Don’t even try putting Nyakio Grieco in a box.

From founding her first eponymous skin care line back in 2002 (subsequently acquired by Unilever) to introducing inclusive beauty retailer Thirteen Lune in 2020 to her latest effort, a multicategory beauty brand called Relevant; Your Skin Seen, the entrepreneur is consistently finding new avenues to uplift consumers — and brand founders — of color. Here, the 2023 CEW Female Founder Honoree speaks on edifying an industry through community, inclusivity and, every so often, betting on passion and heart over conventional business value.

What has your trajectory been like in beauty? 

Nyakio Grieco: I’ve been in the industry for 22 years, and for me, slow and steady has won the race; finding a way to align your passion with your purpose is the secret sauce. I’ve always said I have a real trigger to the word “failure,” because we should welcome it; all of the key learnings and challenges during my early days, when I suffered from imposter syndrome that harmed my ability to listen to my gut and even grow and scale, have led me to where I am now.

Which steps are you taking within your organization to ensure that women’s voices are being heard? 

N.G.: Diversity and inclusion are at the heart of my entire journey, and within [Thirteen Lune]. Not only are we deeply committed to amplifying Black and brown founders who create products for all, but as a woman and more specifically, a woman of color, I deeply prioritize honoring women who deserve to take up space in this industry.

What’s one thing about founding and building a female-led business that nobody tells you?

N.G.: I’m a strong believer that women will heal the world. There is magic in the fact that not only are we hard workers and deeply committed to helping others see their dreams realized, but we often operate from a place of mission-first. One of the things that I was truly blessed with in this journey with Thirteen Lune is collaboration in a way I have never experienced before; whether it be within our team, with brand founders or our partner JCPenney — the magic lies in lifting each other up.

What is your assessment of the beauty industry, and how has your vision for the role you can play in that realm evolved over the years?

N.G.: I identify as an eternal optimist; while it’s disheartening seeing some of these statistics about the challenges of funding for women and people of color, having been around for 22 years, I see the progress. Sometimes as women, we get caught up in trying to break down an old paradigm, but I believe that my purpose is to show others that we’re not here to break those down — we’re here to create a new paradigm. We’re here to use our voices and our brains to show the next generation what this beauty industry can be. That is what allows me to operate in such joy every day, even through the challenges of building and scaling a business.

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