By Julia Oller The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Adiya Dixon Wiggins is the creator and owner of "Yubi Beauty", which features a makeup brush and sponge that slide onto the user's finger to apply foundation easily and evenly.
The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio
Every summer of her childhood, Adiya Dixon Wiggins watched her grandmother, a cosmetologist, transform women in northern New Jersey with a touch of blush and a swipe of eyeliner.
"Typically at the end of the week, they'd had a lot of stress and struggles and would come in, and by the time they left they not only looked better but felt better," Dixon Wiggins said. "She created this space where women would connect and share themselves."
Dixon Wiggins is hoping to do the same, albeit via e-commerce rather than a salon.
The Powell resident is the creator and owner of Yubi Beauty, which features a makeup brush and sponge that slide onto the user's finger to apply foundation easily and evenly.
Late last year, Yubi's "Buff and Blend" brush and sponge ($39 on www.loveyubi.com) earned a spot on Time magazine's list of the 50 best inventions of 2018, a feat Dixon Wiggins said made her do "a happy dance."
To be on the list with big names such as Samsung and Rubbermaid -- in addition to Celina native Tom Burden's Grypmat toolbox -- gave Dixon Wiggins a boost of confidence in what can be a daunting field.
"This is a victory for our brand," Dixon Wiggins, 40, said. "It's tremendously validating, but I also see it as a victory for Columbus and central Ohio. It's an acknowledgment you can do big things here."
While now a bona fide inventor, Dixon Wiggins entered entrepreneurship with little direct experience.
Raised in Long Island, New York, she graduated from Yale University with a degree in East Asian Studies, spending five years in Tokyo before returning to New York City for law school at Columbia. ("Yubi" is Japanese for finger.)
She practiced capital markets law in New York for five years until Wendy's offered her a job in Columbus as a corporate counsel in 2013.
Dixon Wiggins acknowledges pivoting from the legal field to beauty seems like a stretch, but she sees a common thread of connecting with others -- and identifying their inner needs -- running throughout her varied career.
A few years into her tenure at Wendy's, Dixon Wiggins said she felt she might have sacrificed too much of her own self-care routine to others. As a wife and mother of two young children, personal time was at a premium.
"The days I did make a little bit of time to put on some makeup and do my hair, I found those days were exponentially more productive," she said. "I felt like I had fortified myself so I had more love to give to meet the needs of others."
She didn't have time or energy to wake up an hour early to powder, pluck and primp. Dixon Wiggins particularly identified her makeup brushes as an annoyance. Large and unwieldy, their long handles took up too much space in the bathroom and were not conducive to minimalistic air travel.
Dixon Wiggins looked for a simpler tool at department stores, beauty stores, online retailers and beauty trade shows.
"I saw nothing that looked or felt like what I knew I wanted for myself or others," she said.
Her husband, attorney Erin Wiggins -- who invented the electrical outlet controller Switchflip in 2015 -- suggested she create her own solution.
Dixon Wiggins grabbed a glue gun, old brush heads and pieces of plastic and went through multiple mock-ups of her Yubi brush. Finally, she visited local product-design firm Applied Experience with a glued-together model in hand.
"I really thought walking in there with my frazzled, handmade prototype they would laugh me out of the place," she said. "This is a group that does robotics; they do auto mechanics. They do a lot of stuff that seems fairly incongruent with beauty."
Instead, said partner engineer Chris Brandon, Dixon Wiggins' idea immediately took hold.
"There's a lot of great technology ideas out there, but a lot of times what makes it successful is not only the idea, but the commitment to going through the product-development process, which a lot of times is challenging and sometimes treacherous," he said. "We really bought into Adiya herself because she had such a great story and vision of the path forward. She was definitely ready to go ahead."
The first Yubi brush officially launched in July 2018, with positive customer feedback pouring in almost immediately.
Jenn Neely, of St. Cloud, Minnesota, first heard about the brush from the Instagram account of Pickerington boutique Pebby Forevee.
"When it came and I started doing my makeup, I fell in love with it," Neely, 25, said. "It's easier to apply your foundation than with just a regular Walmart or Target foundation brush. You can get more bang for your buck."
Wiggins, 35, has served as his wife's "unofficial adviser" since Yubi's inception. He's watched her battle through disappointment and has rejoiced with her victories, but mostly he has cheered as she carried the brand on her shoulders.
"I'm most impressed with the grandiosity of her vision," he said. "She wants this to be an inclusive brand for women and for women to feel better about themselves. She's had that vision from the beginning and she's working every day, like a full-time job, to bring that vision to life."
In January, the Home Shopping Network featured the Yubi brush. Dixon Wiggins hopes to add lipsticks eventually, as well as new brush heads. Every new product she creates, though, will include simplicity as an essential factor.
"I think we've gotten so comfortable with women's beauty being unattainable," she said. "So much of it is elusive because a lot of the products are designed to make you chase something that's different rather than giving you the ability to be your best self starting from where you are."