Nyakio Relevant

Nyakio Grieco: A story of empowerment and ancestral tradition

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Nyakio Grieco is an African-American businesswoman who has led more than one successful beauty company, advocating for clean beauty and POC businesses. 

In her career, Nyakio has made it her mission to enlighten communities about the traditional benefits and results of natural beauty products, reconnecting her customers to ancestral practices that connect the earth and skin. 

Nyakio’s knowledge of clean beauty comes mostly from her contact with her Kenyan heritage, which has shaped not only the products she sells but also how she manages her business. 

Nyakio’s fight for POC businesses

Being a black woman, Nyakio understands the challenges in starting a business and has pledged to help those in similar situations. With that in mind, in 2020, she co-founded Thirteen Lune, an inclusive e-commerce business devoted to helping POC entrepreneurs succeed in their paths.

Continuing her commitment to inclusive beauty, Nyakio created Relevant, a clean, science-led skincare brand that works for all skin tones and types. Working with top labs to ensure a diverse mix of chemists, Nyakio formulated each product with superfruits and actives in efficacious percentages to create products that truly perform. 

Most recently, the brand expanded into the cosmetics category with six color and complexion products. All products in the range are formulated with skincare benefits and serve and celebrate every skin tone while hyper-prioritizing consumers who have been underserved. 

Most recently, Nyakio Grieco was honored with the Instyle Magazine’s The Badass 50 2022 Award, the CEW 2023 Female Founder Award, and the Beauty Matter 2023 Future50 Award. 

Nyakio Grieco spoke at the 6th Worldwide Talks in February 2022, where she participated in the panel “Fashion is Black Women Entrepreneurs Ripping the Status Quo.”

Watch her whole panel on demand

In a special interview for the FASHINNOVATION team, Nyakio shared in-depth insights about her career and journey as a black woman entrepreneur. Let’s dive in.

How did you start your career as a beauty entrepreneur? 

I started my first brand based on beauty secrets shared with me by my Kenyan ancestors. My grandmother taught me my first beauty secret: using Kenyan coffee beans and sugar cane to make an exfoliator. Thus, the impetus for my first beauty brand, Nyakio Beauty, began.

How did your Kenyan background influence your company and the businesswoman you are today? Please share a little bit about your family history. 

I met my grandmother when I was eight years old when I went to Kenya. And then, even growing up in the States, my mom always practiced the same sort of rituals that she grew up with. Using things that come from the earth to treat your skin was always sort of part of my DNA.

“Using things that come from the earth to treat your skin was always sort of part of my DNA.”

Nyakio Grieco

What does it mean to say you’re an advocate for clean beauty? 

So much of what clean beauty truly is comes from communities of color and what we’ve used in our cultures for years. Plants, herbs, botanicals, and ingredients sourced from the land and our surroundings have been a foundation for our beauty rituals and remained clean. 

I am an advocate for simple, honest, and efficacious formulations that honor where I have come from and what I have learned along the way. My journey has always been rooted in clean beauty.

What challenges did you face as a black businesswoman? 

I have faced a lack of funding and access to capital, as many Black women do. This experience was a huge part of the reason behind Thirteen Lune: to create a community to help Black beauty founders realize success more quickly, with amplified support and on a bigger stage.

In 2020, you created an alliance to promote BIPOC-founded brands. What inspired this project? How are you promoting these brands? Did you receive a good response from the public? How did the project impact the promoted brands? 

We created Thirteen Lune to highlight brands and founders who have been neglected in terms of capital and retail partnerships for far too long. What started with 13 brands has grown to over 160, plus in-store in over 600 JCPenney locations nationwide and our own flagship store on Larchmont Blvd in Los Angeles. 

Thankfully, there has been a swell of support from people of color and our allies. Thirteen Lune fosters this allyship authentically and with a platform on which non-Black-owned brands can find us, speak with us, and come together in a way that shows true partnership and community. 

The lack of beauty products for darker skin tones has always been a big issue in the fashion industry. In the last few years, we have seen brands such as yours that are trying to change that reality. 

Big celebrity brands such as Fenty Beauty and Rare Beauty have also taken the time to address the problem. Do you think the reality has changed? Are beauty products now inclusive? Or do we still have a long way to go? 

There has been a major uptick in more inclusive beauty, and it has been amazing to watch so many brands and their founders soar to reach a wide audience. Products have certainly become more inclusive and thoughtful of a range of skin tones and types and hair types, but we also need to ensure that founders of color have equity in the beauty industry. 

We are massive and meaningful consumers of beauty and also contribute a great deal from innovation to inspiration. 

What advice would you give to other black women who want to become entrepreneurs? 

Stay the course and be patient when it comes to taking on investment. Take on smart money from partners that are invested in your brand, but most importantly, you and your vision. Find a mentor, and when you are in the position, be a mentor to someone else.

Since you and Patrick launched Thirteen Lune, how has your view of the fashion and beauty industry shifted?

More brands within fashion and beauty embrace inclusivity, and it has been amazing to see and be a part of it. However, we still have a way to go to ensure that inclusivity goes beyond marketing and makes its way into every level of a company, from entry-level to C-suite, and that programs and initiatives are being designed to create true equity for people of color, particularly in the beauty industry.

Besides founding two successful beauty brands, you’re also a mom to two beautiful kids. Even though we have come far when it comes to women’s rights, society still puts hard expectations on working moms. Is it hard to juggle the home and work life? How do you balance the two? 

I think it’s less about balance and more about being present. Some days and moments are more demanding in my career and business, and some are more demanding for me as a parent. Whatever the case, I try to lead with gratitude and remain as present as possible to give my all to that moment.

Do you have any tips for mom entrepreneurs? 

Ask for help and surround yourself with great people. Be honest and comfortable knowing what you don’t know, and find trustworthy partners to fill those areas.

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Nyakio Grieco was one of over 600 entrepreneurs, designers, and industry players who participated in FASHINNOVATION’s talks. Let’s get to know more about our community? Check out these articles: 


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