Black Apothecary Office, or BAO, is a new incubator for black creators and collaborators in the beauty and wellness space founded by cultural producer and entrepreneur Jaé Joseph and veteran stylist and brand developer, Brianna Wise. The company works with start-ups to shape and develop them from concept to creation with their three-month educational program. BAO’s mission is to connect and provide brands with venture capital to grow and develop them for future retail alignment.
BAO’s program involves weekly sessions and insights panels, which are comprised of industry professionals. The startups are then able to demonstrate their products directly to the experts to garner feedback.
Brianna and Jaé met in Los Angeles 10 years ago at a fashion show. At the time, Brianna had just graduated from college and moved to L.A. to pursue a wardrobe-styling career. Her role was to curate outfits working directly under the stylist who hired her. “Unfortunately it was so unorganized I almost lost my head,” Brianna remembers. Jaé, who was brought on to bring talent and celebrities to an event to generate public relations, said to her, “you’re working your butt off but this is not the vibe for either of us. Come and work with me.” Jaé hired Brianna for her first production job, including Beverly Hills Fashion Festival, as his PR assistant and helped her learn how to curate a high-level event. He also hired her as the lead stylist for a few New York Fashion Week shows.
Over the past decade, Jaé has worked as a cultural producer and entrepreneur in the arts. “My practices create special projects that connect the traditional and experimental art worlds,” he said. This includes art advising, brand collaborations, strategic communications through social and cultural phenomenon, and events, he added. He also worked with private sector clients in entertainment, fashion, publishing, and real estate.
“From past generations, we see that it has been challenging to get our foot in the door and yet, who knows our products and culture better than we do?” Jaé said. The duo wanted to be able to have their businesses and brands in the same stores as all other brands— and they wanted to own them. “A step further, if you were to Google “beauty”, finding images and brands by us is one in 20. Why is this?” Jaé asked.
There are few spaces where black creators feel comfortable to express themselves, build a business that they have always dreamed of, develop a strategic plan, and execute, Jaé noted. “When you think about the beauty and wellness space within the black community it is almost non-existent,” he said. “This is unfortunate because there are so many intelligent smart black entrepreneurs who are ready, who need to have their voices heard or who simply just need a chance.” Jaé and Brianna want to shift this narrative by creating this space for black-owned brands in this sector through The Black Apothecary Office.
For each round during the accelerator program, BAO will mentor five brands. “We know that all brands are in different phases of their business and we want to make sure we take the time to cater to each brand’s specific needs,” Brianna said. During the three-month program, they will develop a plan within the sectors of branding and legal services, operations, financial literacy, sales and marketing, digital marketing and networking. At the completion of the program, BAO will provide funding for businesses to take next steps toward their launch. “We will also provide a marketplace to host the brands so as to allow them maximum exposure,” Brianna explains.
Brianna speaks about an ex-NFL player who approached her, wanting to develop his brand. Duke Ihenacho had amazing products but needed a strong foundation, she explained. “Not only did I assist with ideas for the designs but also created a website, line sheets, marketing campaigns leading up to the launch, curated the launch pre-sale and physical pop up but helped fully present it to the world catering to who he was and what the brand meant to him,” she said. BAO is also helping to launch a candle line called Yasaf, Lit that is already being carried in stores. “The content and branding was so amazing that we’ve been receiving so many inquiries,” Brianna says.
As for managing their burgeoning business in the wake of COVID, the duo makes it work. Jaé is New York-based, while Brianna is in L.A. and the pair FaceTimes multiple times per day. “We make sure to communicate, which has always been so important, so working together, no matter if we are on opposite coasts, is easy,” Brianna said. Being virtual is great because they can tag team projects and meetings. “We’ve been in a long -relationship for years so it hasn’t slowed us down at all,” Brianna said. “Although almost every other day I send him a gif with a message telling him I can’t wait to give him a bear hug,” she adds.
Jaé’s and Brianna’s goals for BAO are always evolving. They’re taking virtual meetings with potential mentees, prepping for a launch in November in L.A., building out their team, and seeking the right investors and board members to help them fund the foundation of their platform. “We want to make sure that the next black beauty, health, or tele-health businesses get their voices, their story, and their brand heard so that they too can inspire and build a legacy while helping people all over the world,” Brianna said.