So first question — how do we pronounce your company name?
It’s LAMIK (la-meek)! Actually, it’s an acronym that stands for “Love And Makeup In Kindness”.
Why is kindness/ethics/sustainability important to you?
To be honest, my whole identity is rooted in it. I think that when I think about kindness, I immediately think about my mother… for me, it’s rooted in her. My mom taught me kindness and showed me kindness in so many ways. And sustainability being a part of my community, understanding my heritage and my ancestors, ethics and the way you treat people — all of that is important to me. It’s just rooted in my identity.
How do you feel your mom inspired your products and your brand?
She wanted it to come to life. I had a makeup shop for 14 years before I launched LAMIK Beauty by itself. My mom was my first investor and gave me $500 to open up that store, and I had saved up $9,500 — that’s how I opened it up. But if my mom wouldn’t have believed in me and gave me that last $500 I needed to pay to make it happen, but also just encouraged me to do it (as well as my sisters), I probably wouldn’t have had enough support to do it. Because I was already doing it. I launched my own makeup shop at 21, so it wasn’t like I was super experienced or anything like that. But I just believed that I had a solution, and a way of celebrating women that was not happening out in the world. So, that’s what I decided to do with that makeup shop, and my mom made that happen for me.
Did the concept of your beauty line change over time?
Yeah! Originally, LAMIK was Kim spelled backwards and the LA from my middle name, Lakeisha. But as I evolved as a business owner and evolved as a woman, I realized I was in the business because it was more of a calling. So LAMIK — when someone asked me what it stood for, I actually could not say “Kim spelled backwards”, I actually said “love and makeup in kindness”. So that’s what came forth, and that’s really what it means, because love and kindness is your true makeup because beauty is revealed and not applied.
Was it always clean beauty?
It always was conscious, clean beauty. I always talked about no parabens and no talc, but I was a small business owner talking about this. It wasn’t like I was a big conglomerate that was able to do a whole bunch of ads and just make my voice really loud. But the people in my community know, they’ll tell you that I was talking about these things. So I’m just really grateful that we’ve been resilient and been able to withstand to be here now, where clean beauty is more of a table-talk situation.
Why is that important to you? Because so many brands are like “oh it’s just beauty and we’re just helping women feel more beautiful”, but you go way beyond that.
Because 75% of beauty products marketed to women who look like me are toxic. You know, there’s a new study that Notre Dame just did, talking about the toxic ingredients inside of makeup, and that’s something that I’ve been researching for so long. My mom passed away from metastatic breast cancer, and so if there’s anything that we can do for makeup or beauty products that better choices for all of our bodies, then that’s what I want to do. I also don’t want to serve women that look like myself — who already are not celebrated enough in the beauty industry — I definitely do not want to be selling them crap on top of that. So, in order for me to get into the beauty business, I have to be making it better. If not, there’s no reason. The beauty industry needs a makeover, and that’s what we’re here to do. We manufacture most of our products right here in Houston, Texas. For a lot of folks, that’s just way too expensive. But the fact that we take on whatever that means to make it happen, is something that I really care about. The efficacy behind it — the fact that we can go to the lab and see people making our products, working on them, doing their research — all of that really matters. It matters because I care about us living, and I care about us thriving. That’s why.
What is one major life lesson that you have learned in life or business?
I learn a lot of lessons all the time. I’m always learning. I think one lesson that I’m learning as I grow and develop in business — one thing that’s really helped me — is understanding that everybody drops the ball. You know, we’re all juggling and doing different things and everybody drops the ball. So, a lot of times as a small business owner, or a tech startup founder, or as a woman, or all these different things, that means the more people underestimate you. What happens is that you put all this pressure on yourself to get everything right, and to be perfect, and all that kind of stuff. And when you drop the ball, you think you’re the only one. But from my research, and my networking, and talking to people, and understanding other people’s businesses, a lot of people drop the ball. People that get paid, people that folks hire, the boss.. they drop the ball. For me, just realizing that everything is going to work out, I’m doing the best I can, the people around me are doing the best they can — sort of keeping that in mind — keeps me able to move forward and not get paralyzed by failure. Because everybody drops the ball and nobody gets everything right no matter how hard they try. There are innate mistakes that will happen, but you gotta believe all things work together for good and everything will work out. Then, you come to find out, you’re talking to somebody and they’re like “oh, the same thing happened to me. I did the same thing” and you’re over there losing sleep, you got sick, you got stress, all this stuff that happened. They’re like “oh yeah, that always happens”, and you’re like “oh…” because you think you gotta do everything right, everything perfect, not knowing. So that has really freed me up a lot to continue to move forward and not be paralyzed by failure.
What do you do in moments when you believe that you’ve failed or not doing enough? How do you remind yourself of that?
I just take a deep breath and say “yeah, yeah you did. This is going to be a really good story one day that somebody else is going to need“, right? That’s the thing, when you think about life, and we’re talking about ethics and all of that, BuyChoice, by the choices that you make, buy that way, shop that way. When you think about that, even doctors, which we don’t ever want them to make mistakes, they make mistakes. And sometimes at the cost of someone’s health. Do they stop? Do they immediately stop? Sometimes, they get it right and they do well. We want them to do well more than they do wrong. We have to take a deep breath. For me, I just take a deep breath and say “man, this is going to be a really good story” and then I say a prayer because I pray that all things do work together for good. That’s what I sort of go on the fact that bad and good can work together for good. That’s what I kinda hold onto.
How does your life experience, your life story — with all the trauma in the black community, it sounds like you take that trauma and let it fuel you, you let it really help you understand other people and be so compassionate for yourself, for others — how has your life story affected your vision?
It’s made me keep going. It’s been my fuel every time. And the good part about having conversations like this reminds me, or it reveals, I’ve discovered something else in my life that helped to get me to the next place. I was kicked out of high school at sixteen, and I tell that story a lot because — again, back to perfection — sometimes we’re all trying to be perfect, make straight A’s, do this, do that, do everything right, and sometimes it still doesn’t go right. That’s kinda always my story. I got kicked out of high school because it wasn’t like I was this bad all-around student, I actually had a lot of good things going for me too, but some things happened. But back to the really good story later that somebody’s gonna need — that’s kinda what happened. I was kicked out of high school at sixteen, ended up having to go to alternative school, all of that, told I was not gonna be able to go to college because of my record and because of what happened. And I remember the first year I opened up my store, I was twenty-two at the time, and I get a letter in the mail asking me to come speak at a career day. This is me, brand new, opening up my store and I’m like “oh, they want me to come speak at a career day. I know what that’s like, okay”, concerned about my career. “Students at our school are interested in what you do”. I didn’t really look at the address until it was time to go, and I literally pulled up to the alternative school that I had to go to. And I don’t think they even knew. Because my store was in the mall, so it was like kids in the mall had seen this store and they probably said, you know, “I want a makeup shop one day”, or “I wanna do makeup one day”. So I pull up to there, and I told them I thought it was a prank or something, I’m like “you guys who invited me over here, do you know I went to this school?” and the teacher was like “no way! Are you serious?” and she went and told the principal and then they took me all around the school. Because the school is set up like a jail, so you have different pods and everything. You can’t just go walking around the school — it’s set up like a detention center. And so I went around the school talking to all the classes because, again — so back to when I say “this is gonna be a really good story” I really mean that it’s gonna be a really good story that somebody else can use — so did I wanna get kicked out of high school? Is that the way? Do I want my daughter to get kicked out of high school? No I don’t, right? But whatever her path is, I know that it will come out beautifully in the end. That’s what happened to me, and that really fuels my compassion, my love for people, and seeing the best in people. Because I’ve been in places where people often see the worst, and sometimes then see the best that I had inside of me. Being able to be a diamond in the rough, I really felt like I was inside of there and you didn’t even know. I remember writing down in my diary and stuff “I’m still somebody, even though I’m sorta being fed that I’m not”. And so those are the kinda things that yes, fuel who I am, and it comes out in the company a lot. Really living in a space, a capacity for compassion, and kindness, and all of that.
Yeah, it’s just that transition is so mind-boggling. Sixteen to twenty-one, not a long time passed, so how did that all happen?
Yeah, I would say my mom definitely never gave up on me and never talked to me bad. My dad as well. My dad never gave up on me, and my dad expected a lot from me. Like, my parents didn’t disown me or something when that happened. They really actually tried to fight for me. So yeah, my family, my support system — incredible.
What is something that people should know about you?
That I’m really not — it might sound funny, and even though I care about numbers and stuff like that — really the soul of who I am, I’m really not in it for the money per se. I’m really in this because, like I said, it’s a calling, it’s really something that I should be doing. I was a pianist growing up, I was a trained classical pianist. As a classically trained pianist, I learned to read music, but my cousin, he played the piano and the organ and he played by ear. So that means that he literally could hear something and then play it, right? Well I bring that up in regards to my calling to the beauty industry. I was not like some trained “oh I wanna do makeup one day”, that’s what I’m gonna do, that’s gonna be my career. It’s literally like I’m doing this by ear. I literally continue to evolve, continue to create, know how to do makeup based on this supernatural sort of thing, versus something I was trained to do, or even tried to do. I just always sort of keep that in mind, and I think it’s something that people think is funny to know about me because you would think that I grew up — especially starting in this business so early — grew up wanting to do it, but that wasn’t really the case.
And is it important for you that people know about it because it’s like not for the money, it’s really from the heart?
Yeah, yeah. That’s the reason why I move the way I move, and I do the things I do. And the good part about it is most of the time I don’t even have to say it because it’s kinda carried out in my actions.
What is your vision for your brand? In five or ten years, what is like the thing you most want for your brand?
Oh man. We are an innovating brand, and what I see for the future is a lot of the seeds that we’re sowing right now. We’re doing a lot of live stream shopping, a lot of social commerce shopping, and I see such a huge future in that. I know in Asia, there’s a lot of it happening and it hasn’t quite hit the U.S. like that, but we’re already doing it, we’re involved in it, we’re a part of it. I really see us as a real pioneer in that space. So that’s something that you’ll see more from us. You know, we’re really a global brand. When I talk about women that look like me, that could be anyone who identifies with me, whether you identify with my eye shape, whether you identify with the framing of my face, or whatever it is, and complexion. But it’s the complexion — diversity, inclusivity of complexion goes across so many countries and so many cities, and so many states and lands, and that’s something that we’re gonna do. But utilizing technology, our brand, a part of what we’re doing is we’re making it easier for women to buy makeup online than it is in person. Buying makeup as a woman of my complexion was not fun in person for a long time. So we’re making a virtual world, a digital world, an amazing place to be able to buy makeup.
Why do you say it wasn’t fun?
Because what happens is, colors wouldn’t show up on your skin. So you would go to a counter, a woman would act like your color didn’t exist, or she would act like it was so hard to find it. That’s not fun.
The experience of being excluded. The experience of “I don’t exist”.
Yeah. And so with the digital space, we’re able to open that up. In about a month, we’ll be launching at the largest specialty beauty retailer in the country. So that’s a part of our footprint, that’s expanding of us holding true and celebrating all women, and doing it in a way where we are bringing back the kindness. That’s why I love what you stand for and the app, because we’re gonna do some great things together even, and I’m really excited about that. To be honest, five years ago, I couldn’t have told you that we would be right here where we are, what’s going on. So five years from now, I’m really excited about what that future holds. And even a decade from now, what that future holds. So I’m excited.
What is the revolution that’s gonna happen in the world thanks to your existence?
Because of my existence, the revolution that I see happening in the world is revolutionizing the way that you see women or girls that look like me or have my experience, and the way that you will understand it. What we’re doing is we’re changing up the whole image. The point of the beauty industry is for you to see someone at their best, and what we’re gonna be doing, what we’re revolutionizing is now when you see a woman that looks like me, or a girl like me, your image of her will change because I’ve been here before. That’s what I see happening.