It’s popular now for brands to posture as being committed to inclusivity through their work—especially those in the beauty space. That said, there are some who know the industry needs lasting, accepting spaces for Black and Latinx communities alike, ones that won’t leave once diversity is no longer on trend, or pressure from the public dissipates.
This is where The Black Apothecary Office Inc. comes in, otherwise known as BAO, founded by creative entrepreneurs Jae Joseph and Brianna Wise. “BAO was born from recognizing a need in the marketplace for Black and Brown, well-designed and developed beauty products,” Joseph tells thirteen lune.
Creating commerce and spaces that meet the needs of Black and Brown people “should be standard practice that doesn't require some call to action or rally in order to achieve,” Joseph says, which is why through BAO, the pair aim to create “a space for community and storytelling.”
“I would like us not to have to seek out diversity and inclusivity,” Joseph explains.
For Joseph, who is Caribbean-American and now resides in Brooklyn, his story starts with the early beauty influences of his family members. “From my mother and her style of dress, from hair to makeup, and my grandfather and his taste in colognes and aftershaves, these essential practices were their self-care,” Joseph says. Now, alongside Wise, the pair plan to continue creating elevated self-care practices of their own.
Wise hails from Baltimore, Maryland, and lives in New York as well. “My parents always passed for 30 years younger than what they actually were,” Wise says. “I truly believe their healthy lifestyle plays a huge part in this, and it is what has been passed down to me.” Because of her parents, Wise incorporates a well-rounded approach to beauty and self-care, an ethos that’s infused into everything BAO creates.
“I believe in beauty starting from the inside out,” Wise says.
“I am very aware of the food I eat, which is very clean, as well as what is applied to my skin,” Wise says, citing BAO’s emphasis on high-quality, safe-for-all-skin ingredients like vitamin C, papaya, kiwi, and cucumber.
Through these luxury-level products for all, BAO is paving an innovative cultural hub in the beauty space that, first and foremost, serves the Black and Latinx customers that find a home in the BAO community and ultimately feel seen through their product offerings.
Get to Know – Brianna Wise and Jae Joseph
Do you have a beauty philosophy? What is it?
Joseph: Beauty is truly only defined by oneself. It's how you feel from the inside out. Beauty is self-care. We as humans put so much pressure on ourselves to be this cookie cutter version that society has placed on us. Beauty is holding yourself to the principle that you are just as beautiful as you view your own self to be.
Wise: My beauty philosophy is based on ingredients. Vitamin C is so powerful and needed, especially with our climate in the state it’s in. Our main ingredient for BAO Essentials is Papaya, which is a fruit that I also eat. Additional clean ingredients within our products consist of Kiwi and Cucumber. All of these help with nourishing your skin, removing dull surfaces, help prevent acne, and aid in evening out your complexion. Although these ingredients are universal, I’ve found that washing my face with a cleanser, applying a toner and lotion helps keep my skin looking polished and fresh at all times. The night cream is also an essential bonus.
What does self-care look like in your life?
Joseph: Self-care can look vastly different for me from one minute to the next. For me, it’s about listening to my inner desires and intuition. I love alone time, I believe this allows me to get to know myself better and honor my mind and body, giving them both grace by not always being consumed.
Wise: Self-care for me starts with a clear mind, body and soul, as well as having a good work/life balance. I’m a writer and journal everyday, which consists of acknowledging the things I am most grateful for and affirming myself. I meditate, pray, and workout daily, along with having a morning and evening skincare routine. Making sure to have healthy relationships around me is also key. When I’m feeling good, I like to treat myself to the spa.
What inspires you most about the beauty landscape and industry today?
Joseph: I am most inspired by friends that are innovators and entrepreneurs in the industry, creating space for people who look and think like them.
Wise: What inspires me most about the beauty landscape is how much we can shape the narrative of who we are: young, fashionable creatives who simply want to give back to our community by creating products that make us overall look and feel good. With Jae and I both coming from fashion, beauty, and entertainment backgrounds, we’ve seen both sides of the lens as creators and consumers. This shift in global awareness within the beauty landscape for people of color is allowing us all to show that our brands and products deserve equal opportunities and exposure, not just because of our heritage but because we are amazing at what we do.
What has been the biggest challenge in starting your business?
Joseph: The challenge I think is always internal, it's about what can we do next to one up ourselves and be a better brand, asking ourselves what more can we learn.
Wise: As we expand into new territory which is outside of bootstrapping the business, such as reaching mass production goals, entering new markets and big box retailers, we’ve had a few learning curves. However, our support system has been unmatched. There is a saying: “It’s always another level,” and that has been the case, yet we are honestly so excited.
What has been the biggest win thus far?
Joseph: I would say one of our biggest wins is our team. We are building an exceptional team in which each person brings a set of strengths to their role. For me, that is the win: establishing and developing a foundational and smooth operation.
Wise: For me, our biggest win thus far is expanding our team. It’s so important to have people around you who have strengths in other areas, because it helps the overall business grow. Being able to expand has been such a huge accomplishment, and it feels amazing to be able to have such great people with us. From sales and strategy to raising capital, we’ve been blessed.