With two entrepreneur parents, business runs through Tameka Jones’ veins. “They were diversity consultants for Fortune 500s as I was growing up and they were also ministers,” Jones says. “In every sense of the word, they created their own income and their own economic value themselves.”
Seeing her parents make their own schedules and have control over their work lives inspired Jones to want the same for herself. Her parents’ example was the first push toward creating Lip Esteem, a lipstick line dedicated to uplifting women. Jones operates
Everything in her life led her to developing her own makeup line, Jones said. Prior to the pandemic, Jones and a friend attended a local festival packed full of vendor stands and booths. Knowing her aspirations, Jones’ friend asked her why she didn’t have a stand, and said that he’d never seen a $20-an-hour billionaire before.
While his words stung in the moment, their straightforwardness urged Jones into starting to make her own products. “Sometimes when people try to move you to the next level, they don't necessarily say it in the words that make us comfortable,” she said.
Jones got started by making lip balms in the kitchen of her St. Paul, Minnesota, home. Her first attempts didn’t come out as planned, being either too shiny or so sticky that they didn’t come out of the tube. For a while, she put the project on the back burner.
It wasn’t until she was furloughed during the pandemic that she got the push she needed to launch Lip Esteem. “COVID and the temperament of society scared me enough to say, ‘You know what? It's time for me to work for myself, and to try to build a safer, healthier environment in society—one tube at a time,” Jones said.
Jones’ mom gave her $500 in seed money, which she used to purchase her LLC and logo, but everything else she’s put into the business has come from her own savings or grants she’s been awarded.
Jones’ work with Lip Esteem naturally aligned with causes she cared about in her community. In 2007, she started the L.A.D.Y. (Leader Achiever Determined Youth) Program, a mentoring group dedicated to teaching school-age girls about inner and outer beauty. The idea came to Jones during her time as a makeup artist, when clients asked her to change their noses, cheekbones, or their other features.
Those requests left Jones wondering. “When does that happen for women where we start feeling like we are not good enough, or we're not pretty enough? And I was like, ‘Oh, I know—adolescence.’”
When Jones was younger, she was in spaces where she was the only African American person in the room, and often found herself teased for her features. She tried to hide or disguise them, but one day she looked in the mirror and saw something different.
“I must have had the right color of lipstick or lip gloss on because I was like, ‘Oh, wait a minute. You people are haters,’” she said. “That had a lot to do with me starting a lipstick line.”
Jones is playful with the names of her lipsticks offering Purple Reign which is a nod to Prince and Rondo which harkens to her hometown. Rondo, a historic Black neighborhood in St. Paul, is where she grew up. "I'm a Rondo girl," she said.
And now, in the current state of the world, Jones saw another opportunity to help people feel their best. “I felt like lipstick was the one thing that made people feel like they were Zoom-ready,” she said.
Jones attributes her business motivation to her family, friends and her faith. In order to thrive in business, she says, one of the most valuable things is to believe in yourself and your mission.
“I think that a lot of times entrepreneurs just feel so much pressure to be this and to be that,” Jones said. “I wake up and I don't feel the anxiety that I used to feel when I worked for other people because I know that I'm doing this for a good cause, and for a reason that's greater than myself.”
U.S. Bank is proud to partner with Deluxe on Small Business Revolution. In Season 6 the series is back in Minneapolis and St. Paul and shines a spotlight on the unique stories of Black business owners across the Twin Cities.
Visit usbank.com/sbr to learn more about Small Business Revolution and the other featured business owners.