This summer, the Dingman Center will be conducting interviews with the fifteen student startups who are participating in our Terp Startup summer accelerator at the College Park WeWork. Participating student entrepreneurs received a stipend up to $5,000 that would enable them to work exclusively on their startups over eight weeks in the summer.
Founder and CEO: Isha Kamara ’20, African American Studies major
DC: Tell us about your startup. What problem are you solving and for whom?
Kamara: Iced Out Cosmetics was created to make the groups most ostracized and made to seem less attractive by society feel beautiful and like they have a place in the beauty industry. As a first generation African woman who has been bullied most of her life for having dark skin, I decided to make it my purpose to create a brand for dark skinned people of color to prove to them that they are beautiful—that beauty is not just skin deep but also a mentality that everyone can achieve with confidence. The uniqueness of this brand is that my target demographic does not start and end with only black women. Many brands make the mistake of leaving out the LGBTQIA+, they are often overlooked by brands and have no real representation in the beauty industry. My brand will be a brand that celebrates dark skin beauty and the difference that adds to our beauty as more than an aesthetic.
DC: How did you first come up with your idea?
Kamara: Before Starting Iced Out Cosmetics I worked for so many small businesses and am a huge makeup enthusiast, so it just made sense to make a brand. Working for beauty brands and studying Public Relations at University of Maryland allowed me to see the lack of diversity in campaigns and in the headquarters for large beauty brands. I was going through a huge rough path in life around April to June 2018 and I was looking for something to give me hope. I knew that doing colorful makeup looks were something that helped me get up out of bed when I was feeling depressed, so I took a chance and decided to make a hobby and passion a committed career for myself.
DC: What are some major milestones you’ve achieved so far?
Kamara: In my first month alone I made about $1K in revenue. Getting into Startup Shell and Terp Startup are two huge milestones, both programs at UMD allowed me to connect with students who can help me grow and know that people outside of my friends and family believe in me. Around my second month I got my first international order from Canada. One thing I’m trying to work into my brand is a social aspect. In March I donated a lot of products to a fashion show for a 501c3, AZIZA/PE&CE, an award-winning progressive, social entrepreneurship mentoring and enrichment model using fashion, fitness, arts, music, mentoring, entertainment and education to address the development of social, cultural, emotional, life and critical thinking skills in youth ages 14-24, specifically young women and LGBTQIA+ youth. In April I started selling African beaded jewelry from Sierra Leone in partnership with my mom to build water wells back home. For Pride Month, I partnered up with a local 501c3 called Reach Foundation, run by my high school friend and recent Howard grad, Jerron Hawkins, to produce a book scholarship for Black LGBTQIA+ students in the DMV area. As my business grows I want to do bigger projects and help the same communities that my brand claims to advocate for.
DC: What drives you to keep going?
Kamara: What drives me to keep going is knowing how I have inspired others. I have had people reach out to me and speak about how I’ve grown since starting a business and how this growth has inspired them to start working on their mental health. Also knowing how my brand advocates for all groups of people forces me to keep going. It’s like if I were to stop, what would drive others to help those who are underrepresented and cast aside by the beauty industry? There’s so much underappreciated and undiscovered talent from minority makeup artists and enthusiasts alike, and my brand has to remain to be a platform for them. One of my ambassadors who is a Trans woman who also participates in drag competitions told me that had I had given them the hope to continue, and had I not reached out to them to become an ambassador they would have quit makeup. That is when I noticed that brands like Iced Out Cosmetics are needed and that what I do is deeper than me, so I can’t give up and I have to try harder.
DC: How do you feel about working in a cohort with fellow student entrepreneurs?
Kamara: I love working with a cohort of fellow student entrepreneurs. They help me stay grounded and understand that I am not going through the struggles and risk of entrepreneurship alone. Social media gives a lot of people anxiety and self-doubt, like when you see entrepreneurs in your market that made it and are no longer struggling like you are. My cohort reminds me that it’s okay to not have everything together because we all will someday. My cohort is very friendly and all are helpful. They all support each other and give good tips and advice. I don’t feel like I’m in a constant competition, I feel like I’m in a family full of young entrepreneurs. My group is so diverse so it makes me feel like I’m in the right place at the right time.
DC: What are you hoping to achieve during Terp Startup this summer?
Kamara: 1) Release my summer line of products, which include eyeshadow palettes, lip glosses, lipsticks, highlighters, and body shimmering highlighting oil. 2) Gain exposure to reach new customers and markets. 3) Better my pitch so I can apply for Pitch Competitions and start gaining investors. 4) Learn better marketing skills so that my brand can have a polished and sophisticated brand identity.