Building a Beauty Empire
Shemmee Stevens is quite the personality. Getting to know her is an adventure in itself. She is the founder of the Bush Beauty Brand which operates out of New York, and is a dynamic blend of two cultures: an island girl transplanted, at a young age, from Antigua to NYC. The brand’s main products are the Eczema Therapy Cream, Whipped Body Butters in different fragrances, African Black Soap and Bentonite Clay. Stevens didn’t set out to own her own beauty brand, rather it was out of desperation that she found herself mixing up healthy skin care concussions in her kitchen. She says, “My daughter, a baby at the time was suffering from Eczema. After I realized that the cream the doctor was giving me thinned her skin and left her prone to skin cancer, I was so appalled it spurred my motivation to find a healthier alternative. Bush Beauty Body Brand was born.”
Although Shemmee struggled, grew and eventually blossomed in New York, her roots first flourished on Antiguan soil. She has never been one to run from hard work and has been nurturing an entrepreneurship spirt since a very young age. “I guess you can say that my first business was a Concierge. As a child I used to offer my services to everybody – neighbour, aunty, cousin, friend, but for a fee of course. “ Shemmee jokingly recounts her marketing strategy, “I had a pitch, ‘aunty if you give me a quarter I’ll do it for you’, ‘Miss Mary do you need anything from the shop today? I’ll run fast and get it for you!’. Sometimes I’d get yelled at, especially by my mother, she never paid me. I tried to get her to, but she said I couldn’t begin to pay her back her for giving me life.”.
In the village where she grew up, almost every neighbour’s child and cousin was babysat by Shemmee. Her biggest clients were moms with fussy babies and her dad with his stinky socks, so of course when she moved NYC, her business moved with her; the babysitting service mostly. “My biggest accomplishment at the time, was convincing an uncle, by marriage, to pay me USD$20 a week to launder his clothes. Hey, it was the 1990’s back then, and $20 had the spending power of $50.00.”
Shemmee would get her first official job at the age of 14. The work permit cited that she needed to be at least 15 to get a job, so her first application was denied. But as a self-professed stubborn individual who couldn’t take ‘NO’ for an answer, Stevens harassed the clerk continuously, arguing that she was tall for her age and that by the time anyone thought to verify her age, she would have already celebrated her 15th birthday. ”I kept going back, begging and pleading, and one day she signed it. I was still 14, but now I held that blue square paper!” That first job for Shemmee, was working as a rookie environmentalist at Brooklyn’s Prospect Park as part of the summer youth program. Since then, Stevens has had many more adventures. She has worked as a licensed daycare employee, a sales agent for a cutlery company, a security guard and receptionist in a real estate office. She has dabbled as a human resource manager, journalist, and has tackled creative jobs such as magazine editing and copy writing. Shemmee has also been employed as a cashier, a waitress, and has served as a makeup artist’s assistant. Quite the Jane of All Trades, Shemmee has valued every opportunity to provide for herself, while she learned a wealth of skills in multiple different areas, a characteristic that would soon prove valuable.
The one thing that every job Shemmee has undertaken have had in common is that they were self-governing. “I couldn’t recognize the pattern back then, but I was more or less my own boss. It wasn’t something that I had set out to do, but it seemed as though I had been gravitating toward entrepreneurship long before I was a transplant to the land of dreams and opportunity.” With the discovery of this innate desire to be an entrepreneur, Sheemmee is already off to her next adventure. Stevens started an accessories line under the Bush Beauty Brand, with introductory items such as the bush tea mugs/ceramic mugs and refrigerator magnets. The line will be culturally iconic and the goal is to appeal to islanders, tourists and expats alike. There was a soft launch in April during Antigua’s Sailing Week, with the official launch to be announced soon. Until then you can pre-order items via the Bush Beauty Brand social media pages. The company will expand its product line, but only after extensive research and the establishment of a new business plan. While there are new ideas already in the pipeline, including the addition of tote bags to her accessories line, the Bush Beauty Brand founder remains focused on getting everything right with the current products she already carries.
The official Bush Beauty Brand website is still under construction at http://bushbeautybrand.com/, but product orders are accepted via the company’s social media pages. Clients living in NYC can either pick up, request delivery or mail in their orders. Customers in Antigua have less of a hassle, as they can purchase Bush Beauty Brand creams and other items from another local business, Kinks, Koils and Locks.
And here is a special treat for those of you readers residing or visiting NYC this weekend for the Labor Day celebrations, the Bush Beauty Brand pop-up shop will be on display at Antigua Day, which is being held the Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem on Saturday.
Follow Shemmee and her exciting adventures with Bush Beauty by liking the Bush Beauty Brand Facebook page. You can also follow her on Instagram @bushbeautybrand @shemmeeshemmeecocopie.