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Building a Wellness Business that’s More than Skin Deep

Ayanna Denise Skin - Pyragraph
Ayanna D.N. Freeman, Founder of Ayanna Denise Skin, and her book The (Good) Skin Bible. Photos courtesy of Ayanna Freeman.

Today our Self-Employed Spotlight shines on Ayanna D.N. Freeman, founder of Ayanna Denise Skin

Pyragraph: Thanks so much for talking with us! Can you tell us about Ayanna Denise Skin and what kind of business you run?

Ayanna Freeman: I’ll begin with what most know of me. I own Ayanna Denise Skin, formerly Leela’s Body Cocktails. We provide holistic skin care services (including super-convenient virtual skin services) and sell all-natural, supporting skin products. Services and products are available in our Northeast Heights Skin Clinic in Albuquerque, and on AyannaDenise.com. 

Another part of our business is an excellent certification program, Ayanna Denise Skin Therapy, which has just become available. This program is offered both virtually and in-person. We have perfected “The Art of Great Skin” by focusing on nourishing the skin organ via services, supportive skin products, and education. That is the purpose of creating more Certified Skin Therapists. 

I may have been crying, but I was crying and creating some magical oil.

The business most people don’t know of is A.D. Nelson, LLC which focuses on manufacturing skin care products. We produce NUEVO MEXICO, AYANNA DENISE SKIN, and private labels.

Having seven years in business has guided us in understanding our focus in the world. Holistically treating the skin has a long-term, healthy effect on the entire body.

When did you start this business and what led you to launching it?

Here’s the juice. I had NO IDEA that I would own a skin care brand. I designed clothing for companies like Dillard’s; I taught clothing design in Asia. I had a child. I separated from my ex-husband. Talk about identity crisis.

But, four years prior to that watery moment in early 2013, I began studying holistic health, natural remedies, anatomy, diet, and genetics. I was scared, depressed, and hopeful. I asked my Creator for a true, meaningful purpose. I began utilizing (some of) the knowledge I gained over the years to improve the skin and hair of my daughter and myself. Creating oils from my resources was therapeutic. I may have been crying, but I was crying and creating some magical oil.

I gave this one oil, that was heaven in a jar, to any and everyone I was pulled to provide. My friend, Bohdana, was the catalyst for me selling what I created. So, I began with her. She was my first client. The light, multi-functional oil was named Happy Hour and is now HEAD-TO-TOE. It truly is everything! 

Ayanna Denise Skin - Pyragraph
The Butter Bar. Photo courtesy of Ayanna Freeman.

What are some issues in the body product market that you’d like to see improved (i.e. too much wasteful packaging, too many toxic chemicals, etc.), and how does your business address these issues?

TOO MUCH PLASTIC, for starters, is one of my issues with the industry of body product manufacturing and retail. But, all of what you called out is so unethical and common in this industry. Everything is so led by impulse. The thought process is void of positive intentions and carbon footprint reduction.

On the services side, skin professionals suffer the exact same disease: impulse. The poison gets passed into the hands of estheticians and dermatologists, who blindly use them on a person that is trusting them with a vital body organ (what organ isn’t vital?). I’m in constant reverse engineering mode to educate others on the skin organ, our body, and how to avoid the common annoyances that are mis-treated. If skin abuse continues, your last 35 years of living will be filled with heartache via your mirror.

I also take issue with the lack of diversity in skin health. In my efforts, all skin MUST feel seen and cared for. I put my face and body out there so that people feel connected and included. Other brands alienated people of color — specifically men and women of African descent — unless they saw how their bottom line was affected. My face and all shades of skin are represented on our website, social media and our services and formulas support all of it!

What led you to decide to change the branding?

In March of this year (2020), I received a cease and desist from an attorney in the US. A company had trademarked the name “Leela,” and I was unable to prove that I began using the name prior to them trademarking it. That was the push I needed to understand that the company was growing in an entirely different direction from the cash-and-carry, festival-and-kiosk sales origins. It was time to mourn and allow Leela to grow up. The work was there. The growth was consistent. The intention was greater than a name that limited my market reach.

Ayanna Denise has the authoritative voice needed in a time where consumers must began investigating what touches their skin. Our formulas are the same but our Facial in a Box kits, Virtual Skin Services, and Super Food Skin Supplements comfortably live in this new space.

Everything you see for my company, I own. That took personal growth.

How did you approach the process of rebranding, like choosing a new name, logo, etc.? Did you do most of it yourself or did you hire any sorts of branding consultants? What was the experience like?

I have a wonderful digital brand strategy team that I have been working with for two years now. The director has studied me and my work for so long, we naturally clicked on what the company image had to be moving forward. Once I choose the new name, she developed the logo, palette, script, packaging updates, and customer experience collateral. She’s quite brilliant.

Running a business is already stressful. Receiving a cease and desist was tough. The last thing an entrepreneur needs is to do a rebranding without good people. It doesn’t matter what your company size is; you must hire good people. They MUST understand your vision, direction, and intention. The experience with my team was loaded with communication and trust.

I needed to trust her and her team for the new website, social media updates, and all affiliated branding voices. I could not trust a contractor that didn’t understand me.

Ayanna Denise is my name. Leela is my daughter’s name. It was an emotional change. However, I wasn’t strong enough to use my own name for my own company until now. Everything you see for my company I own. That took personal growth.

What would your advice be for other small businesses thinking about upping their branding game?

Intuition is key. You will know when it’s time. A legal document won’t necessarily be needed. I knew it was it was time for about a year prior to the letter. Your business will change. Your purpose becomes more defined and clear. Allow it to happen and be receptive to really reorganizing based on purpose, not others’ expectations or paths.

Ayanna Denise Skin - Pyragraph
Mask Kit. Photo courtesy of Ayanna Freeman.
Check out Ayanna Denise Skin online at AyannaDenise.com.

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