Beauty With a Purpose: LaShonda Tyree’s Nyah toiletries

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Losing her daytime job last October, when a company merger phased out her position, turned out to be a blessing for Lashonda M. Tyree. She could now devote all of her time to Nyah (formerly called Precious Keepsakes), her Paterson, N.J., family-operated homemade toiletries business.

“A lot of people, even my pastor, would say to me, ‘If you want to talk, I’m here’,” says Tyree, who does everything from making the toiletries—her line includes soaps, lip balms, bath salts, body scrubs, and lotions—to creating the labels to packaging the products to promoting the line. “I’m at peace with the whole thing. I feel more excited than scared.”

In addition to her will to excel in her three-year-old business, Tyree has the support of her parents, who also help out with Nyah, and several close friends to steer her in the right direction. “I have friends who call to check on me, to make sure I’m on point and not watching talk shows,” Tyree chuckles. Of course, Tyree doesn’t believe her friends have anything to worry about, because she’s working for a purpose and won’t let anyone or anything get in the way. She wants to give back to her community by creating beauty products that will assist those with skin problems as well as promote healthy skin, she says.

For that reason, Tyree changed the name of her company in 2003 from Precious Keepsakes to Nyah (pronounced nee-yah), the Kiswahili word for “purpose.” She craved “beauty with a purpose,” as her company’s motto declares.

The products that she concocted have done all that she had hoped they would do for her clientele, Tyree says. “This IT guy at my former 9-to-5 had chapped lips to the point that they would peel,” she recalls. “I gave him some lip balm and he kept it in his pocket at all times. Within the week you could see the difference. They didn’t peel.” His lip condition came about because the product he used contained a lot of wax, she explains. Nyah’s lip balm prevents peeling because it contains more oils, which soften and moisturize the lips and give them protection, she says.

Another satisfied customer was a friend who used to complain about her sensitivity to scented soaps. Tyree found that the glycerin content set her homemade soaps apart from commercial soaps. “The latter takes out glycerin, which detains moisture, and adds detergents. My soaps were helping [my customer’s] skin. She never complained about any itching or sensitivity to the perfume in my soap,” she says.

Each day, Tyree strives to get better at her craft. She’s positioning herself for future success by joining various organizations, such as the Handcrafted Soapmakers Guild, Handmade Beauty Network, Black New Jersey and Give ’N Take Network, where she can learn more about the homemade toiletries industry, network with entrepreneurs in her industry and others, and build a support system.

“Being an entrepreneur is different [from having a job],” says Tyree, “but I try to make sure that I do what I need to do.”

For more information on Nyah, visit www.nyahbeauty.com, or call 877-822-0143.