Being Diagnosed With Breast Cancer
"About one year into growing Beauty Bakerie as my side hustle, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I underwent a double mastectomy with reconstruction where I lost both my breasts and got implants put in. It was a scary time in my life and I used working on the brand as a way to redirect my thoughts and to not focus so much on my health. Following my procedure, I felt compelled to share my story, so I created an Indigogo campaign along with a YouTube video, which Beyoncé would later end up discovering.
"After my initial operation, more lumps were found throughout my breasts and I had to undergo another surgery. This time, it wasn't just removing a lump — it was that plus replacing implants which made recovery extremely difficult. I felt like death after surgery, but while I was recovering, I got a call from someone on Beyoncé's team about conducting an interview with me for Breast Cancer Awareness month. Naturally, I freaked out — but I was so exhausted with recovery, I almost fell asleep and missed out on that opportunity. Nonetheless, I woke up and got the interview done. A few weeks later I got flowers and a card from Beyoncé — just the fuel I needed. I was so inspired to create change after that moment."
A Rocky Road
"When I first came up with the idea to start a makeup brand, I gave myself five years to make something of it. That timeline was hard for me to stick to because I was so physically exhausted due to my medical issues. All of my money and tax returns went into building a website, planning photoshoots, and chasing this dream that took a really long time to take off. I was spending more than I was making — plus I had a daughter to raise all by myself! At one point I seriously considered deleting the website and completely giving up, but I remembered the promise I made to myself.
"I took a two month break to think long and hard about all the risks I was taking to pursue my brand full-time, I also considered the losses I would experience if I gave up. When I got back from my hiatus, I went back to my regular job and worked even harder on Beauty Bakerie. I didn't want cancer to win and I knew my idea had potential. I would pay my bills and use my leftover dollars to keep the brand alive."
A few weeks later I got flowers and a card from Beyoncé — just the fuel I needed...
— Cashmere Nicole
How Cancer Changed Her Perspective
"Before my diagnosis, I was the biggest cry baby ever. But after going through something as tough as breast cancer, I know the importance of being kind to myself and creating balance in my life. It was hard to feel beautiful all of the time, but now I am on a constant journey to self-love. I try not to wear makeup every single day to work because I want to make sure that when I'm wearing it, I enjoy it. I also want to make sure that I am comfortable in my skin without it."
Being A Black Entrepreneur In Beauty
"I've learned that being Black and running an indie brand is extremely tough. As a child, I remember hearing that you have to work twice as hard when you're Black — and now I know that it's true. As the brand grows in popularity, so do the standards a lot of people hold us to. I am thrilled with the way things are going, but some days we experience growing pains. I've learned that in order to be a small brand and play with the big dogs there will be some shortcomings, but I am confident that most challenges are just bumps in the road. In the meantime, I roll up my sleeves up and get my hands dirty as we continue to evolve.
"I just want to continue creating long-lasting products that don't have harmful, cancer-causing ingredients and that can allow people to choose moments over makeup. You can send your kids off to school or kiss your partner and not have to worry about messing up your foundation or your lipstick. Makeup shouldn't be this exhausting, daunting task — life is too short for that!"