By Sidney Lee The Norman Transcript, Okla.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Nyakio Kamoche Grieco, founder of the "Nyakio" skin care line returned to her Oklahoma high school to share her journey from high school student to founder of a high profile skin care company. Her advice, "Learn about the markets that you want to enter, do your research, look at the competitive landscape and see where there might be a need."
New businesses don't sprout fully grown from ideas.
On Monday morning, Nyakio Kamoche Grieco, founder of the Nyakio skin care line and a Norman High School graduate, talked with Norman High students about how she nurtured her idea into a prestige skin care brand celebrating natural ingredients and traditional beauty methods.
"For me, it's sort of where I began," Kamoche Grieco said about NHS. "It is where I came into my own and figured out the ins and outs of adolescence.
"My time here at Norman High School really cultivated my entrepreneurial spirit and a lot of my confidence to come out into the world."
She said she wanted to come back to share that experience with current NHS students and share Norman with her daughter, who came along on the trip.
"I think that high school is an optimal time to deep-dive into who I am as a person, what I want to put out into the world and how I want the world to see me," Kamoche Grieco said. "My hope is that [the students] had a glimpse into that sort of self-evaluation."
She moved to Norman when she was in the second grade when her father helped launch the African studies program at the University of Oklahoma.
During her time at Norman High, Kamoche Grieco was part of the student council, serving as the vice president her junior year and the president her senior year.
She then went to OU and graduated with a degree in business before moving to Los Angeles.
When she first moved to Los Angeles, Kamoche Grieco found herself working in the entertainment industry, eventually representing actors along with some writers and directors.
"I loved working in Hollywood, but what I found after six or seven years was the part I loved the most was the fashion and beauty aspect," she said.
She also noticed a lack of prestige beauty products celebrating the African continent.
"There were a lot of beauty brands playing with ingredients from Africa, but as far as telling the story of Africa, which is more than everyone looking the same, more amazing animals, there are these amazing resources that come from there; I've felt very privileged that I got these recipes from my family," she said.
Growing up, she didn't have her grandparents living just down the street or even a few hours away, so every trip to Kenya to visit family was a special, cultivated experience for her and her Kenyan family members to connect.
One of the experiences that stuck with her was watching her grandmother, who she was named after, prepare an exfoliate from sugar cane rods, oils and ground coffee beans from her grandmother's farm.
"I would also come back here and spend all my time and my allowance buying nail polish-making kits and perfume-making kits, then trying to sell them to kids around the neighborhood, so think beauty mixed with entrepreneurship has gotten me to where I am today," Kamoche Grieco said. "My grandfather was a medicine man. Unfortunately, he passed away before I got to know him, but I always heard these stories about how he could go out in nature and find different things to treat skin. I always thought that was amazing."
Her mother also made sure she used oils throughout her life and taught Kamoche Grieco about the importance of using oils to rejuvenate skin and prevent aging.
At 26, she decided to quit her job and start researching about how to start a skin care company. Because of that market research, she decided to break into bath and body products.
"So I decided to start with that recipe that I learned from my grandmother, which was the Kenyan Coffee Scrub," Kamoche Grieco said.
She also revamped a 40-page business plan from her time as an OU student, spending hours in front of the computer.
Over the next 15 years, Kamoche Grieco found the best way to grow her beauty brand and her own knowledge and skill set in the beauty industry, including taking some time off from the business to work as a consultant helping other people launch their businesses.
Nyakio grew from a body and bath brand to wider skin care line with ethically sourced, natural ingredients. The line is currently housed at Sundial Brands and, in March, it was launched exclusively at Ulta Beauty and Ulta's online store.
Kamoche Grieco hosted a launch event the day before at the Ulta store in Norman.
At the end of her talk, Kamoche Grieco gave students some advice on starting their own businesses.
"Learn about the markets that you want to enter, do your research, look at the competitive landscape and see where there might be a need," Kamoche Grieco said.
Part of that is creating a business plan.
Ashley Frazier, Norman High DECA teacher, said she was first contacted about Kamoche Grieco's connection to Norman High by NHS Principal Scott Beck.
Frazier quickly started following Nyakio social media accounts and researching the product line.
"I knew this was a great opportunity for my kids to hear from a real entrepreneur who came from Norman High," Frazier said. "Luckily, she was willing and said she was excited to come."
Frazier said she hopes to bring in more business leaders and entrepreneurs to speak to her students and help empower her students to someday start their own businesses.