August 19, 2022

Lip Esteem (Season 4 Episode 32)

Tameka Jones founded Lip Esteem during the pandemic. After decades as a makeup artist, she used her downtime during the pandemic to rethink her path. The result? A line of her own, Lip Esteem, a Black woman-owned beauty start-up specializing in plant-based and gluten- and cruelty-free lip products.

Jones’s line consists of lipsticks, glosses, and liners,  Plus, she’ll sell an assortment of lip care products fit for combating harsh winters—an exfoliator, vitamin E stick, and moisturizing lip balm.  In addition to the products that Lip Esteem sells, Jones also offers makeup tutorials and one-on-one makeover sessions.

Lip Esteem Podcast Transcript

Stephanie Hansen 0:12
Hi, this is Stephanie Hansen. And you’re listening to the makers of Minnesota podcast where we talk to cool people doing cool things. And I wish you could see the video that I’m seeing right now because I’m with Tamika Jones, and she is the owner of a boutique called Lip esteem. And it is a brand that is located in the Selby neighborhood in St. Paul. And I just am crazy about this story. Because, you know, you think something like small like lipstick is like, Oh, it’s just lipstick. But honestly, I feel like if you don’t have your lipstick, you are not put together like you don’t have your day going, right. And it’s just such a small part of feeling polished and put together that can really transform the way you show up in a meeting, or how you feel about yourself. And I think lip esteem really captures all that. Welcome to the program.

Tameka Jones 1:07
Thank you so much for having me, Stephanie.

Stephanie Hansen 1:10
So were you a makeup artist originally or how to lip esteem come about.

Tameka Jones 1:15
I’ve been a makeup artist for the past 20 years. And so when I was furloughed, because of COVID the I was sitting at home, like so many people trying to figure out what the heck is going on? How long are we going to be sitting at home? And what are the repercussions for getting all of this money with COVID? A, like, it just seemed unbelievable. I had to I had to start thinking about creating a plan for myself a plan of escape, I’ll call it right.

Stephanie Hansen 1:46
So you loved being a makeup artist, but then you couldn’t. And so you had to think of what’s next.

Tameka Jones 1:53
Yes, and I’m really glad that I thought of, because there’s different things that I’ve done throughout my life besides makeup artistry. But I’m glad because I like to work with my hands. And I like to cook and mix and things like that. So it just seemed like the perfect thing to do. Not only was it COVID, but it was also the civil unrest that was going on in our world. And because I love all people, I just wanted us to come together and start loving on each other because we weren’t doing that. And so I felt like lip sync was the best way to get women involved in this movement. It’s not just cosmetics. It’s actually a movement of love, and peace and unity between all people.

Stephanie Hansen 2:39
And when you thought of lipstick like was that the first thing you thought of?

Tameka Jones 2:46
I think it is the thing about it is I hadn’t thought of it through fully. Because if I had thought of it as a makeup artist, there could have been anything I could have done eyeshadow, which probably would have made more sense at the time of COVID when we’re all wearing a mask. But no leave it to Jamaica to think about putting on lipstick behind the mask.

Stephanie Hansen 3:09
So yeah, exactly. So how did you become a makeup artist? And does someone go to school for that? Or how do you know that like that you’re good enough to do it for professional people.

Tameka Jones 3:22
So I come from generations of makeup wearers. So my grandma used, she left Minnesota when I was 10 moved to California, every summer I would go visit her and she had her vanity that I was able to sit out and sit at and just play. She never gave me any rules or anything like that. She had her tape recorder on the vanity and she had George Cola, Maybelline hot rollers and things like that. And so I could play all day. That’s where I discovered that I like to see myself looking different. And then eventually, I was going to high school and my friends were like in coronations and proms, and they needed a little extra something their family weren’t used to doing makeup, so I would do their makeup. And from there I went to St. Paul College and got an aesthetic certification.

Stephanie Hansen 4:14
Makeup has become I mean makeups always been a thing and certainly like in the movies or in the stage or the theater or performing arts. But I really feel like the Kardashians kind of brought makeup into a whole new level when Instagram sort of came on board. Only in that you know full makeup and how you can transform literally a face with makeup first became visual to me in that way other than through the performing arts were like regular everyday people were really, really transforming themselves with makeup. Does that ring true to you at all?

Tameka Jones 4:56
Not at all actually, because like I said, I I have I grew up with women who wore makeup I’ve always looked at people that were makeup because it was something that I was familiar with. So the CarNet so whatever sparked it for you, that definitely did not at all spark it from

Stephanie Hansen 5:15
for me, what did you always like? I guess maybe it’s the idea they always used and maybe this is just a trick that you know as a makeup artists that a regular person wouldn’t the whole shading situation,

Tameka Jones 5:26
shading, contouring and all that kind of stuff. Now, I would agree that it was highlighted and highlighter. Right. I would agree that the they probably got more focused on with doing that kind of makeup, the type of makeup that I do it for regular women who want to just emphasize the beauty that they already have in them. It does. The makeup technique that I use does not make them look like someone else. I’m not going to make you look like Kim Kardashian. I’m going to make you look like yourself. Just better, right? Yeah, your best skull. That is a particular type of makeup style. Yes. Even the drag style of makeup is a different style of makeup than I normally do. I would do things on women that are CEOs or teachers or people that are going to downloads and things like that. Yeah, and I think

Stephanie Hansen 6:24
like people, I think for that type of makeup, I wish people didn’t see it as such a luxury luxury. Because like if you’re going to a special event getting makeup or getting lashes like all of that is so fun.

Tameka Jones 6:38
It is it is so it makes you makeup makes you feel good from the inside out. I think so many people have had negative thoughts on what makeup is and what it does. But even for centuries, women were given makeup when their husbands went off to war in order to give, give make them feel powerful. And so it’s always been that it always has been something that is a luxury item. That is the price point is low enough that anybody per se can get it and feel better about themselves. Some people go on vacations, other people’s by other people buy lipstick.

Stephanie Hansen 7:20
Yeah, absolutely. And it’s such a they can kind of track recessionary spending. But lipstick always sort of hold steady because people will splurge on a tube of lipstick or continue to buy lipstick. I even bought lipstick during the pandemic. I didn’t No one saw it, but I knew I had it on it felt good to me.

Tameka Jones 7:41
Yeah. And that is the case. It’s I mean, studies show that lipstick is that one luxury item that people will always buy. Even if we’re in a recession, like you said,

Stephanie Hansen 7:52
is it hard to formulate lipstick? Like how did you learn how to do it?

Tameka Jones 7:57
You to Google? So like I said, I’ve always cooked right? I’ve always thought I was a chemist in ways. Those science and chemistry were always part of something that I love to do and was good at. And so I just knew I could just formulate a lipstick. I mean, really, what I should have done was probably gone straight to lip gloss because you don’t have it doesn’t have to be a certain form. Right. So when I was creating my lipsticks and putting them in the mold, though, every one of them was different when it came out of the mold. Yep. I knew that for being a makeup artist for 20 years, women love a consistent product. And women love a quality product. And when I was doing that, I was like I don’t think I’m gonna be able to give them consistency and quality. And that’s what meant meant the most to me. So I had to find a plan B.

Stephanie Hansen 8:58
And so now that you’ve got you’ve got lip liner, you’ve got lipstick, you’ve got lip gloss, will you be expanding into other things or will use keep staying with lip primarily.

Tameka Jones 9:11
So this is the debate in my head daily, right? So lipstick. If you think of companies like Burt’s Bees, they had Burt’s Bees for years before they sold and expanded to skincare and other things right? lipstick is the thing that has worked for me however, I’m a makeup artist. So when I’m doing make overs, and people say Oh, I love that product, where can I get it? I want to eventually say lip esteem, right? Lip esteem. However, there’s so much that goes into each product that I don’t think right now as a solopreneur. I am let me not say I’m not interested. I’m very interested it, there’s a lot of capital that you have to have in order to create these things. And right now, I’m just not in the position to do that. So I think I’ll extend the line of lipsticks right now. Right? Yeah. And then, um, you know, we’ll see where we go from there. My mind is full makeup line.

Stephanie Hansen 10:21
Yeah. And I can totally see you doing that, particularly with your skill set? Yes. How do you so makeup is something that people can find a lot of places. How do you stay distinctive? Or how do you market your brand new in particular? Stay with us. We’ll be right back.

Unknown Speaker 10:43
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Tameka Jones 11:20
What’s so interesting about that is I do a lot of social media. But other than that, it’s a lot of word of mouth. When it comes to lift the steam, even outside of the Twin Cities, it’s still a lot of word of mouth. That’s how we even grew to the place we are now. But also, I do get a lot of media attention. And I think probably because I’m born and raised in St. Paul. I’ve got a clean plant based gluten free cruelty free makeup line, people are very invested in changing from products that have a lot of attitudes to a clean product. And my mission is about love and bringing people together. And I think more people want to do that, too. So I think that’s why it’s it’s growing. But also, I was on an Emmy nominated television series called The Small Business Revolution. And I think that may have given me a little pep in my step and brought people’s attention to let the steam.

Stephanie Hansen 12:26
So Amanda Brinkman is a personal friend, and she’s been on the program as well. And she picked you in this season of Small Business Revolution. And she picked you even though your business was not as far along as some of the previous businesses, right, in that you were more of a startup? Yes. What do you think that experience? Was it what you thought it was going to be? Because I always laugh TV is so hard to make, and it takes so long.

Tameka Jones 12:58
Oh, did it take long? Yes, it did.

Stephanie Hansen 13:02
And like a five minute take, you know, you think Oh, it’ll be like 15 minutes? No way.

Tameka Jones 13:08
Well, filming was done there. Seven months. And my episode was 44 minutes. Yeah. And I’m not talking about every day, but someday there will be eight hour days of filming. I think though that experience was actually the best experience I could have had at the time in which it came deluxe and Deluxe, and the Small Business Revolution and Amanda decided to come to Minnesota to film their show. This is season six. They had never been in Minnesota, although Deluxe is a Minnesota company. They did that because of the civil unrest that happened with George Floyd. So they chose six Twin Cities, black owned businesses to be the main focus. Because I think it’s because they they knew what quality awesome businesses were in black businesses were in the Twin Cities, but from the outside looking in, all you saw was negativity. Right. And so I think it was a extremely smart decision for them to highlight amazing black businesses and just black people. And you’re right. I was only in business about five months before I got chosen for the show. And like I said, it was the best thing because I was traumatized at the time. Got COVID I’m not working but I’m getting double the pay. And then you know, again, the murder of George Floyd. And so every day, I’m like, on the verge of losing my mind. Right? And I don’t even say that lightly. I truly mean, I thought being secluded. away from family. I thought I was gonna lose my mind. So when they went through this process, I really didn’t Think I had what it took to be on the show. I didn’t have a brick and mortar. I was in my one bedroom apartment, in my kitchen mixing up stuff, you know, I didn’t have I didn’t live in an area of civil unrest, you know. And so some I would call it others just assert discerning spirit that kept telling me, I know that you don’t see that you have what it takes. But I want you to fill out the application anyways. And I’m filling out this application. I was like, This doesn’t make any sense. I don’t have this. I don’t have that. This little small still voice kept saying Keep going, keep going. Keep filling it out. And I’m like, what? And then I said, Well, if focus on now I’m talking to the boys, right? I’m cuckoo. I’m not. It’s just sometimes there’s a sweet voice that speaks to us. So I said, if I have to fill this application out, you better tell me what to say. And the sweet voice said, You tell them you don’t live in an area of civil unrest. But you’re from Rondo, and you eventually want to come back there. And you know what, a year later, I have a storefront in the Rondo neighborhood. Whatever spoke to me back then. It revealed itself in actuality right now,

Stephanie Hansen 16:11
almost like the power of intention, right? When you start saying it out loud. Yeah, things align.

Tameka Jones 16:18
And that’s why people say watch what you say. Yeah. Because life and death can be in the power of the tongue. And it’s better to speak life, even in uncertain times, than to hold on to the negatively negativity, speak to the negativity, it does nothing but bring negativity,

Stephanie Hansen 16:35
I really want to ask this question, and I probably shouldn’t, but I’m gonna. I’m very curious, since the murder of George Floyd, does it feel different to be a black person in the Twin Cities than before the murder of George Floyd? Or does it feel the same?

Tameka Jones 16:54
I would say if, for me, you feel very different,

Stephanie Hansen 16:58
in a way that you feel positive, more seen more aware of that. I mean, we’ve seen so much more racism. But maybe the racism was already there. And now you just know where it’s coming from. Or we’ve also seen a community that’s been very positive, I’ve seen a lot more I feel like entrepreneurs that are people of color. And also I’ve seen more investment in businesses with people of color. And I don’t know if that’s just anecdotal, or if that’s feeling real, from your perspective.

Tameka Jones 17:34
So it’s kind of a mixture of both. So I feel very, I feel sad that we had to get to the death of a man in order for people to act right and come together and realize that we are neighbors, and that we need, we’re better together than we are apart. That’s why I feel sad. However, because of the death of Dora George Floyd, a lot of people woke up. Right? They were like, You know what, we can’t pretend like this isn’t going on anymore, not just in the streets, but in the workplace. Right? In our families, we’re not going to pretend anymore. And so with that, then all of a sudden, there came all these people that wanted to come alongside each of us. And we started walking together. It wasn’t about color. And it was about common purpose. And so I’m excited about that. I’m excited that we we didn’t know who’s not for you, for sure now. And you know, who is for you, we still have a lot of work to do. You know, in the beauty business, zero 0.06% of capital goes to black women businesses, right. And so there’s a lot of ground that we need to make up. But I see that it’s going to happen, I see that the world, I feel the world will become just a beautiful, more beautiful place. I’m excited for the possibilities of what we can do. Once we figure out systematic racism and get that so much

Stephanie Hansen 19:12
of white privilege occurred in the business setting. Yeah. And you didn’t realize as a white person, I didn’t realize how much opportunity and how much advancement possibility and how much I had just because I was a white person. While I thought that I was really helping to advance my friends of color. I realized there was really a lot more I could do once I became aware of really what it was like to walk in their shoes on a daily basis that I’d never really considered before.

Tameka Jones 19:51
I think so many people try to do things on the surface level, right? But there’s so many more steps that happen you can actually set somebody up for failure. If you You don’t follow through, right? And so I’m noticing that in the business sector too, is that, like people, oh, we’re gonna help black businesses, we’re gonna help black businesses. Okay, so now you’ve thrown all this money at him or you, you opened up these spaces for them to be there. But you haven’t given them the tools to survive. So they end up failing anyways. So it’s not just about giving a handout, it’s also caring about the future of that black business, and helping to walk them through it all. And you asked me a question about the Small Business Revolution and how it affected me it like and I was trying to say was the best thing that could have happened to me at that turning because of my trauma, right. So now all of a sudden, I have 30 people coming into my home, that look like the people that I have been traumatized by for a long time, right. And I’m allowing them in my personal space. So my first day, I couldn’t sleep, I didn’t know how this was going to turn out. And then here comes Amanda and Mack, the producer, and Baron. And it was the most beautiful experience I had ever had in a work environment. And I just thank them so much for being authentic. That was the first thing. I didn’t feel like any of them were putting on any airs to be in my space. Right? I thought they were just, they were just, they just love people in general. And it didn’t matter what color I was. And I think that’s why that show works, because that’s who Amanda is. So Amanda brings alongside people that have that same walk and talk as she does. And that’s why I respect and love her the way that I do.

Stephanie Hansen 21:48
Because she’s a pretty incredible person. Once she shines the light, you know, you really feel the warmth of that light. And I’ve been with Amanda in her professional career for a long time. And she has been very generous with the light that she shares, and the light that she shines on people. And it is truly what makes her a unique person, but also a really savvy marketer that she sees that light is possible. And she

Tameka Jones 22:19
could package that up whatever she has, yeah, and put in a bottle and send it to the nearest grocer. I’m telling you, this world would be an amazing place. And I know there’s more people out there like Amanda, you know, I mean, it’s just, I need and I would love to, for them to come out, and then be able to share with their peers. The trouble? Yeah, because I was telling you the truth. My parents were diversity consultants. So since I’ve been little, I’ve been going into these fortune 500 companies, listening to people and talk diversity, and all that that means and how they feel about people of different colors and races. And I’m like, that’s true, right? Because people get they need someone, they have an experience. And then they say everybody else is just like them. That’s not true. Even when it comes to the media, and we see how much crime is going on and murder in Minneapolis and St. Paul and stuff like that. Guess what, I don’t know those people never met him don’t know who their mama is or their daddy. So don’t think that all of us are the same. And that’s what we really need to get a hold of is when people aren’t behaving like quality citizens. All of them need to go somewhere. I don’t know where they need to go. But they need to go somewhere.

Stephanie Hansen 23:48
And to be a quality citizen. You know, you’re in an area in Selby area there because I used to live right by you. It’s an area it’s a neighborhood. It’s full of people that are living and working and going out to eat and shopping and getting gas. And it is a neighborhood that has been there and existed for a long time and St. Paul and to have the reinvestment in that neighborhood. Feels really good. I wonder what it feels like for you to come home as it were.

Tameka Jones 24:16
There is no other feeling that I mean, I get goosebumps just now just thinking about the fact that I used to take the city bus up and down the street going to the local grocery store with my daughter because I didn’t have a car. And we could only get like four bags of groceries each time we went to the grocery store because we were on the bus and just like walking her down here to JJ Hill School and like just being reared in a neighborhood where the people in the community cared about me and if I didn’t have something, I could just reach out to a local neighbor and to come back as a woman, entrepreneur, business owner and give back I wanted to make sure that my boutique which is a small boutique, but it’s so pretty. Pretty. And it’s everything that I wanted for my community to have. When the older people come by here, I want them to be proud of me. Like, like I say, it’s not just about lipstick for me. It’s about just the whole person and, and just life in general and being kind and being available for all people. You know what people asked me who was lip esteem for, you know, and then I you because you’re supposed to in business, you’re supposed to have a target market, right? And so I say, Well, women aged, I don’t know women aged 20 to 54. Oh, that’s too broad. Okay, so somebody was reaching for me to say African American women. That’s not who my target market is. They are part of my target market, but it’s not my target market. So at the end of the day, lip esteem is for anyone who has lips, okay. Yep. Man, Roman.

Stephanie Hansen 26:03
Yeah, we’re gonna leave it there. I’m really just tickled to meet you. I going to come by I’m going to get ice cream next door. Uh huh. Two, three up, and then I’m gonna come in and I’m gonna buy some lipstick. I just really love your story and your formulations are really beautiful to you. I’ve really beautiful colors just in the actual applications that you have and the chemistry that you’ve done. I just I was on mine and the lip glosses look really delicious to

Tameka Jones 26:32
now I just must say that my formulations were for the lipstick. I’ve added other products since then. But the lipsticks are definitely my formulation.

Stephanie Hansen 26:42
All right. Well, I will come and see you soon to mica Jones lip esteem. Thanks for being a guest on the makers of Minnesota podcast. Thanks, Stephanie. Okay, we’ll talk to you soon. Bye.

Unknown Speaker 26:51

Transcribed by https://otter.ai