by Fey Ugokwe, Esq. (@pinkpurseintl)
Far from Sway, her hips entrancing, sweet-tongued take on the Latin classic--featuring the late BB King's Tony Coleman on drums; Living Legend, her tribute to Dolores Huerta and Corretta Scott King, featuring Santana's Dennis Chambers on drums; and our own sparkle and percussion of a cultura-hugging chat on my old "The PPI Women of Power Hours" radio show/pod--is a fresh-faced, end of '17 Carmen Milagro, international singer-turned-luxury eco skincare entrepreneur. And she's been at lighting up her native San Francisco and virtually every other earth port ever since, with the smooth, pop magic that is Borbón, her upscale but environment-friendly, wrinkle-and-scar-eraser/repellent in a jar. I caught up with the Salvadorean siren again, during her pre-New Year's Eve bustle, and chatted with her about the progress of her beauty enterprise--and the mutual loss, since our radio interview, of both of our mothers, to cancer:
Q. First off, is there a unicorn in those Borbón jars, reina? The ingredients are all so fresh, so pure--it's like dating a vegan 😇, but with less commitment. Do tell everyone your grand- and great-grandmothers' wisdom story about how you came to source your luxe but earth-loving skincare formulas (I love it)--and do you eat that way as well (orgo and sustainable)?
About 3 years after my Mother passed away from cancer, the fog started lifting, and I think this is her last gift, her legacy--because my inspiration was to create products that are so holistic that even cancer patients can use them. In fact, currently, my #1 clients are cancer survivors and cancer patients. I don't believe we as a society would be as sick as we are if not for the polluted environment, and chemicals in our food and personal products.
Before I started Borbón, I interviewed over 350 people after gigs, at events, and through social media. The question I asked them was, 'what did your grandmothers and great-grandmothers use on their skin as their daily regimen?' No one ever replied, "micro beads and synthetic dyes". I then created a spreadsheet and cross-referenced their responses, which revealed that the ingredients they all mentioned actually came from two places--their garden, or their kitchen pantry. So, for the body polish and facial scrub, that's where I came up with the idea of using the core Borbón ingredients of coffee, manuka honey, and turmeric.
I also learned that it takes 26-30 seconds for anything you put on your skin to be absorbed. If you use petroleum-based skin products, it creates a barrier, so all the good nutrients are prevented from being absorbed. And, we don't even fully know the the long-term effects of petroleum products. Conversely, there's nothing in my Borbón products that you cannot ingest--any of the ingredients separated out, you can either eat or drink.
As far as my diet is concerned, I do eat healthy--I try. Everyone has different definitions of what is healthy, however. I don't eat fast foods, frozen foods, or have boxes or cans in my pantry. I believe food is not meant to stay on the shelf for 2 years, and that food wasn't meant to be shipped cross-country and then be put on the shelf before it's consumed. I do prefer organic foods, and I love to cook. I don't believe in starving or depriving myself. I can have a full-on vegan meal if the taste is there, but I also eat meats. Taste for me is in herbs and spices. I also like ice cream, but I'm not going to have it every night.
Q. I adore and applaud your branding dedication, in the marketing of your products, to include models of every skin tone. It makes a powerful, stunning commentary about inclusion, without uttering a byte. What was your inspiration for that brand strategy?
I've always had a diverse group of friends and colleagues as a singer and musician. I was also born here in the Bay Area, so I've only known diversity. That part wasn't planned. To me, inclusion-not-exclusion is as natural as breathing. Hemali Zaveri was my photographer, and she's from India. We had the same vision for the marketing; I believe like just attracts like. My Borbón skincare line is supposed to be about everyone, and for everyone.
Q. What's the biggest shocker you've experienced as a WOC entrepreneur in the 21st century iteration of the beauty biz?
The #1 thing happened when I was going to the networking, meetings, and presentations--the "pitch fests". What got me was the lack of women presenters and the lack of women presenters who were women of color at those events. We always hear that we should support these businesses, and for example, Latin women in business like me, but where were we? I was simply shocked at the lack of women-funded businesses, and the lack of women vying for funding. Shocking, but a reality.
Q. I'm naturally so here for your repeated insistence on how great of a game-changer social media has been in the sales of your product. What about social tech surprised you, and inspired you to always strive to be the better entrepreneur?
I'm old school--I'm not digital. But I accept. So you just dive in. You can fit what I know about social media on the head of a pin compared to an expert, but I'm so much more knowledgeable about social media--from where I was just a few months ago, to where I am now. It's about surrounding myself with experts and learning from them.
Q. Investors are so key to the life of any large-scale enterprise, and I heard you'd love to do a belated, biz-hugging delivery like that asap, in the New Year, 2018. What are you looking for in investors--and tell us about your transforming, altruistic partnership with Heaven's Door Cancer Foundation?
I have two partners, with whom I started the brand; they're great, and diverse, like me. I'd like to have the right additional investors at some point in the future, when we're ready. Even though I'm based in San Francisco, in the Silicon Valley, I've learned along the way that a techie is not the right investor for me. I'm open to speaking to investors, but they have to be aligned with my vision for the company and what the company stands for--it's like a marriage, like a friendship.
Borbón is positioned to partner with Heaven's Door Cancer Foundation in our BODO (Buy One Donate One) program, as soon as we are in a profitable position. I'm on their board of directors, and support our founder, a 3-time cancer survivor. She shares the journey with the fellow cancer patients she serves, while I also honor my late mami in her bout with cancer. My mother actually inspired me to create my entire product line, and in particular, our first medicinal hemp-based Borbòn product. It's our Soothing Herbal Massage Serum, made with 70% pure full-spectrum CBD oil, and we're launching our official crowd-funding campaign in January 2018. Stay tuned!
*Have Had A No Longer So Happ'nin' Nite*
*Can't Imagine How Cars/Boats Move Forward While Your Stomach. Stays. Still. *
#TUMMYLIFE Has Happened To You
Ever Since You Can
And Often Embarassingly
When You Were