Behind Her Empire Podcast: Nyakio Grieco on Pivoting in Life and Business
Nyakio Grieco is the founder of Nyakio Beauty, an award-winning skin-care brand that has been leading the clean beauty movement since 2002. While moving up the ranks in the entertainment industry, Nyakio realized that many cultures were under-represented in the prestige beauty space and saw a white space in the market.
She launched her company based on beauty secrets she learned as a child while visiting her grandmother, a coffee farmer in Kenya, and watching her use coffee beans to exfoliate and take care of her skin. Her products now sell in retail outlets nationwide, including Ulta, and is now exclusively available at Target. In 2015, Nyakio sold the company to Sundial Brands, which is now part of Unilever.
Although she has an incredible success story, Nyakio's journey was far from easy. She's managed the ups and downs of entrepreneurship with grace, and is a firm believer that failure is not an option. She's passionate about sharing her journey building a business from the ground up & inspiring others to also follow their passions and live a life with no regrets.
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A 14-year-old Pennsylvania high school student who took to Snapchat after not getting a spot on the varsity cheerleading team is at the center of a case now being considered by the U.S. Supreme Court that will test the limits of schools' ability to police speech on social media.
In 2017, Brandi Levy, now a college student, shared an image with her 250 Snap friends. It was a picture of her and her friend pointing the middle finger at the camera with the caption "F*** school, F*** softball, F*** cheer, F*** everything."
A fellow junior varsity teammate saw the post, took a screenshot of it and shared it with a coach. The school said the posts were disruptive to cheerleader morale and suspended Levy from the team for the rest of the year to "avoid chaos" and maintain a "teamlike environment."
In the balance is the issue of Levy's speech and whether that of millions of public school students online is protected. The court is expected to rule later this month. It's a case that could transform how school districts monitor students' online speech, including on Santa Monica-based Snap Inc's apps.
Social media has become embedded in the fabric of life for teenagers. Once off-handed comments now live online and can be shared.
The issue is especially tricky for school officials who are trying to balance the use of social media as an early warning system for potential violence, bullying or even self harm.
The last major ruling on student speech came in 1969 when the court held that students have free speech rights at school, unless officials find it will cause "substantial disruption."
Rachel Levinson-Waldman, deputy director of the Brennan Center's Liberty & National Security Program at The Brennan Center for Justice, said based on the justices' comments during oral arguments, she expects the court to skirt some of the broader free speech questions.
Instead, she thinks it's likely the justices will issue a narrow ruling. For example, because the case involves a student athlete, the ruling might just apply to students who voluntarily participate in an extracurricular activity if that speech is about the activity.
Still, she said statements students make on social media when they're off-campus should be protected by the First Amendment. The nonprofit center filed an amicus brief supporting Levy along with Equality California, the Anti-Defamation League and others, joining more than 100 other organizations in supporting the teen. Levy is being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union.
"It's going to have some impact on student speech going forward," Levinson-Waldman said.
The case brings to the fore some of the more difficult questions administrators, parents and students are dealing with in the online world.
If the court allows for monitoring of speech off campus, it could open the door for districts to use more social media monitoring software like Geo Listening, DigitalStakeout and Social Sentinel.
Companies have been trying to fill the gap, marketing social media monitoring services as tools that can prevent self-harm and bullying, and in some cases, mass violence.
Research by the Brennan Center of a database of government purchase orders found that 63 school districts across the country purchased social media monitoring software in 2018, up from six in 2013. Levinson-Waldman noted that the data does not capture all of the districts that may use this software.
The Center has found the technology is "largely unproven," and raises questions about privacy, free expression and other civil and human rights concerns. Also problematic, some words that might get flagged by the software might have different meanings in different cultures or contexts. That's particularly a problem for students of color, religious minorities and students with disabilities who are disciplined at disproportionately higher rates than their peers.
At the nation's second-largest school district — where students have posted shooting threats or other menacing warnings online — Los Angeles Unified School District officials said they address cyberthreats head on and don't use software to monitor their half million students on social media.
"While we can exercise our authority over out-of-school behaviors that directly and negatively impact the school, such as a threat, we are educators by trade and education is our best intervention," said an LAUSD spokesperson in an emailed statement.
The Glendale Unified School District was at the center of the issue in 2013 after it signed a contract with California-based Geo Listening to monitor students' public posts, sending daily reports to district officials when students mentioned using drugs or hurting themselves or others. The program was prompted by the suicides of two students the previous year after they were bullied online.
"We think it's been working very well," then-Glendale Unified Superintendent Dick Sheehan told the L.A. Times. "It's designed around student safety and making sure kids are protected."
The district renewed the contract in 2015. A district spokesperson said the district hasn't used the software in "several years," but could not say why the contract was terminated.
One of the issues in Levy's case is that she was not on school property when she posted the Snapchat. Rather, she posted it on a Saturday from a convenience store. So the court must decide whether schools can punish students for speech that occurs online and off-campus that may cause disruption inside schools.
The school district's attorney argued that the internet's "ubiquity" and potential for mass dissemination and permanence make the students' location "irrelevant," while ACLU attorneys representing Levy argued it would dramatically expand the disciplinary reach of schools.
During oral arguments, some of the justices seemed to indicate that the punishment did not fit the crime in this case and questioned what kind of speech would be determined to be disruptive — every curse word?
Justice Clarence Thomas acknowledged the difficulty in determining where the speech took place and whether it took place under the school's supervision.
"Aren't we at a point that if it's on social media, where you posted it on social media doesn't really matter?," Thomas said.
This week, hear from Aishwarya Iyer, the founder CEO of Brightland, an artisan oil and vinegar brand started in 2018.
Iyer began her entrepreneurial journey after doing some research on possible causes for her upset stomach—which led her to learn more about cooking oils after cutting dairy and gluten from her diet. She discovered that 70% of olive oils Americans consume are either rotten, rancid or has been adulterated — diluted by other inferior quality oils — and no one was talking about it.
Iyer's career started in New York City, after she secretly transferred to NYU. After graduation, she found herself at L'Oreal, and then began working at a startup.
"That's where I think I really sunk my teeth into what it means to move quickly," she said. After, she pivoted to work in fintech.
For Iyer, it was "a matter of like, why me, why should I do this? I didn't go to Harvard in terms of like business school, I wasn't a famous chef or restauranteur. I'm very much like an average normal person who spotted something."
In the early days of creating her business, she was bogged down by her own criticism, she said, and grappling with imposter syndrome.
After rewriting her personal narrative, Iyer realized she was uniquely well equipped for entrepreneurship. She has a background in marketing, communications, brand building and investing. Her background in investing was especially important, she said, as it allowed her to bootstrap her company for over a year before turning to investors. She also said that her background give her insight into the kind of investors she was looking for — ones that are hands-off.
Iyer also shared her thoughts on what it means to be a female founder. She shared her distaste for the idea that female founders should also have to function as influencers, with their image as the face of their brand. She said she found that wouldn't work for her, and that it's an expectation only placed on women.
In the rest of the episode, Aishwarya shared how she creates harmony for herself, working with California farms directly and the importance of the abundance mindset.
Aishwarya Iyer is the founder and CEO of Brightland.
"I also wanted to shape our destiny a bit. And I wanted to understand our product-market fit understand our customer. And I also wanted to understand like why I would need investors besides the capital — are there arenas that folks could help us out [to] be more strategic about it. And so, yeah, we were bootstrapped for over a year, and it was hard, and you know, but it taught me a lot of lessons. And it was definitely the right move." —Aishwarya Iyer
dot.LA Engagement Intern Colleen Tufts contributed to this post.
Long Beach-based aerospace manufacturer Rocket Lab landed a contract with NASA to design a twin Photon spacecraft for a Mars mission that will begin in 2024.
NASA's choice to employ Rocket Lab for this mission comes as another win for Los Angeles, which has one of the most distinguished aerospace industries in the world. Los Angeles is also home to SpaceX and an arm for the U.S. Space Force.
The mission, called ESCAPADE (Escape and Plasma Acceleration and Dynamics Explorers), will send the twin spacecraft (nicknamed Blue and Gold) to orbit Mars to better understand the planet's magnetosphere. Specifically, researchers are interested in gathering information about changes in Mars' climate over time by studying the effects of solar wind on the planet's atmosphere.
The spacecraft's travel to Mars is expected to take 11 months. Once the spacecraft has entered Mars' orbit, the mission is slated to last one year.
This is just one of many efforts in the aerospace industry to learn more about Mars. The possibility of life once existing on the planet and the potential for human colonization both make Mars an attractive area of study.
ESCAPADE, led by Rob Lillis at the University of California, Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory, was chosen back in 2019 to be a part of NASA's SIMPLEx program, which focuses on the development of small satellites.
Part of SIMPLEx's goal is to lower the cost and boost accessibility of interplanetary research, since small satellites come at a low cost to develop. It is currently unclear exactly how much ESCAPADE will cost.
Rocket Lab was founded by engineer Peter Beck in 2006 in Auckland, New Zealand and established its Long Beach headquarters in 2013. They are known for having developed several rockets for orbital flight, including Electron, which suffered its third failed launch last month.