Welcome to Byrdie's new series, The Hustle. We're profiling diverse, interesting women and woman-aligned 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.
Simone Jordan's role at SheaMoisture exists at the intersection of passion and purpose. As the global head of community commerce, Jordan leads the multicultural beauty brand's social responsibility efforts.
Jordan's desire to make a difference in her community has always been what's guided her career moves, working previously at non-profit organizations like the National Minority Aids Council and National Urban League. When she landed at SheaMoisture, Jordan's work to positively impact marginalized communities continued.
Since its inception, SheaMoisture has focused on empowering Black people through hair care and beyond. By providing funding to Black entrepreneurs and creating give-back programs, Jordan and her team's initiatives ensure that SheaMoisture continues to have a far-reaching sustainable impact. Ahead, Jordan discusses the professional pivots she made after graduating, the empowering work she's doing at SheaMoisture, and the importance of practicing self-care.
You studied English language and literature in undergrad. What did you want to do professionally after school?
It was 2003, and I remember thinking studying English and political science would prepare me for a legal career. After graduating from the University of Virginia, I decided to get a little more experience, and I attended the University of Westminster in London to study public affairs. I was unclear if I wanted to pursue journalism or a legal career, but it got chosen for me; I didn’t get accepted into law school. My first job was in the federal government, and it was short-lived. I eventually left, with the support of my boss, and started my career working for nonprofits. The first cause I wanted to tackle was bringing awareness to how HIV/AIDS was affecting Black communities, more specifically Black women at that time.
Despite lesser pay, I knew this was the career for me. I got many questions from my family and friends wanting to know, "Why are you leaving the University of Virginia and going into a nonprofit?" But I knew it was what I was supposed to do.
After spending time in communication roles, you pivoted to digital strategy and digital marketing. What prompted the shift?
I wanted to make sure as many people as possible could hear the messages I was working on at the time. At the beginning of my career, that meant using email newsletters and websites to talk to the masses. That’s how my career in digital communications happened. I then remember wanting to understand how websites worked, so I eventually started learning how to code. I was one of the few Black girls in the nonprofit industry that knew how to code. Coding and programming sites made me competitive with men in my field. I went from managing marketing teams that were predominantly made up of women to being in charge of all male web teams. Later, I shifted to social media management because the days of one-way communication were going away. Social media was allowing communities to engage in two-way dialogue with organizations and creating a level of accountability and transparency that businesses hadn’t seen before. I made a job of managing that communication and growing these communities.
Let's dive into your career with SheaMoisture. You started as the senior director of digital in November 2016. What attracted you to the role?
Before coming to Sundial, I worked at the National Urban League, one of the nation’s oldest civil rights organizations. I worked there for five years and was promoted to Vice President of Digital Marketing, making me the youngest person to hold a leadership role. During this time, a colleague left NUL [National Urban League] to help her friend and founder of SheaMoisture Richelieu Dennis grow his business. After she was there a few months, she called me and stated, 'Everything that you do for the National Urban League, I need at SheaMoisture.'
I was unclear why a beauty brand needed someone like me to work on their business. I couldn't imagine how a person with a nonprofit civil rights background could be useful in the beauty space. But I can say now; it makes complete sense. SheaMoisture is a business with a mission. From its products to its investments, it puts the Black community first. I’m grateful that this business has and continues to make space for passionate and purpose-driven people like myself that bring nontraditional experience into the beauty industry.
You are now the global head of community commerce. How did you get this gig?
After working as the Head of Digital for Sundial Brands for a year, I was asked to join the company’s newly formed Community Commerce team. They wanted me to work with the family to tell the stories of those that benefited from its investments. At the time, these were women in their Ghanaian shea butter cooperatives. It felt like a natural fit for me with my background and prior work experience.
After Unilever acquired SheaMoisture, I was promoted to lead the team. I felt equipped to take on this responsibility, having worked closely with the family and under the leadership of Sundial’s former Chief Community Officer Emmet Dennis. In the two years working alongside him, he challenged the way I understood donation models and instilled principles of economic freedom that still dictate our investments back into Black communities. It's been a dream to continue this work. We are demonstrating as a Black-acquired business that we will continue to prioritize the needs of the Black community.
What's the most rewarding part of your job?
It feels crazy to say I love my job, but I love my job. I work on average 10- 12 hours a day. While it's exhausting, I know I’m serving a bigger purpose with my work. The long hours are often spent working with like-minded team members who are also dedicated to supporting and uplifting Black communities. I’m in great company. So, every part of my job is rewarding. I'm helping people that look like me and who have had similar struggles, and that's rewarding.
How do you stay motivated and positive during stressful times at work?
I take vacations. I literally have to unplug from work because I've been online my entire career. I'm very much a person of rest. It doesn't happen as often as I need it to, which is probably the story of every Black woman. To do the job that I'm doing, I have to rest. I often have to walk away because it can be heavy. I’ve committed to making sure SheaMositure stands ready to support its community, and in 2020 that was hard. It meant supporting them in economic downturn, social unrest, and health disparities that left Black communities ravaged. So yeah, my self-care is 100% important. And since I can't go on vacation at the frequency I used to; I’ve made TV my outlet. When the day is over, I want silence, but I also want to watch mindless TV. I’m happy for friends and family that do not judge me for the shows I watch.
Do you have any words of encouragement for recent college graduates trying to figure things out?
Don’t just look for where the money resides. I took many pay cuts in my career. However, I made up for those cuts in proving I was not just good for the job once hired but also great for the business. Don’t be afraid to step out on faith.
Also, don’t work a job where you're miserable most of your day. If you're working for other people and working long hours, it should be something that you're passionate about. I say the same thing for entrepreneurs. I’ve seen people create businesses based on a trend and not their passion. Many see entrepreneurship as an avenue to make a lot of money quickly. What I’m learning from the businesses SheaMoisture supports is, entrepreneurship is not a quick road to wealth. It will require those same long hours, dedication, and commitment to see growth. In whatever you do, my advice is to do it with passion and don’t give up.
What does beauty mean to you? Has your definition of beauty evolved throughout your life?
I should first acknowledge, I am not a beauty person. Crazy, right? I’m still learning all the beauty regimens, hacks, and tricks that make up this industry. Don’t get me wrong; I love putting on a nice face before an event. However, most times, you’ll only catch me with my eyebrows filled in at most. I do, however, love doing my hair. I happen to be one of those people who decided to start braiding my hair during the pandemic. But as far as makeup and my skin routine, I'm still learning. I have a phenomenal team of innovators at SheaMoisture that attempt to educate me on things that I can use. That’s how I found my new favorite line by the brand, our Tea Tree and Borage Seed Oil Wig and Weave collection. It’s my current obsession because I happen to wear protective styles a lot.