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Ole Miss Grad Student Shares Her Story Behind Her Beauty Brand, ‘Esteem’

By Anna Belson and Raegan Cohn

Hotty Toddy Interns

Shey Taiwo, an Ole Miss Integrated Marketing Communications graduate student from Chicago, owns a beauty brand called “Esteem.”

She ultimately ended up at Ole Miss after she was recruited to be on the track and field team for hammer and weight.

She creates and sells lip gloss, body butter, body cream and more. Every Tuesday at the Oxford Community Market, Taiwo sells her products, but she also has an online website.

Taiwo said that the inspiration for Esteem struck when she lost her mom in 2020.

“It was a very hard time for me,” she said. “She always wanted me to be an entrepreneur, so that winter, I started Shea Butter Cosmetics.”

At first, her business was a “side hustle.” She started off selling strip lashes, glosses and lip balm. She would bring boxes to campus with her products, and her friends would help sell them. She would also bring her products to track meets.

As time went on, Taiwo incorporated body butter into her business. As a child, she struggled with eczema and sensitive skin, so her mom would use shea butter from Nigeria to melt it down and add oils.

“She would put it all over my hair and my face,” she said. “This gave me the idea to incorporate it into my business and create body butter.”

Taiwo would see girls make body butter on TikTok and Instagram, which helped her learn how to make it; her business was immediately a hit.

After graduation, Taiwo lost her father. During this tough time, she leaned on her friends.

Taiwo started to develop self-care practices, and that is when she had the idea to rebrand and change everything to “Esteem.”

“Esteem is a self-care-motivated beauty brand on a mission to help women with their self-esteem. It is all about encouraging women to build their self-care practices for their mental health,” Taiwo said.

She has had several events this past year, including two vision board workshops and a women’s empowerment event. She enjoys these events because they help to create new friendships with the community.

“The passion behind it is seeing how positive interaction with other women brightens your day and makes you feel empowered,” she said.

Taiwo’s body butter is made mostly from shea butter. Her original shea butter is made from beeswax, grapeseed oil, coconut oil, and sweet almond oil. Her body cream is made from shea butter as well, but it is emulsified and has a higher water content.

“You can throw it on at any time of the day; it is not greasy. I have a lot of fun with that one because I can add colors and fragrances,” Taiwo said.

The primary reason her brand stands out is because of the emphasis on self-care and self-love, Taiwo said. She emphasizes having something you can put on and not feeling scared that it is going to break you out; her body cream has less than 15 ingredients.

The first body butter that she launched with Esteem was called “Self Love.” It is infused with rose essential oil.

“The rose gets you in the mindset of love; it is like an aromatherapy thing,” she said. “I like to put stickers on that one that says, ‘You are worthy of love.’”

The biggest struggle while creating her business has been balancing her time between her business and being a grad student at Ole Miss.

“I am trying to teach women how to take care of themselves, and I am not doing it myself; it is hard,” she admitted.

The most rewarding part of her business is the connections that she has made and created along the way.

“The pillars of my brand are connection, authenticity, empowerment, and self-love. Connection is the biggest one because of the events and because of the emphasis on positive interaction that I have with my products at my events,” she said. “I love explaining to women my story and hearing theirs; that is the best part.”

Her favorite product in her brand is her “Self Love Butter.”

“That product is a direct product. It was born from my grief. It is near and dear to my heart. It is my baby,” she said. “That’s the start of me using body care and beauty to push that message that I want to push.”

Regarding the future, Taiwo plans to create a digital marketing team for her brand and host several events within the next year. She said that one of her main goals is to do something for Black History Month.

“My focus is on women of color, but of course, it is for all women,” she said.

Visit https://beautybyesteem.com/ to see her full line of products.

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