Howard Dukes South Bend Tribune, Ind.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Sisters Naomi and Neriah Stephens have launched their own company called "NS Cosmetics." Their product line features a range of lip glosses, balms, oils, and scrubs.
Sisters Naomi and Neriah Stephens have dealt with the same emotions felt by most tweens and teens in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Naomi, 13 and Neriah, 11, have been deprived of activities they'd grown accustomed to, such as going to the mall, hanging out with friends, going to the movie theater or even visiting the park. So they looked for a way to combat uncertainty, isolation and boredom.
The sisters ultimately bonded over their shared love of cosmetics — which eventually turned into a joint business venture.
The sisters "love makeup and lip gloss and Chap Stick," Neriah said on a recent day from the family's Niles home. "You name it, we love it."
With so much time to experiment with balms and glosses, Neriah and Naomi noticed things about the products that they hadn't before.
"We realized the stuff we used on our lips tended to burn or make blisters from the alcohol that is in the ingredients, so we came up with this random idea to make our own," Neriah said.
And with that, the sisters took their first step in creating their own product line, called NS Cosmetics, featuring a range of lip glosses, balms, oils and scrubs. The girls researched ingredients online and watched YouTube videos.
Then they started ordering materials, with help from their parents, Martinez and Ashley Stephens. Martinez is a musician and fitness trainer, among other ventures. Ashley, who has a master's degree in business administration from Bethel University, originally thought the idea of her daughters creating makeup products was just youthful experimentation.
"When they came to me with the business venture, I was like, 'OK, this is fun. Something they could play around with,'" she said.
Still, mom made sure that her daughters understood the basics, such as how to make a business plan. But it didn't take long for Ashley and Martinez to realize their daughters had an entrepreneurial knack.
"They took the initiative to really research the product and tweak the product," Ashley said.
Her daughters experimented at home with multiple batches before deciding each item in the cosmetics line met their satisfaction. The girls test marketed the items, and the family planned for a wider product rollout after getting positive responses.
In September of last year, they set up a booth at the Apple Festival fairgrounds in Niles for their public debut.
"To be honest, me and my sister were very scared," Naomi said. "We didn't know what to expect, because it was our first time. But then people started to come and they started to ask us about the products and we started to tell them."
Some of the customers tried the products out on the spot and returned with family members. Ashley was impressed with how quickly Naomi and Neriah got into the swing of making their pitches to potential customers.
"Every person who walked past the booth, even if they were just looking, the girls turned a, 'what is this,' into a maybe and then into a sold product," she said. "They were very engaged with their audience. They knew their product information and they did their research."
Eventually, the girls set up a Facebook page and a website for NS Cosmetics. They also have a presence on platforms such as Instagram and Tik Tok. In addition, Naomi and Neriah supply products to other local businesses, such as Take Care, South Bend, which creates gift baskets featuring items from local shops and artisans.
Annie Johnson, the owner of Take Care, plans to include the watermelon lip balm made by NS Cosmetics in her Young Entrepreneurs Box. "I've tested several of their products myself and am very impressed with the quality, branding and their professionalism," she said.
Reviewers on Facebook also have raved about the girls' cosmetics. Misty Olson recently bought lip balm, lip oil and beard balm for herself, her kids and her husband at the Grand LV, which held a showcase for small local businesses. It turned out Olson's son, Lars, and Neriah had been classmates at Eastside Elementary School.
Olson purchased the watermelon lip balm for her daughter Nina, 8, and the rose lip oil for herself.
"They had a great set-up and they really seemed to be very natural at it," Olson wrote on Facebook.
The girls plan to remain busy, taking NS Cosmetics products to bazaars, festivals and pop-up shops around the area. And the sisters have some big plans. Their goal is to see NS Cosmetics on the shelves of some of their favorite stores, including Ulta and Target.
The sisters say their dreams and work ethic are inspired by their parents.
"My dad has always been his own boss and my mom has a business degree, and they're always telling us that we can always do our own thing and start our own business," Neriah said. "That is what our parents told us: Be a leader and not a follower." ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.