Karen Young launched Oui the People in 2014 with only $1,500 in her pocket from her Brooklyn apartment. Today, the company is the fastest growing Black-owned beauty brand in the U.S.
On this episode of Behind Her Empire, Young talks about the role of an entrepreneur, the importance of doing research before launching a brand, and how her immigrant upbringing influenced her business drive.
“I think people put a lot of filter and gloss onto the word,” Young said about the term “entrepreneur.” “I think really, truly, you're just a person who walks around and you see opportunities — where people might see problems, you see an opportunity, and I saw an opportunity.”
Young said she struggled with razor bumps and ingrown hairs when shaving. That gave her an idea for a new type of razor and a new approach.
She knew the type of product she wanted to sell, but wanted to learn more about how to better serve potential customers. She began by connecting with bloggers and influencers and building relationships.
“I started talking to potential end consumers to make sure that if I was going to build something, they actually wanted it,” she explained.
Young also had another thing working in her favor: her background in the fashion industry, where she worked in the world of silkscreen goods.
“I knew how to access buyers. I knew how to put line sheets together. I knew how to price. I knew how to market. I knew how to tell the story,” she said.
She bought two different razors from Germany to use as prototypes that she could test on potential clients — gathering information about the look and feel, which one was easier to use and what people preferred. Once the product design was locked down, the challenging part was finding someone to build it.
“I went through the wringer of calling around different people,” she said of her early days trying to find a manufacturer that didn’t just want to create a pink razor for women. “And then one day a woman picked up on the other end — and that's our current manufacturer. I’d never get anywhere if it weren't for women picking up on the other end.”
Besides strong, empowering women that served as inspiration, Young credits her success to having a “core foundation.”
“I was able to fill in what I wanted the team to look like, what the product roadmap was going to look like, and the experiments that we were going to run in order to scale and build from there, and what our distribution plan was going to look like,” she said.
Over time, Oui the People has expanded to selling skincare products as well as razors, and continues to grow.
dot.la Social and Engagement Editor Andria Moore contributed to this post.
This podcast is produced by Behind Her Empire. The views and opinions expressed in the show are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of dot.LA or its newsroom.