Beauty can mean something different to everyone, but to Aisha Fatima Dozie, beauty is about intention. Dozie is the founder and CEO of Bossy Cosmetics, a beauty brand that aims to empower and inspire people from the inside out.
The Bossy Cosmetics lineup consists of a range of lip and eye products that pack a punch. Still, beyond creating products that suit a variety of complexions and lifestyles, Dozie's goal is to run a mission-driven brand that extends beyond formulas, packaging and partnerships. "I feel fortunate to create products that inspire women," Dozie says. "I hear from our customers that our products are doing what they are designed to do, inspiring and motivating their inner boss."
Dozie created Bossy Cosmetics to ignite passion in women and makeup lovers, and while her mission is rooted in confidence, her entrepreneurial journey was met with some challenges. "When I was looking for funding and pitching the idea of the company, I was told that beauty did not correlate with ambition or confidence building," she says. "I wanted to change that. I wanted to talk about how we look, operate, want to be perceived. It was disappointing that no other company was tapping into similar messaging then."
Despite having to fight to make a case for makeup influencing confidence, Dozie continues to grow and expand her brand, one lipstick at a time. Ahead, we spoke to Dozie about her journey to building Bossy Cosmetics and the brand is headed.
You moved between living in the United States and Nigeria in your early years. How did this shape your understanding of beauty for women of color?
I am a first-generation American born to a Nigerian mom. Many West African people surrounded us, but our community was also made up of white, Latino, Indian, and Haitian people, so I was exposed to unique backgrounds. I drew much of my beauty philosophy from my mother, who worked as a saleswoman at Neiman Marcus. She wore many trendy clothes that she was given as an employee (we were poor, so she wouldn’t have worn them otherwise). I realized she dressed differently than the average mom who didn’t work at Neiman Marcus. Most women of color were in the working class, so fashion and beauty weren’t attainable for us.
When I moved to Nigeria, my perspective of beauty shifted. Nigerians are fanciful and extravagant, and there is no concept of being overdressed. I lived in a 99 percent Black neighborhood where they took beauty and style to new heights.
What was the transition like from working in investment banking to cosmetics? Were there any transferable skills?
Transitioning from working in investment banking to building my brand was very disruptive. I’m very open about being burned out from that period. I’m married with three boys and was busy working and traveling and wasn’t managing any of that very well. I was severely exhausted and diagnosed with hypertension and realized I wanted to have longevity in my life. I left that industry abruptly, knowing I wasn’t in love with what I was doing, but nothing is worth the expense of your health. I took a year off, did a fellowship at Stanford University, decided I wanted to work with women and was inspired to start Bossy Cosmetics.
You mentioned battling imposter syndrome early in your career before creating Bossy Cosmetics. How did creating your brand help overcome it?
In my experience, you don’t overcome imposter syndrome; you figure out how to manage it. Sometimes you fake it till you make it, and other times you put on red lipstick and do what you must do. Imposter syndrome is always there, asking: Are you deserving of this? Or do you have a voice? I’ve learned to combat this by saying I can and will do the things I set my mind to.
What inspired the name Bossy Cosmetics?
I wanted to create a recognizable brand that would make you think despite the word's negative connotation. I remember the idea of bossy being associated with opinionated young girls with a strong voice, and I wanted to own those feelings and embrace them.
What were some challenges in your entrepreneurial journey?
My first mistake was not having confidence when I started the brand. It took me a few months and thousands of dollars to understand that my voice matters and my devotion to my customer was more important than trying to duplicate the success of a legacy brand. From this, I learned to trust myself.
I also battled a few lawsuits where I took on a small business and global brand. Both companies sought litigation over the word "boss," which could be an infringement on trademarks. It's been 1.5 years of negotiations, and my initial reaction was to change the name instead of fighting. This experience further inspired me to encourage women to stand up for themselves. I tapped into that passion to power my desire to fight for my brand.
The concept of women being "bossy" changes generationally. How would you define it now?
There's no right or wrong way to be a powerful woman; it looks different for everyone. I love that I play so many different roles from mom, wife, sister, friend, leader, and business owner—each one is important to me. I feel blessed to be born during a time where I can pursue my dreams and have agency—and be the boss—of my life while pulling other women up with me as we go.
How do you come up with your product names?
I start with bright colors, then think about attributes that reflect those pigments. For example, I might consider the brave or bold feelings a person will have wearing fuschia pink lipstick. I start to ideate about what that means, how it looks, and what I want it to convey. I also source customer feedback because our customers are an integral part of our ideation process. I use Twitter to get their opinion on different swatches and palettes and hear their perspective on what specific colors mean to them.
What are you most proud of with Bossy Cosmetics?
Being selected by Oprah for her Favorite Things list was a huge milestone for us. I've been in awe of Oprah's journey, and I remember seeing a picture of her holding my lipsticks and crying. It wasn't about the sales that followed but about a woman I admire deeply connecting with my product.
The second milestone was finding out my son was promoting my business to his classmate's parents and sharing my achievements. He's becoming a teenager, and knowing he was advocating for me to his peers was so gratifying. I've learned it's not always about the numbers but small wins along the way.
What can we look forward to from Bossy Cosmetics this year?
We have five lip glosses that are a part of the Power Woman Essential collection called Bossy Glosses. We also have two combo palettes launching later this year that will feature six eyeshadow shades, one blush, and one highlighter. We will be releasing an eye palette with shimmering colors and a lengthening mascara available in black and blue at the end of 2022.