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Sponsored by Meta Elevate

Shauntavia Ward is full of grace and energy. The Cleveland native left her hometown in 2013–the same year she started a natural hair, skincare and nail blog which would contribute to the vision for her business, eleMINT Skin Health & Wellness Studio.

MADAMENOIRE spoke with Ward to learn more about her Austin, Texas skincare studio. The conversation captured her passion for creating community and wellness, giving back, burnout and the investments from organizations such as Meta Elevate that have contributed to the success of her business during the pandemic.

The following interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Let’s talk a little bit about your transition from medicine to esthetics.

I became a registered nurse in 2011, and a nurse practitioner in 2016. I was working in the emergency room stressed out. When you see the full spectrum of life in one day, it changes how you view the outlook on your own life. I knew I had to do something else. I wanted to be able to contribute and serve people in a way that didn’t disrupt my own mental health.

People always say “I thought you left your nurse practitioner career when you started eleMINT.” I worked full-time and then part-time up until last year.

Were you already planning to transition from being a nurse practitioner or was the decision influenced by the pandemic? 

I opened eleMINT pre-pandemic in 2019. I was looking for a way to manage stress and I had things I was passionate about, which have always been hair, skin, and nails. That’s when I started the blog.

I went to esthetician school. It was more about learning how to tap into the business of esthetics so I could open this practice. I wanted to teach a holistic approach and build community around beauty.

Where we are in Austin, it used to be a Black neighborhood many, many years ago. They pushed all of the Black people out. It’s super gentrified now.

What’s the name of the neighborhood?

East Austin. During the pandemic, I was on fire. I moved into this location. I hired four employees. I raised over $50,000 in grants from American Express, Beyoncé’s foundation initiative, BeyGOOD, in collaboration with the NAACP and Meta Elevate.

Let’s shift gears a bit. Tell us about the origin of your business name. Where did eleMINT come from?

I love the expression “I’m in my element.” When someone is in their element, it feels natural to them, it’s comfortable. I wanted to create a studio that felt that same way.

We only do clean beauty. We don’t sell any toxic products, everything is clean, raw, fresh.

Speaking of clean beauty, according to your site and Instagram page, you are also a retailer. How did the partnership with the Botnia brand come about? 

We’ve been in business with them for almost three years. Our facial uses individual ingredients. We never have to worry about the ingredients not working because we choose them based on your skin. We have a made-to-order facial.

Can you talk more about the grant program on your website and other ways that you support small, Black and POC businesses?

We were getting so much support, I was like “we have to pay it forward.”

Nyesha Brown of Natural Mystic Skin Care won the grant.

I have so many mentees that I work with.

Speaking of support, how did Meta Elevate help your business?

It was a six-week program where they paired you with mentors who were Meta employees.

I met with my three mentors once a week. I went from not knowing how to launch an ad to feeling incredibly confident of not only knowing how to create the ad but how to look at the data afterward and create the graphics that would get the best insights and return-on-investment. As a part of that, they gave us some ad credit dollars.

The Meta Elevate program gave me more confidence, not just “I’m going to figure it out” but “I know how to do this” and I have people I can call if I run into a hard stop. I’ve used the things that I learned through that program to run ads, and not just through Meta but applying some of the same teachings and ideals, such as call to action and what the graphics look like, does it even go with the message I’m sending. I use this not only for ads but also social media posts.

What are some of the common skincare or Black skincare myths that you wish we could leave behind once and for all?

The number one is always going to be hyperpigmentation. Anyone that has extra melanin in their skin, any person of color is prone to hyperpigmentation from anything. Sunscreen is your biggest defense against hyperpigmentation and skin cancer.

There is Black Girl Sunscreen, there is Unsun Cosmetics which is a Black-owned sunscreen brand. Educate yourself on ingredients and how they work for your skin.

What are the basic or essential products a skin regimen should have?

Cleanser, toner, moisturizer and sunscreen. Keep it super simple. Your skin really doesn’t need all the things.

If you could give any advice to an aspiring entrepreneur or one that just started, what would you say to them?

It’s okay to have a dream but at some point, you have to wake up and stop dreaming and do the thing. I think the difference between your dream and the success of your dream is execution. Start where you are. What can you do today to start the thing up tomorrow? If you are connected to the why, everything else is going to come into place.