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How Rica Elysee Launched The On-Demand Beauty Booking Service We All Need In Our Lives

BOSS UP

Have you ever been in need of beauty services and didn't want to have to travel to a salon? Or, have you wished you could find a beauty professional that matched your specific needs and unique styling preferences? Well, Rica Elyseé has a solution for you.


Her company BeautyLynk, an on-location, web-based mobile beauty booking platform, allows customers to receive salon-quality hair and makeup services in their home, office, hotel, or wherever they may be.

What makes BeautyLynk unique is that it collects data points that make appointments more efficient for beauty professionals and customers. Have locs? Only use vegan beauty products? Need someone who specializes in colored natural hair? Pregnant and on bed-rest but need your makeup done? BeautyLynk has you covered.

Courtesy of BeautyLynk

When booking for the first time, customers can note things such as salon visit frequency, skin complexion, hair type, scalp sensitivity, product preference, and can even indicate if they have any special needs or care requests. Customers are able to have a personalized mobile styling experience and work with someone who is prepared to cater to their needs. "The beauty journey and the beauty appointment are all built on these details," explains Rica. Using this data, BeautyLynk creates the perfect stylist-customer match. "We try to give [enough data] to the beauty professionals that will allow them to be successful."

The inspiration behind BeautyLynk came from a family friend with a physical disability who was in need of beauty services. "Independence is huge," notes Rica. "How could I [create something] so that they never needed anybody's help and could [receive] services themselves?" Thinking about the problem at hand and how to create a scalable solution fueled Rica. "Beauty and technology have created an opportunity for me to look through this lens of what it means to create change in the simplest form," she says.

Courtesy of BeautyLynk

Rica realized that she could bring confidence and empowerment to individuals looking to book beauty professionals, and could also support and grow small beauty businesses as well. BeautyLynk professionals receive 80% of revenue from each booking and can control when and what they do as well as their working environments. When Rica launched BeautyLynk in 2015, she only had 25 beauty professionals. Now, the platform has over 16,000, which has all been fueled by organic growth. The site evolved from Rica manually matching stylists with clients and then booking services on the backend. Now, matching is driven by an algorithm and fully automated. Rica calls BeautyLynk, a "really big salon with no walls," a virtual community for beauty professionals and customers looking to find their perfect match.

Rica will tell you in a heartbeat that while there are other booking services out there, even some run by women of color, she's not like any of them.

"I've learned that you can't compare yourself. Execution is always different."

However, she uses competing services as an opportunity to learn important lessons about what to do, what not to do and how to remain humble. Rica understands what it means to be Black, and more importantly, a Black female founder. "The intersection I represent is a wonderful one." As she puts it, "I don't look like the traditional Black woman in business."

Whether it's because of her mohawk or her tattoos, which she proudly rocks at meetings, she's not afraid to stand up for who she is and use her voice to articulate her vision.

Second, she knows that beauty technology hasn't always been inclusive of the Black female experience or perspective. "I've been open to what it means to be a Black woman in tech building something around hair and beauty," says Rica. "From education to regulation, the beauty industry has never been designed for women of color. We have this opportunity to be something bigger and deeper and be the best friend for the woman of color looking for beauty." Though Rica feels lucky to have "wonderful investors," she's always aware that "if you don't come with a certain background, it's very difficult to navigate the highway of fundraising."

Courtesy of BeautyLynk

Learning how to navigate the world of funding is an ever-going, but necessary, process for her. "I live in Boston where a lot of individuals don't know how to talk to me properly as a Black woman. I have to realize that sometimes I'm going to be the only one at the table and what it means to invite someone to the table," reveals Rica. She even admits, "Sometimes tokenism hurts, [but] I understand why it has to happen. I'm still developing and understanding that intersection on a deeper level."

For anyone looking to start their own entrepreneurial venture, Rica has some key advice. There are more obvious points such as "learn the difference between advice and opinions" and "you never know who's watching or listening so be prepared at all times." But, learning to say no and being able to listen seem to be the two that have really had an impact on her business.

"Just because you can do it, doesn't mean you have to do it... I had to get comfortable with using the word no and being confident [the opportunity] would come back." She wants other entrepreneurs to steer clear of the need to say yes and be everything for everyone and everything.

"Opportunities will come back if you focus on the need to take care of yourself. Without you, there is no opportunity. "

Cultivating the skill-set of listening is directly tied to BeautyLynk's success. "Listening has given me the key to understanding why data is important for the beauty professionals. I've been able to listen to their stories, dreams, and missions and how I can be part of that." Listening to the voice and needs of your company's target audience is key. Without happy beauty professionals willing to work, Rica would have no BeautyLynk.

Courtesy of BeautyLynk

Interestingly, Rica's biggest business challenges are rather personal. "The biggest conflict for myself is staying aligned to the vision and what I'm doing this for...MY why... Sometimes I want to give up and I think about all the people who decided they wanted to join in on the journey with me and i can't give up." BeautyLynk is more than just a service or a place where beauty and technology come to play. It's leveling the playing field for both beauty professional and beauty connoisseurs.

Like many of us, the everyday struggle to fight doubt and issues with self-worth is real. "Being able to get beyond that and keeping myself in check about that has been a journey. I'm always aware of my self-worth."

"I have to be cognizant of not taking in all of this 'hustle porn' online. Sometimes when I'm hustling too hard, I'm hurting my body and limiting [myself.] I always remember that I'm worthy. In order to be successful, you need to take steps towards your worth."

Rica has a lot cooking for the future of BeautyLynk. The brand recently rolled out a product recommendation flow for customers looking for new items. Skincare services will be available by the end of 2019. Then next, global accessibility is at the top of the list. With so many women of color existing outside of the United States, Rica wants "BeautyLynk to be about being able to provide access to beauty regardless of one of one's gender, race, culture, or capability. That's the big North Star."

For now, Rica plans to launch the Everyone Beauty campaign in September, where BeautyLynk will give away beauty appointments to 16- to 18-year-old girls in developing countries such as Senegal and South Africa. Rica wants to provide confidence to girls early and help them "feel glamorous and not like [beauty] is inaccessible to them because of money or anything else."

Courtesy of BeautyLynk

As our conversation ends, I realize Rica's fierce drive and passion to push the boundaries of of mixing beauty with technology is almost like a premonition on her life revealed. I remember a detail from the beginning of our conversation where when asked about her name, Rica tells me her full name is actually Modjossorica - a homage to (and mixture of) her mother, aunt, and grandmother's names.

"My mother always told me that I was never born to be normal, because she never named be to be normal." says Rica. "[This] same type of attitude has helped me to build my business."

Being "normal" isn't the precursor for impact and innovation. Everything Rica does for and because of BeautyLynk is meant to challenge the status quo.

To learn more about BeautyLynk and how you can book your next hair or makeup service appointment, visit www.beautylynk.com.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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