Zandra Azariah Cunningham could be called the princess of beauty. At just 14 years-old, she is well on her way to building a beauty empire. From Buffalo, NY, Cunningham created her a line of bath and body products under the banner Zandra Beauty by Azariah’s Innocence, LLC. Zandra Beauty products are sold online and at local shops in the Buffalo area.
But what’s also unique is that each product is stamped with an uplifting saying, such as “B. Confident, Strong You” and “Dream Big, Dream Wide, Dream Tall.”
Cunningham started the business at home. “Well, in the beginning having my own business wasn’t my plan. I just really loved lip gloss and my dad refused to continue to buy it so I was forced to make my own. I had no idea I would be still making it almost six years later,” says the young entrepreneur. So she and her mother did research and figured out how to concoct lip gloss and balm at home. From there, Cunningham moved into other homemade products, and with the help of a $500 startup loan from her father, she started selling them online in 2010.
The business took off almost immediately. Because of the blooming company’s success, Cunningham has had to adjust to her new responsibilities of business and work. “That’s not so easy, because I am in high school now and it’s more challenging,” she reveals. “I work at the studio two times a week and on Saturday mornings only. I also do speaking engagements and workshops from time to time.” But as she has grown into the business, Cunningham is finding her businesswoman stride and learning to deal with the disappointments that sometimes come with running a new company. “Well I have a lot of help and support from my family so it isn’t so bad anymore, but in the beginning it was tough to get people to take me seriously. I was often denied for vendor fairs and business classes I wanted to take. It would make me sad but, my mom and I would keep looking for things I would qualify for,” she says. Add to this, people often could not believe this young woman was the owner of such a business-savvy company.
“Oh my gosh! Yes they’re amazed and they repeat the question “how old?” after I tell them I’m 14 years old,” she says.
According to Cunningham, she is in her business for the long haul, and will continue it even after she starts college. “I am thinking no matter what I do it will have to involve travel and inspiring other people. I want to continue to raise money and awareness to support girls education issues both here and in other countries,” she says.
For Cunningham, one of the key aspects of her business is not just to sell beauty products, but to also help empower other young women. “I like that I can do what I love while developing products that are helping to create change in the world. I really feel like I am contributing, becoming a changemaker. My business has allowed me to build a platform to bring awareness to the issues surrounding girls education.”
She adds, “I would love to see Zandra become a larger brand that stands for girl power, inspiration and motivation. I want the world to know that we give back. I am working on placing my products into larger retail stores to increase my contribution to support girls education.”
And what business lesson would Cunningham pass on? “To always have a plan no matter what and to just do you and what you love,” she answers. Spoken like a wise entrepreneur.
(CLICK HERE for another story about a young entrepreneur.)