From faith the size of an unwanted blemish grows a Beyoncé-stamped skincare brand, and that’s on serial entrepreneur Dorión Renaud.
The Beaumont, TX native founded Buttah Skin for men, women, and non-gendered people in 2018 after stumbling upon a self-mix set of natural ingredients that finally faded his hyperpigmentation. Now, after bootstrapping his business for two years, Renaud’s skincare collection — fully loaded with a serum, sonic brush, toner, several creams, and beauty bars — is a beloved brand made for “melanin-rich skin,” specifically.
“Everyone from the director of the shoots to the stylists to the makeup artists is all Black, and that’s the only way that this brand is able to be successful,” he tells AfroTech. “We are inclusive, but it’s so important that I work with people that understand our beauty and culture to be able to shape the beauty industry.”
By the summer of 2020, while already serving a growing customer base, Buttah Skin popped up on virtually everyone’s radar thanks to a signal boost by Queen Bey via her curated directory of Black-owned businesses. Though the pressure to maintain the momentum may seem daunting, Renaud is taking it in strides and excited about the brand’s future. Up next is a partnership with Macy’s for Black History Month, then in May, a new Buttah collection and campaign will be available that “hopefully will blow everybody’s mind.”
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AfroTech spoke with Dorión Renaud about building Buttah Skin around the needs of the Black community, weathering challenges as a Black entrepreneur, and new ventures.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
AfroTech: Prior to launching Buttah Skin, you were modeling and acting. Was becoming an entrepreneur a conscious choice?
Dorión Renaud: It wasn’t. Coming to L.A. after doing BET’s “College Hill,” I was trying to get my acting career started. It took some real time, then I was casted on Bounce TV’s “In The Cut,” started hosting for Extra, and I learned every aspect of the business. Even being around the Kardashians while filming [was a learning experience]. I had a lane and an image, but I didn’t have anywhere to put all my knowledge, so I did something for myself. And it was such a beautiful surprise accident because I was just trying to fix my bad skin. I had hyperpigmentation and started to feel a little insecure. Once I started mixing shea butter and my own ingredients [into my skincare routine], it was working, so I decided to give entrepreneurship a shot. At first, I just wanted to see if something worked, but during this pandemic, I decided that I’m an entrepreneur and CEO. I’m really putting my foot into Buttah Skin.
AfroTech: Now that you’re moving intentionally, how involved are you in the entire process from ideation to manufacturing?
Dorión Renaud: I’m a control freak. About seven months ago, I finally hired a staff to do some of the things that I knew how to do, but they can do things more efficiently. Still, I design my own packaging, I design what the website looks like, and I cast my own models. I go to the factory and work directly with the chemists in Florida. I don’t release anything with Buttah that I would not use. It’s 100% all me. I can’t play with that, because Buttah Skin is for my people.
Oftentimes, Black brands employ people that are not Black, and they have no idea how to market to our people. I listen to the community and what they want, and I create based on what my ‘Buttah Lovah’s’ — that’s what I call them — ask for.
AfroTech: As you’re growing your brand, what have you learned about the business of skincare?
Dorión Renaud: I learned that you can’t just release a product. For the past two years, I was flying to New York and Vegas [to be a vendor], sitting at my own display booths by myself among a bunch of white people. I would be the only Black brand, so I had to learn how to work that circuit and understand how the beauty business works, from the margins of packaging to marketing. Also, I think that I have learned a lot about myself through this process, which has allowed me to be better with Buttah Skin. I’ve learned to allow myself to be vulnerable with the company and to grow with the company. And as long as I stay true to the purpose of the company, it will continue to grow.
AfroTech: A co-sign from Beyoncé doesn’t hurt when building a brand either.
Dorión Renaud: Yes, yes! The Queen. That was a dream come true. I’ve been able to meet her and talk to her before, so for her to give me her support was crazy. Now, of course, we have a lot of people reaching out [about investing], but we are a self-funded brand right now. And we are blessed enough to be doing well.
AfroTech: How do you weather the highs and lows of being a Black entrepreneur on the not-so-well days?
Dorión Renaud: God. I just had to call on Him because I had to remember the purpose of this thing. It has become something that has taken over my life in a good way, but sometimes you can become enslaved to your own success. I’m serving an audience and because of that responsibility to everybody and their skin, I try to stay on top of it. I meditate and talk to my mentors to keep me grounded, like my publicist and friend Jennifer Pauline and cousin Lauren London. Lauren has had to deal with so much pressure in her life, and sometimes when I get overwhelmed, I call on her. I’m not afraid to ask for advice, then I take a break and I restart. I always give myself one day to cry, then the next day, I get my ass up and go. And sometimes having a nice glass of wine or a cup of tea and a joint really helps, too.
AfroTech: That fixes many things! To that point, do you have any plans to venture into any other businesses? Perhaps, the cannabis industry?
Dorión Renaud: My goal as a Black entrepreneur is to help other Black startups build their brands, so I’m talking actively to new brands and people in that space and finding out what they’re doing and what they need help with. In the future, hopefully, you will see some products come underneath Buttah and see me team up with other Black entrepreneurs to get behind their products in order to really dominate this space because I can’t be the only one in it.