Few can say they successfully started a business fresh out of college, but then again, few are as resourceful as Iyana Edouard.
With a mere $60, Edouard launched Kush and Cute, a handmade hemp skincare and canna-lifestyle accessory line inspired by women of color. Kush and Cute is all about taking a natural approach to beauty and encouraging customers to embrace self-care.
Beyond being a savvy businesswoman, Edouard is an outspoken advocate for women of color in the CBD/hemp oil industry. Despite the legalization of CBD/hemp oil and the subsequent birth of a booming billion-dollar industry, African Americans at large have yet to profit. In fact, in 2019 the Kush Queen Cannabis blog reported that a mere five percent of all legal cannabis companies are, in fact, black owned.
Edouard says the key to involving more people of color in the CBD/hemp oil industry is to make them feel welcome, as she does with her brand. Kush and Cute caters to the needs of women of color by using models of all shades and offering versatile products that can easily be integrated into existing beauty routines. Edouard says she hopes Kush and Cute will empower women of all ages to utilize hemp-derived products in their skincare routines.
BY SIMONE TEAGUE
First off, how are you dealing with COVID-19, both personally and professionally? Where are you riding this out and have you been staying safe? What challenges has the pandemic created for Kush and Cute?
A lot of changes happened very quickly because of COVID both personally and professionally. It’s been a challenge and I already had high anxiety so “the ’rona” just intensified it. But, overall, I’m doing the best that I can every day and being kind to myself on the days that I can’t. Cannabis really helps with that, and it’s a big part of my mental health and self-care practices. During this time, I think people are finally understanding how many adults use cannabis to stay physically and mentally well and not to just get high.
I’m based in Seattle and luckily Seattle is doing really well at implementing social distancing and taking action in our community to keep people safe and aware which I’m very grateful for.
What has Kush and Cute been up to during these challenging times?
I’ve been working on Kush and Cute becoming a registered LLC for years and for it to finally happen now is untimely, of course. But, on the other hand, being stuck at home, I’ve had more time to commit to the brand. I lost my main source of income because of COVID-19 and was kind of just saving my money from that position to continue to grow Kush and Cute and eventually leave, so when all this hit is when I just decided to bet on myself and bet on my business right now. It’s a crazy time to be a small business owner but this was the plan the whole time no matter what was happening so I’m just going with the tide of change instead of fighting it. I trust the universe knows what it’s doing.
You entered the hemp industry in 2016, and after noticing the lack of women, specifically black women, you were inspired to create Kush and Cute. Talk to me about that.
I created Kush and Cute in 2016 when I was living in Orange County, CA. I lived there when I was younger. I had family there, so it was where I decided to start my career in marketing and writing after I graduated with a degree in journalism from The University of North Texas the same year. Since that didn’t work out, I started doing freelance marketing and one of my first jobs was for a small cannabis company, and online head shop run by two young men. I enjoyed that job, I didn’t have a bad experience there, but I noticed the people I was working for just didn’t understand female cannabis consumers and what we liked. I also noticed when I went to cannabis events, I was usually one of few women there and very few black women. Back then, California’s cannabis industry was strictly for medical use only and the market was still growing, I saw skincare products but nothing all natural or branded for women specifically.
I didn’t get paid a lot from this marketing job so when I needed money to fix my car, I took $60 and bought a bunch of supplies to make a cannabis inspired coffee body scrub and started selling them on Etsy and that’s where Kush and Cute began. I had been making DIY skincare for myself for years because of my own super sensitive skin so combining cannabis and skincare just made sense to me. I just continued creating product ideas, connecting with women in the community, and growing it from there. I was surprised and am still surprised how much my company has grown and how much women have liked the products. It’s all amazing.
I love that most of your models on both the Kush and Cute website and Instagram are women of color, and that they vary in skin tone and hair texture. As a brand owner you’ve chosen to showcase many versions of beautiful. How does it feel knowing you have the power to make women of color feel included in a space that was difficult for you to get into?
It feels great to be able to show black women that they are represented here, make black women feel like we have a safe space in this industry, and just feel seen. I never ever saw black women smoking weed on TV or in movies, but I knew people in my life that did, it is a communal and therapeutic part of our culture and communities. We use it at the same rates as other races, but, of course, arrested at disproportionately higher rates. I understand the long history of cannabis and people of color and why we aren’t represented in this space as often, because once cannabis was associated with blackness it was “bad;” once cannabis was associated with profits it was great. Then laws were put in place to ensure that the same POC who were arrested for cannabis couldn’t be included in the industry. In many states, right now, you cannot get a cannabis-related business license if you have any sort of criminal record. So that’s why I’m here and show POC and WOC all throughout Kush and Cute’s marketing and branding cause we’re here and we’re not going anyplace, and we need people to visually and physically see that.
There are a lot of hemp-derived products on the market right now. How does the quality of Kush and Cute’s skincare and hair products differ from competitors?
I think Kush and Cute is different because it really is all handmade and inspired by recipes and tricks generations of women in my family have used for their skin. My mom and grandma look so young and are often mistaken for my sister or aunt because they look so good and that’s because they take care of themselves inside and out and use plants as medicine as often as they can—that’s how we grew up. If someone had a cut we’d go in my grandma’s backyard and cut some aloe; if someone had a cough, we’d make garlic and herb soup. So, all Kush and Cute products I create keep that in mind. I use the generational recipes and my own research and ingredients. I love to create these products that are meant to heal and help the skin from the inside out.
What’s your best seller; and why do you think customers can’t get enough?
For sure, my best-seller is the High Healthy Skin Beauty Oil, it’s a multi-use multi-purpose oil so I think that’s why people love it so much because it’s one oil that can be used five different ways and on literally any skin type. I’ve had customers buy it in multiples, while others tell me their boyfriends steal it, or they use it as an evening mask and wake up with great skin. Lots of customers have used it in ways I didn’t even think of. I’m really happy I made a product a lot of people can use.
Self-care is a cornerstone of the Kush and Cute brand. How does your own self-care journey fit into the Kush and Cute story? Why is it important to you to encourage women to prioritize self-care?
Self-care is such an important part of my life. I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression my whole life and now dealing with some chronic health issues so through self-care practices like journaling, therapy, meditation, and cannabis I’ve been able to break through some mental blocks and really help physical pains.
Cannabis is sometimes the only thing that works when I need to feel better. Any women that can and/or would like to combine cannabis and self-care I highly suggest it. Women and black women especially deal with so much and go through a lot of emotional and physical changes in our lives so taking care of ourselves is so incredibly valuable.
Women put people first all the time so putting themselves first really takes an effort. And, yes, I’ve found that smoking weed before, during, or after the whole process helps.
How often do you incorporate your own products into your beauty and self-care routines? If you had to pick a favorite product, which one would it be?
All the time! I use the High Healthy Skin Beauty Oily Daily about twice a day. I just restocked the Wake and Bake Coffee Body Scrub, so that’s back in my shower and I love how I smell after I use that. We also recently added lots of hemp wraps to the shop and I’m a hemp wrap queen.
Can you tell me about what the future holds for Kush and Cute? If you had to imagine where the brand will be in 2025, what does it look like?
In 2025, I’d really love to have a Kush and Cute mobile shop or small store full of our items as well as items from other female- and black-owned brands. If not that then I’d love to see Kush and Cute in retail stores whether they be big or small, that would be dope. As far as our branding goes, it’s going to continue to represent women of color and encourage the learning about and using plant medicine in self-care.
There’s so much amazing science and healing power in the cannabis plant as well as thousands of other plants and I want to bring women back to that. Cannabis is female, it was made for us.