Too often, the best beauty stories go Untold, solely based on a person's skin colour, religion, gender expression, disability, or socioeconomic status. Here, we're passing the mic to some of the most ambitious and talented voices in the industry, so they can share, in their own words, the remarkable story of how they came to be — and how they're using beauty to change the world for the better. Up next: Tianna and Taja, two out of four cofounding sisters of Florida-based nail-polish brand IV Kulture, a brand on a mission to deliver high-quality products and support Black nail technicians in the industry.
Tianna: Back in 2014, all four of us [Tianna, Taja, Ty, and Toi] were home for Christmas, and we got talking about some of the things that we wanted to do together as sisters, and one of those things was start a business together. We all had a love of nails and nail polish, and that's where it began.
We don't really come from a family of entrepreneurs. Our parents were both working class, and we knew that a family business was something that we wanted to have as something that we could look back on and say that we did together; something that could potentially build generational wealth for us.
We knew that a family business was something that we wanted to have as something that we could look back on and say that we did together; something that could potentially build generational wealth for us.
Whatever we did when it came to producing products, we wanted something that was going to be good for our consumers; a product that was healthy and wasn't going to harm them. We really wanted to focus on that. We started doing our research into creating and selling vegan nail polish.
Taja: When we started to dive more into research, it was eye-opening. We started looking at the European blueprint when it came to cosmetics. There was a larger conversation about how these cosmetic products impacted people of colour, and we started noticing that in those products, people of colour or BIPOC people were exposed to more toxins at a higher level in their beauty products than any other race. It became a huge motivating factor for us to change that.
Tianna: From the moment we had that initial conversation, I don't think we released the product until two years later. It was a lot of research, and we had to figure out how to even start a business. It was a process, from conceptualising how we wanted the bottle to look to the thoughtful formula and even the shade names. The shade names are representative of our culture and growing up in Florida.
Taja: We put so much thought into the smallest, intricate parts of our business. Everything from the design of the bottle to the material of our bottle tops. We chose a square bottle so if it tips over, it won't roll and spill out. We chose soft, matte-touch tops because it's what we found different nail technicians wanted. We wanted to make a product that we could be proud of as part of the nail community.
Tianna: The overwhelming support from family and friends when we first launched the business was incredible. To see that people were just really so happy for us and proud that we had done this was amazing. Another highlight for me was probably last year when we were recognised by Kandi Burruss from The Real Housewives of Atlanta. To be recognised by someone of that stature, it feels like we're really making strides.
Taja: She really propelled our business even more, so we were so appreciative of that.
It's like a piece of a puzzle, and every sister plays their part.
Tianna: When it comes to other career highlights, I get to work with my sisters every day. I think it's something that keeps us connected. There's not a week that goes by that I don't talk to them — that's definitely a high for me.
Taja: Good. I'm so glad that's a high for you. [laughs] I completely agree. Working with my sisters as partners has been incredible. I mean, the down part is that you're working with family, so sometimes you forget to be professional. Other than that, we complete each other. We all share similar strengths, but we also outshine in different ways. It's like a piece of a puzzle, and every sister plays their part. Everybody is perfectly fit and matched that it helps make this fun for us.
Beyond that, a huge high for me is probably the customer testimonials. I get a kick out of someone who has taken out the time to show how our product has helped them. There have been people with an allergy to certain products, meaning they haven't used nail polish in years, and they've shared their testimonial that they've been able to use IV Kulture. When I hear those types of stories from people, it makes me feel as though what we're doing matters and is impacting people. It's very fulfilling.
In the US, Black nail technicians make up only two percent of all technicians who are certified or licensed. That number was just so disheartening to us, because as a population, we know that Black women in particular, or even people of colour, have a very, very high buying power — especially when it comes to beauty cosmetics and nails. The Black nail technicians we'd be in touch with would oftentimes operate out of their homes or just really not under big established names.
That got us asking the question of, "Why?" What we learned is that a lot of times, they struggle to get through nail-tech school or get the funding for it. Or even get the opportunity to work in the industry even after graduating, because they're not given the opportunity in many nail salons and shops. We knew there was a bigger conversation to be had and that we have a platform. We work with nail salons and felt like we have an obligation as women of colour to also elevate other women of colour within this industry — in this nail community.
The funding we make from the press-on nails will go back into that initiative to help another nail tech.
In 2020, we launched our 2% Black Nail Tech Initiative. There are three main goals that we have. Firstly, build a nail-tech directory across 50 states in the US so that people who are trying to access and support Black voices or women of colour know where to search for them and also help lend that level of support for them. Secondly, help 400 Black nail techs obtain their license and operate in the US. And finally, find apprenticeship opportunities and support the cost of nail insurance and cosmetology-school testing fees. We partnered with a lot of Black nail techs for our new press-on nails to give them a voice and a platform to display their work.
The funding we make from the press-on nails will go back into that initiative to help another nail tech. It's a trickle-down effect, and it's the gift that keeps on giving.