A self-described "girly girl," nine-year-old Zandra Cunningham was constantly begging her parents for the latest beauty products. One day her dad simply told her "no," which inspired her to make her own. Before her 10th birthday, Cunningham launched Zandra Beauty and hoped it would empower other young girls.
When asked about her experience as a child entrepreneur, Cunningham says: "It wasn’t intimidating. When you're young, you don’t have that fear mentality. 'Maybe it’s not going to work' never really crossed my mind."
For Cunningham, it became a challenge to separate her personal interests from what her customers actually want. "There are a lot of things that I feel are a good idea, but it wouldn't fit into the market," she says.
Being part of the younger market herself, Cunningham felt she had a unique perspective that allowed her to truly listen and respond to her customers. Fast forward and Cunningham has been recognized by Entrepreneur magazine as one of the youngest millionaires in America.
How She Made It As an Entrepreneur
It started as a hobby for Cunningham and her mom. They’d play around with different ingredients until they found formulations they liked “through a lot of trial and error.” Slowly, they started transforming the pastime into a brand. Cunningham began selling her products at local farmers markets and vending events, and a few years later — when Cunningham was 12 years old — the family started an Etsy shop for Zandra Beauty.
“I am fortunate and grateful to have parents who support what I want to do, as long as it makes me happy,” says Cunningham. “I bet they were unsure at times, but they definitely stepped into it and made sure they gave me the best chance of doing what I love.”
At the time, Zandra Beauty was one of the first brands to offer plant-based, vegan and organic beauty products at an affordable price.
The 21-year-old has essentially grown up alongside her brand — but her goals have remained the same: "Our main focus is to push out amazing products that are safe for everyone and the earth, but also to make sure that we're building a relationship with our customers."
As she learns more and more about the industry, Cunningham continues to refine her formulas and inventory. "There are so many brands doing similar things, but there’s still so much room to grow," she says. "Your customers are out there, you just have to find something that’s going to set you apart."
Purpose Behind the Packaging
Full of inspiring affirmations and defined by a playful color scheme, the packaging is a big part of why Zandra Beauty has been so successful. "There's so much negativity toward women and girls in the world," says Cunningham. "We just need something that inspires us and keeps us healthy. From the label and packaging to ingredients, I want all aspects of a product to be amazing."
Cunningham also hopes her packaging helps educate customers. "There are a lot of products on the market that seem natural or vegan, but actually aren’t," she says. "I want my packaging to help girls navigate what each term means, and how to read and check ingredients."
What She's Learned As a Business Owner
Embrace what you don't know and research everything. "Some people will try to act like they know something, and make extra mistakes that could have been avoided."
You don't have to wait for anybody. "Opportunities will come along, but they shouldn’t disrupt your natural flow and hinder you from potentially making money."
Celebrate small wins, but wait until the ink is dried. "Be proud of small achievements along the way, but wait to celebrate until it’s a done deal."
Find your people. "A lot of people don’t have the support system I have, but it's the day and age of social media (Facebook is a big game changer). Find mentors and connect with other like-minded people who will push you to succeed."
What's Next for Zandra Beauty?
In the coming year, Cunningham hopes to break ground on a new facility, which will act as the brand's headquarters. You may also see her dabbling in more sophisticated skincare, like serums, and potentially tapping into the CBD market. "I feel like I haven't even touched the amount of success that I want to achieve in my life," Cunningham says of her future.
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