Welcome to Byrdie's new series, The Hustle. We're profiling diverse, interesting women and female-identifying folks in the beauty and wellness industries who are usually behind-the-scenes. From the cosmetic chemists formulating your holy-grail serum to CFOs driving the biggest beauty companies forward, these women are the definition of career goals, and they're getting real about the journeys that led them to where they are—the highs, the lows, and everything in between.
First up: Babba C. Rivera, former CEO of global beauty & fashion brand marketing agency, bybabba, Forbes 30 under 30 alum, and current founder of Ceremonia, a clean haircare brand grounded in her Latinx heritage. Get to know Babba and her expansive career (which spans from Uber to Away) ahead.
How did you start your brand marketing agency bybabba?
I ended up starting bybabba after working in-house at innovative brands such as Uber and Away, which is ultimately where I got the idea for bybabba. I found that the traditional agency model was very outdated and not designed for fast-paced start-up brands. I always knew I wanted to run my own company, which is kind of strange because I did not have anyone in my family or circle of network who was an entrepreneur growing up. Despite knowing very little about what it meant to run a company, I was always fascinated by the idea of being my own boss from an early age.
Tell us about Ceremonia.
Ceremonia is my latest venture. After spending the past three years through bybabba helping other founders build their DTC businesses, I feel more excited than ever to embark on this journey myself. Ceremonia is a clean hair care brand rooted in Latinx heritage, serving the next generation. Hispanics are the world’s leading spenders in beauty, yet extremely underrepresented in the category. Through Ceremonia, I hope to celebrate the richness of my culture and people and inspire a new-age perspective of haircare for all. Inspired by the rituals that I grew up with, crafted with Latin-American-sourced natural ingredients, we’re putting Latinx heritage at the core of our formulas.
What are the day-to-day responsibilities of your current role of CEO at Ceremonia?
I feel like every founder says this, but it truly couldn’t be more accurate: that no day is the same. Being an entrepreneur for an early-stage consumer goods brand is a rollercoaster, with the highest of highs and some scary lows. My role consists of a lot of problem solving and guiding the team through obstacles, while simultaneously trying to keep an outlook into the future to predict trends and consumer needs far ahead to allow for product development and co-creation with our community. I spend a lot of my time on product formulas and brand development, while supporting my leadership team on all things business ops and prioritization on a daily basis.
What’s one thing people would be surprised to learn about starting a business?
That it can get quite lonely as a sole founder. Having a support network of other founders and CEOs on a similar journey has been incredibly helpful to me for that reason. As much as you have your team to rely on, ultimately the final responsibility will always fall back on your shoulders as the CEO, and that can be quite daunting at times.
What’s the most fun or fulfilling part of your job?
To see ideas come to fruition and being able to constantly create. Being able to design your own work environment and team culture is also extremely rewarding and probably what motivates me the most. Seeing my team grow into new responsibilities and areas bring me so much joy!
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
The constant battle between ambition and balance. I know that to be successful in my job, I have to be successful at taking care of myself, but it is extremely hard to keep up that balance when work picks up and you suddenly find yourself running out of enough hours in the day. I think it is especially hard when you love your job, because that makes it harder to know when to stop.
What’s the project you’re most proud of doing in your career?
The creation of Ceremonia is by far my proudest project, and this is just the beginning.
Tell us the most interesting story from your career.
I think what’s most interesting about my career journey as a whole is that I truly do not come from a place in life that would usually lead to the life I have today. I grew up in the projects of Sweden in a small town—neither of my parents had a job and did not speak the language. I truly did not have a single person in my life who I remember aspiring to be like professionally, and I was also never able to see myself represented in the media. I think this is why today I get so happy when receiving notes from other women who can identify with my story and through that, find motivation to dream big. Nothing fuels my fire more than that!
Have you had any mentors or anyone who has helped you get to where you are?
I haven’t had any outspoken mentors, but I definitely have a lot of people to thank for my journey who have impacted me probably more than they will ever realize themselves. The most prominent person on this note is my husband Carl—he has helped me develop my confidence in business a lot by being my biggest cheerleader. Also just seeing him dream big has empowered me to dream big for myself too. I truly believe in surrounding yourself by people who inspire you, and you’ll pick up a lot of their traits yourself over time.
I truly believe in surrounding yourself by people who inspire you, and you’ll pick up a lot of their traits yourself over time.
How do you stay motivated and positive during stressful times at work?
I try to carve out the mornings for self-care. A workout outdoors, a slow breakfast, meditation. This consistency helps to keep me grounded and centered, especially during busier periods at work.
What has your experience been in the beauty industry?
Growing up as a Latin American immigrant in a homogenous country like Sweden, I never found myself represented in mainstream media and the products I consumed, especially in beauty. Hair and beauty have always been a central pillar in my family and heritage. My father was a hairdresser and would spend hours braiding my hair. Despite my culture, I still witnessed an enormous void of Latinx representation in beauty, even upon relocating to the U.S. As such, I began to feel a strong sense of responsibility to propel change. Ceremonia was born out of the desire to celebrate the richness of Latin culture, while highlighting the next-generation of Latinx.
For anyone who has experienced the feeling of falling between more than one culture, I would say that change starts with us. If you are in the position to create your own brand and company standards, create it. If not, you hold purchasing power. Support the brands you’d like to see more of.
What does beauty mean to you?
Beauty to me means representation. It means disrupting the conventional standards of "beauty" bestowed on society via mainstream media, and rather revolutionizing and redefining the definition of beauty, ensuring representation for all and a celebration of individuality.
What advice or words of encouragement do you have for anyone looking to break into your field?
Start somewhere! And, don’t underestimate the value of peer-to-peer networking.
What are your five favorite beauty products of the moment?
What can people expect from Ceremonia and what makes it different?
From Ceremonia, people can expect high-performance, clean hair care rooted in Latinx heritage. We’re on a mission to empower a confident natural that feels as good as it looks through cruelty-free, vegan original formulas with key natural ingredients sourced from Latin America. Unlike other brands, we don’t believe in masking your hair, but rather that hair wellness is the key to unlocking the best hair days. Our hair ritual celebrates the longevity of healthier hair through unparalleled formulas that make a real impact.