Demi Howell is an Alabama wife, mother, mentor, powerhouse and so much more. She holds many titles! In addition to her amazing journey as a cosmetic force, Demi is a Truth Leader that share transparency regarding her highs and lows as a businesswoman in order to serve other aspiring entrepreneurs with the less glamorous side of being an entrepreneur. We are proud to feature Demi's story as our Geaux Queen Issue No. 8 cover subject!
Demi, thank you so much for gracing our magazine cover! I admire your transparency and honesty regarding your history as an entrepreneur. Please share a bit about your journey in the cosmetics industry with our readers and what inspired you to start your own cosmetics line 13 years ago.
Shronda, thank you for having me. I started Demiere Cosmetics in 2009. At that time, few beauty brands carried various shades and tones of foundation. This was problematic when I was working on clients with beautiful darker skin. I wanted to be the voice for those women the world voided out. When I launched the line, we carried 20 foundation shades that catered to every woman. This included creme, liquid, powder foundations, eyeshadows, lip products, mascara, blush, eyeliner, skincare, etc. It was a proud moment for me. I felt like I had given women a voice in the world of beauty that had been silenced.
Entrepreneurship is often glamorized, but your story sheds light on the challenges. Could you elaborate on the emotional and mental strains you faced during the 13 years of running your cosmetics business?
The emotional and mental strains I faced were depression, high levels of anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. In entrepreneurship, I have seen the glamorization of a lifestyle but not the hardships of the process. I must tell my truth as an entrepreneur and my success but also lose myself to being on a hamster wheel. I missed important moments with my family. There were times when I had to smile when internally I was dying. I did not even recognize who I had become. I was an emotional wreck. It is not enough to have a solution-based business. You must have a "SHINY" lifestyle. And yes, I had the THINGS, but I never used it to advance my brand because it did not feel authentic. Authenticity in branding is something I stand firmly on. It became exhausting, and I went into a deep spiral of depression and confusion. I was losing myself.
Dissolving a business after so many years must have been tough. Can you talk about the factors that led to this decision and how you managed to navigate it?
I had been praying to the universe for relief. I could not function anymore, and the world's weight was on my shoulders. I lost my cosmetics line due to a trademark issue. This led to me dissolving my business. I was relieved, to be honest. Before that, I had an ah-ha moment. We were on a family trip to a waterpark. It was like an out-of-body experience. I could not calm my mind down from thinking about work. It felt like I was going crazy. I watched other mothers interact with their children, and I could not do it because my mind was racing. I could not be present and was overstimulated. I began to weep. That mom guilt hit me like a ton of bricks. That was the defining moment when I knew I had to start to minimize my life.
I had to shift my mind onto what mattered most to me. It was a very intense journey of self-evaluation. I compartmentalize every aspect of my life....and ask myself three questions:
1. What am I doing?
2. Why am I doing it?
3. Who am I doing it for?
I had to get WISER about my decisions. This is how I have managed to navigate through it. When I get off track, I ask myself those three questions, which always bring me back to the center.
Let's be honest: entrepreneurship is one of the most over-hyped, falsely glamorized lifestyles right now to date. What do you think are some of the biggest misconceptions about entrepreneurship? What are the pitfalls of the spread of this dishonesty to up-and-coming entrepreneurs?
The biggest misconception about entrepreneurship is that you can have a luxury leisure lifestyle and become a six-figure or higher earner overnight. While that can be true in some instances, the truth is that entrepreneurship is about creating a sustainable business that is solution-based. You are selling the brand, but the brand is your lifestyle. Your lifestyle should be authentic; this is an unpopular statement for many people because instead of selling their real lifestyle, they are promoting the results of what entrepreneurship can purchase: the SHINY things. As seasoned entrepreneurs who have endured trials and tribulations, we must speak truthfully to future entrepreneurs. If not, we are leading them down a road of false hopes, false dreams, and destruction. We must balance it out by sharing our losses as much as our wins. We must be human and relatable.
Many aspiring entrepreneurs fear failure. How did you personally cope with the challenges and setbacks that came your way during your entrepreneurial journey?
I cope with challenges and setbacks by understanding that they all happen to teach me something. For me to be teachable, I had to silence my EGO. I'm here to learn lessons and then teach other entrepreneurs from what I've learned to assist them in their journey. Lessons bring blessings. Lessons you learn from your blessings will drive your purpose. I am always a student.
Entrepreneurship can be isolating. Did you have a support system that helped you navigate the difficulties of your cosmetics business? How did they contribute to your resilience?
My husband was my support system that helped me navigate the difficulties in my cosmetics business. He was my second eye when it came to making decisions. You must have a person of reason in your corner. He also has a degree in marketing, so he was accommodating. The foundation of his degree helped the brand. We created a successful brand with commonsense skills, research, unorthodox marketing, marketing degree, creativity, and vision. He is my biggest supporter. He also will not stroke my ego when making a decision that is not in my best interest. He will always make me see a situation from a different angle and see what other options are available that can be positive.
Looking back, what valuable lessons have you learned from running your cosmetics line that you believe will shape your future endeavors?
I have learned from running a cosmetics line that only starts with a partial string. Start with 1-2 products that you can market. I wasted money launching a complete line. It is challenging to manage it all when you first start. Grow into your brand. Then, you can branch out and offer various products. I was too excited and then got overwhelmed. It leveled out, but I would have been more successful if I had launched a small.
Your experience sheds light on the importance of mental health in entrepreneurship. What strategies did you employ to prioritize your well-being while managing a demanding business?
The strategy I employed to prioritize my well-being while managing a demanding business is determining what priority is. Take on only what you can handle. Learn to say NO to some projects. If you have a team, hand them some of the work off. Take time off. I only went on a vacation in the 7th year I was in business. It is important to practice self-care. You must refuel yourself to perform your best. Do not compare yourself to other entrepreneurs. It is okay to be inspired but never compare. It you-vs-you. You are your competition.
Dissolving a business can feel like a huge setback. What advice would you give to others facing similar challenges or contemplating such a decision?
The advice I would give to others facing similar challenges or contemplating dissolving your business is that you succeeded. Failures are lessons as well. Trust your gut. It is where your answer lies. Understand that the decision is in your best interest. Do not worry about what the outsiders are going to think or say. They are not in your position. Also, know that a setback is always a setup if you are open to seeing it that way. You will be one of many people to dissolve your business. Some of the wealthiest people have been in your shoes. So do not be so hard on yourself. Also, identify why you had to dissolve your business. This data will assist you if you decide to start another venture.
Can you tell us more about your transition into a Pivot Practitioner? What is a pivot practitioner, and what inspired you to shift into this new role?
A Pivot Practitioner takes an in-depth look at someone's entrepreneurial life and research strategies to pivot into some form of peace. Also, creating different avenues or minimizing things that do not serve your life/business. I was inspired to shift to this role due to my entrepreneurial journey and experiences. This does not necessarily mean creating multiple streams of income. While that is an option, I want to create multiple streams of peace so they can have longevity in their entrepreneurial journey. I am doing what I wish someone would have done for me. But in hindsight, 20/20 will be your biggest teacher. Peace should be a priority in life. That does not mean you will not face adversity, but injecting peace will help.
Balancing entrepreneurship with motherhood can be particularly demanding. How did your role as a mother impact your entrepreneurial journey, and what strategies did you employ to manage the responsibilities of both aspects of your life?
Being an entrepreneur and mother is about a balancing act. I was blessed to be able to have a husband who stepped in where I lacked so that my role as a mother would not be diminished. My focus had to be on what is important and what needs your attention most. When you are super driven and focused, sometimes you cannot see what is right in front of you. It is a toxic behavior and is addictive. My responsibility at the time was to allow my daughters to see me in work mode. They saw me grinding, not giving up, and then watching me choose my peace to be more present. The one thing we cannot get back is time. So, we must choose wisely on what we give it to, especially for our children.
In addition to being a mother to two beautiful girls, you are also a wife to a supportive partner, Randy. How important is it for female entrepreneurs to have a supportive partner in their personal and professional journey?
It is essential to have a supportive partner. Support could also mean financial or emotional. I know that Randy has played an integral part in my success. He walked away from corporate America to join me on my journey. His expertise as an entrepreneur and love and understanding as a husband are unmatched. I must give him his flowers because I would not have made it without him. Also, as a former boss chick, it was vital for me to realize that I am not his boss; I am his wife. Knowing when to turn that CHARACTER off is very vital to marriage. It is also essential to keep EGO from showing up.... which can destroy your relationship. Randy was never intimidated by my drive, which made my success happen. It is about knowing your role and position in life and business. It is not a traditional lifestyle. It is what needs to be done to make the journey smoother. So, Randy G., I salute you. I love you so much! You are like the feeling you get when you go to the beach and see God's creation.
Your story resonates with many who have faced business-related struggles. How do you envision using your experiences to inspire and support others who aspire to become entrepreneurs?
I envision using my experiences to inspire and support aspiring entrepreneurs by being transparent about my story and letting them know that I had to choose to either pay for a product or pay my light bill by being human and showing vulnerability so they do not feel alone or defeated in times when they may feel like they are failing. I had to lead to the downs, dark times, and losses, then show them the success. It is a balance of not offering my Bentley, 6000 sq ft home, or designer clothes. That is the lifestyle that success can purchase. But you cannot buy peace of mind. We must stop selling false narratives. I know plenty of successful entrepreneurs, but their true stories must be shared with the next generation. If not, we are sending them down the rabbit hole.
Lastly, as you embark on new chapters, what are your aspirations and plans? How do you plan to channel your entrepreneurial spirit moving forward?
As I start my new chapter, my plans and aspirations is to launch my W.I.S.E.R method on Truth Youniversity educational platform. W- What/Why/What I- Intergration S- Strategy E- Extraction R-Resume This will assist in entrepreneurs taking a realistic view of how they are operating in business/life. The ultimate goal is to bring them a sense of self and a sense of peace. I lost my voice because I felt like a failure. I was lost and didn't fully understand that what I went thru propelled me into my purpose. Success can be maintained and you can live your best life without sacrificing yourself....entrepreneurs just don't know it because we didn't get that memo. We were force fed a dream workout understanding the nightmares that may come along with it. I love entrepreneurs!! I love entrepreneurship. I love abundance and wealth. But it's time to take a step back and create a new way of getting these without losing yourself along the way. (c)-- Shronda Armstrong