Licensed esthetician and certified cosmetics formulator, Tami Blake, is hoping to make her skin care brand, Free + True, a household name this year. She launched the brand in 2019 with an eight-piece line of high-performance cleansers, moisturizers, toners and treatments formulated with ethically-sourced botanicals locally grown in California. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Free + True has seen a 100 percent increase in sales. “More consumers are spending time online and I think people are just making more mindful choices, especially when it comes to self-care,” she said. Here, Tami speaks to Beauty News about her plans for the brand, how she has been impacted by the Black Lives Matter movement and advice for other entrepreneurs.

Beauty News: What was your inspiration for starting Free + True?
Tami Blake: I was inspired from my experience as a spa owner and esthetician. I launched my first business, Sweet & True Sugaring Co., after realizing a need for a non-toxic waxing alternatives. Then I opened a spa, True Sugaring + Skincare, focusing on hair removal and skin care using natural products. From there, the goal was always to have an edited line of skin care products that were clean and offered a simplified routine for busy women using universal indigents for all skin types. All of our products are created in the Bay Area in California, so I partnered with chemists, herbalists and aromatherapists to source botanicals, Sonoma-grown herbs and all the active ingredients.

BN: How have you raised brand awareness?
TB: We’re focused on building awareness every way we can through online ads, beauty boxes, PR and my current spa network. We are also involved with tradeshows, which unfortunately have been canceled this year, and as a result, we’ve pivoted more resources to digital.

BN: How have you been impacted by the Black Lives Matter Movement both personally and as a brand founder?
TB: I’m biracial. I’m half Black and half Japanese, and for a lot of women of color when things like this happen we’ve learned how to compartmentalize our emotions. But, now all of these conversations we’ve internalized or only discussed amongst ourselves are happening out in the open. It’s empowering that we are having this dialogue and we are now talking about the real painful issues we have in our society with inequality and racism.

While I recognize the criticality of structural and economic change, I am also a big supporter of creating safe spaces to dive deeper and do the inner transformative work to heal generational trauma and race conditioning. I have been making donations to organizations dedicated to supporting the mental health of Black and Brown communities in the inner city. We recently donated $5,500 to Inner City Bliss to support the work they are doing to offer culturally competent mental health support in the San Francisco Bay Area. I’m also looking at other avenues of support, such as how we can give kids from the inner cities access to mentors. It has energized my activism and inspired me to go beyond donating. I’ve been investing my time writing letters or participating in protests and city council meetings on a local level. It’s been healing.

BN: Where are Free + True products available?
TB: On our website, in Beauty Heroes and various spas. We’re beginning to look at expanding to retailers who appreciate what we have to offer and we’ve been excited by the recent interest from retailers within the past month.

BN: How are you funding the brand?
TB: We are self-funded. I have experience because my first line is going strong and I just reinvest everything back into my businesses.  I’m currently not looking for investors because I think we’re doing well on our own. I love doing this. It’s not just about selling; it’s about making an impact. I’m looking to expand my reach and to continue growing.

BN: What’s the most rewarding part of being an entrepreneur?
TB: We’ve grown to have a 3,000 square-foot facility, and while we’re creating these wonderful products, we’re also offering economic empowerment by creating jobs in the community and supporting local farmers and growers.

BN: What advice do you have for fellow entrepreneurs?
TB: Be prepared to work very hard. Take a look at your financial situation and don’t expect to pay yourself for many years because you need to make sure you have the capital to invest back into the business. I have mentors I call for advice, so I’d also suggest putting together a formal or informal advisory board. Finally, have a business plan, but be open to pivoting when something’s not working.