Sustainability Side Hustle | Q+A with Madam J

As a part of our Sustainability Side Hustle series, we are interviewing people passionate about our planet and who have explored their own skills and talents to share with their community. As our planet continues to suffer under human-caused climate change, pollution, and overall environmental degradation, we hope more people find pleasure and financial fortitude in a sustainability side hustle or small business.

Jessika is the CEO & founder of Madam J Beauty. A luxury, plant-powered beauty brand for sensitive skin. Madam J’s focus is on resolving three common skin concerns of Black women – hyperpigmentation, acne, and dryness – using clean and effective ingredients. Her goal is to provide healthier alternatives to most beauty products on the shelves with truthfully tested ingredients for adults.

How and why did you start the business?

I was suffering from severely dry and sensitive skin, and I couldn’t find products to help me that did not include harsh artificial fragrances or ingredients. I noticed while working in the beauty industry that non-toxic beauty products were very scarce at the time. Additionally, the majority of the cosmetics marketed toward Black women were detrimental to our health. I created Madam J Beauty to solve what other brands couldn’t – skincare powered by plants for sensitive skin.

What is your full-time job and how did you make room in your life for this side hustle?

I work full-time as an Accounting Supervisor for a mortgage company. A big key to my success is time management. My passion for Madam J Beauty drives me, and I’ll always make time for it. Our biggest goal is to help boost the confidence and wellness of women and men through clean beauty.

How did you fund Madam J Beauty?

Madam J Beauty is a self-funded business venture. All of the funding came from other full-time employment.

How do you have time and energy to do both your full-time job and side hustle?

I’m very purpose-driven, and I know I have multiple gifts over my life. I continue to remind myself of my “why.” Not only do I love Accounting, but I also love Beauty. It’s perfectly okay to enjoy multiple industries but never forget why I choose both of them.

We used to have two employees who assisted us with production and packaging. However, they both moved out of town, and we support everyone’s career goals. At this time, I do production, packaging, and shipping myself. My husband drops off packages for me at UPS. I also often hire someone to assist me with in-person markets.

What do terms like clean, plant-based, sustainability sourced, and no artificial ingredients mean and why is it important to you?

These characteristics mean everything to me. Since I worked in the beauty industry for five years assisting clients with makeup, skincare, and fragrance, I have studied the composition of beauty products by major brands. They were never developed with people like me in mind.

Not only does toxic beauty affect ourselves and our bodies, but it also affects our children and those in our households. Plant-based products give the power to the plants to provide safe and effective skincare. We have everything we need!

In your business, you have to deal with shipping and packaging. Why did you choose materials that are friendly to our planet? Is it a higher financial commitment for you?

Since college, I’ve been a huge advocate for the planet. It was essential to find packaging materials that were safer, recyclable or biodegradable, and free of plastic. While it took some time to find an effective packaging solution, I am grateful to Rupa for sharing her recommendations to take our sustainability efforts to the next level.

One of our values is definitely sustainability, and it’s been listed on our site from the start. We currently use cardboard shipping boxes, newspaper wrapping paper, paper shreds, and honeycomb packing paper wrap to pack and ship our products. While it is just a little more costly to purchase, it’s not too much of a burden.

When going against the grain in the beauty industry with plant-based vs artificial ingredients, how do you communicate the value and worth of the items you sell when it comes with possibly a higher price tag?

It’s all in our strategy and brand vision. We often take to our social media to emphasize the importance of plant-based beauty products. We educate our audience on understanding their value and how these ingredients are safer and worth the higher price. Customer surveys show us that our products are viewed as luxury products that are well worth their price tag.

What are your thoughts on the commentary that clean, sustainable, non-toxic, cruelty-free, plant-based, etc. products are only for those who have the budget to live a “sustainable” life?

I do understand that sometimes our pricing can be high for some families. I feel like we all should work towards a more sustainable lifestyle, even if that means taking baby steps.

The fact of the matter is we can’t afford to not live sustainably. Continuing to use toxic and artificial beauty products can cause cancer, reproductive issues, and much more. While it comes with a sacrifice, making the switch earlier to clean beauty will be worthwhile in the long run.

Most sustainable businesses aren’t seen as the default solution to a problem, they are seen as an added expense to live a “sustainable lifestyle”. Have you experienced this in your business? If so, how do you respond?

Luckily I haven’t experienced this with Madam J Beauty. Most customers emphasize that they love that we use clean ingredients that are made for sensitive skin. They are willing to pay extra not only because the products are better for their health but also produce the skin results they were hoping for.

Do you have any plans to turn Madam J into a full-time business or does a side hustle fit into your lifestyle?

In this current moment, keeping Madam J Beauty as a side hustle makes the most sense. I believe once we are able to secure business grants and other funding, my future outlook may change on turning it into a full-time business.

Where do you make, store, and ship all your products?

All products are created, stored, and shipped out of my home. We have a full office space that holds our storage shelves and materials. We drop packages off at UPS to ship them out to our customers.

Where do you sell your goods?

We sell online at madamjbeauty.com. We also sell in these retailers: Darling x Dashing Boutique, LoveLey’s Hair Salon, Marie’s Hair & Nail Supply, and Lexie & Lee.

Who or what has been your most impactful resource in the sustainability community to continue educating yourself and your customers?

I currently don’t have one specific source that I go to in the sustainability community. I actually use multiple sources to stay up to date. I’m always looking to educate myself more to continue to provide the best for our customers.

What are some difficulties you have run into?

The biggest challenge we anticipate is securing funding to expand the business in the future. We understand that in order to scale we need extra funding. We haven’t come across that yet but we hope to in the future!

What has fulfilled you the most on this journey?

My impact has filled me with so much joy, and my favorite part is educating people. In any setting, I’m able to speak on the dangers of major beauty brands and how Madam J Beauty is different. People are always so shocked to hear why we chose the ingredients and bottles we have. They are often not aware of the toxic ingredients that are in the beauty products they use daily.

They are also often unaware of the health issues these products can cause. Even though we don’t sell sunscreen, they are normally intrigued when I tell them sunscreen is essential for everyone regardless of skin tone – especially if you want to reduce dark marks.

What does a typical week look like for you?

I work Monday-Friday at my full-time job until around 5 pm. If there are orders to fill, I prepare them to ship after work and take them to UPS on my lunch break the next day. I normally complete restocks of Madam J Beauty on Saturdays if we’re running low.

Saturday is also a day to catch up on Madam J Beauty’s business tasks such as accounting, marketing, inventory checks, reordering supplies, etc. I try to keep Sunday as a rest day and only do work for either job if it’s completely necessary.

What are some ways you have marketed your business? Which have been successful, and which have not?

I’ve tried a lot of different methods to market Madam J Beauty. The most successful methods have been word of mouth, pop-up shops, email marketing, and now text marketing. The least successful marketing methods, surprisingly, have been Facebook and Instagram ads.

What do you think the future of clean beauty looks like? How do we get there?

I believe the clean beauty industry is only going to continue to grow. With continued education and marketing, I’m sure more people will make the switch. We have to continue adding more clean beauty alternatives over multiple industries. We need to continue emphasizing the importance of protecting our planet and the environment.

Where else can we find more information about you?

You can find us at madamjbeauty.com. We are also on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and Pinterest

Thank you Jessika for being a part of this series and giving us insight into your passion.

All photographs courtesy of  Madam J.

If you liked this interview, check out more of our Sustainability Side Hustle series.

About The Author

Rupa Singh

Rupa Singh is an ex-social entrepreneur and mom of three kids connecting them to their South Asian (Indian) roots + sustainability. Organizational wife to an altruistic architect.  Advocate for low waste + thoughtful consumption. Continually unlearning + learning. Her bullet journal + audiobooks + morning ritual feed her spirit.

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