Meet Skintrepreneur Kimberlee Keitt of Ode to Self Skincare

Keitt founded skincare line, Ode to Self, rooted in self-care using palmarosa oil to rejuvenate your skin and boost mental well-being everyday.

Courtesy, Ode to Self.

Getting up everyday and religiously indulging in a non-negotiable skincare routine is an act of self love we pride ourselves in. So the thought of skincare for self care seems just about right, especially when created by a woman for women as an ode to putting ourselves first. 

Originally from South Carolina, 26 year old entrepreneur, Kimberlee Keitt handmade her line of products for deeper skin tones first, targeting three main concerns for Black and Brown skin women: dryness, sensitivity, and hyperpigmentation. Built on a self care ethos, the small batch luxury brand wants you to rediscover yourself by glowing in your strength. With products like a clarifying facial oil, a refining toning essence, and a deep moisturizing body oil, glowing will be inevitable once you wrapped yourself in everything Ode to self. 

To learn more about the development process as a skintrepreneur and how to overcome first time business owner hurdles, we spoke to the multi hyphenated woman behind the brand.

On her experience in beauty:

I attended and graduated from the Aveda Institute’s Esthiology program in 2014. I enrolled myself after my first year of college and realizing that I didn’t want to be in college at the moment. At the time, I wanted to create art and I thought that was through makeup which is why I initially enrolled into program. But after learning about skincare, techniques, holistic practices and ayurveda, I decided I could create art with skincare and teach others how to truly care for themselves.

On launching Ode to Self:

When I first started out, I launched Ode to Self as an e-tailer. I would buy other brands that I found on Etsy and sell them on my site. Their products were exquisite and designed beautifully— the founders were making the products themselves. After graduating and moving to Nashville, I started to dream of having my own skincare line but was discouraged because of the price it took to start your own line in a lab. Even going private label was expensive, but it wasn’t an option for me as I saw the formulas and realized that almost everyone has private labeled skincare brands, especially bigger brands. I wanted to create something that I actually had a hand in (literally), but was put off if it was made in the “kitchen” and had terrible packaging. So to get back to the point, after seeing these women, these amazing makers, create their own stuff, I realized that it was possible that I could, too, create my own products and create the line that I always dreamed of. That’s when I pivoted Ode to Self from an e-tailer to a DTC brand in November of 2018.

On the process of creating her products:

Research. I did a lot of research because I had no idea where to start. I initially didn’t know how to write a formula, and went down this rabbit hole of how to dilute oils, what types of carrier oils there were, how much of a base to use, etc. I got into a forum and found some chemists, one in particular. After I did some digging on how to write a formula after weeks of research, I sent my proprietary formula over to him to review. He literally just told me to lower the amount of Vitamin E and that’s how we came up with the first iteration of our now customer favorite De Palma oil. I think from there, it was just sourcing the type of bottle I would want it in and searching dropper bottles that I could afford to purchase. As far as labeling, I hadn’t created a label before, but went off design inspirations from Pinterest and other brands. It was a process, but after learning a bit more, I was able to clean up the brand and really nail it down to how I wanted it to look.

It’s really not one clear process to be honest. It’s just a lot of figuring things out and doing your due diligence of research and understanding. There’s only but so much that one person can tell someone and it’s not exactly copy and paste because people’s processes are very different.

First time skintrepreneur hurdles:

The only big hurdle was believing in myself and having confidence that I could be here in this space. Other than that, just starting out is a hurdle on its own. If you don’t have a lot of upfront capital, it’s challenging to scale. But it's good to start where you are, as it doesn’t have to be this big bang! Starting small allows you to take your business where you want it to go and do a lot of trial and error. When you start to grow, like we have been, then that’s when you want to have processes and plans solidified a bit because then there’s a lot of eyes on you and your credibility is taken into account.

Big moments this year:

The unfortunate death of George Floyd took a major turn for our Black community as a whole. Despite the loaded feelings surrounding that event, it turned a spotlight to the Black community of entrepreneurs and makers to be included in conversations, spaces, and shelves more than before. The main reason behind BLM and the outcry for paying attention to us is because we’re fighting for equality still—even after the Civil Rights Act. We want to be held to the same standard and treated the same as our white counterparts. So with that, being afforded the same opportunities and visibility, we’ve been featured on Refinery29 which drove in a bulk of traffic and leading us to sell-out of all products in a matter of a week. Only to restock and continuously sell out. One of our biggest moments was being one of the many beautiful black-owned brands picked up by Nordstrom to be featured in their Pop-In@Nordstrom shop created by Olivia Kim.

 

On Ode to Self sold-out hero product:

The De Palma facial oil is a lifesaver. It leaves this nice velvety feeling on your skin, but it’s smooth and your skin looks really lush after using it. It has palmarosa in it which has hydrating properties—one of the only hydrating plant oils whereas oils in general aren’t hydrating, but more so moisturizing. De Palma allows you to have the best of both worlds.

On her favorite clean and sustainable active ingredient:

The Helichrysum extract that we use in our Wave Toning Essence. It is this beautiful, deep, brownish-red color and has a deep aroma that’s just impeccable. Every time I create a batch of WAVE, I just want to douse myself in it.

Kimberlee shares her everyday skin routine:

My all day routine is simple: wash my face, tone, and moisturize with De Palma.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

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