What strikes me immediately about Lake Louise is how firmly in control she is of her life, her image, and her career, which has veered between college professor, to high school teacher, to EcoPreneur as the Chief Eco-Beauty Officer (CEO) of SMB Essentials, a beauty and wellness company whose brands include Lotus Moon®, DetoxRx®, Plain Jane Beauty®, and SON®.
Lake’s evolution has been organic, with her brands emerging as a reflection of her lifestyle as opposed to falling in line with whatever the latest prevailing trend was. Fourteen years ago, before anyone was talking about parabens and before being “green” was mainstream, she was educating her customers on Lotus Moon®, her revolutionary natural and organic skin care line, an easy transition for the already accomplished educator holding a Master’s in Education from Stanford University.
It was Plain Jane Beauty that first caught my attention though, a makeup line with shades that read as affirmations:
“I am graceful.”
“I am magnificent.”
“I am radiant.”
– conscious choices that peaked my curiosity into the philosophy of this brand. Lake’s reasoning behind the decision to name each shade so deliberately was refreshing in its simplicity: “Who wants to be ‘beige’?” She wanted to find a way for women to consciously begin affirming their beauty, and what better way to do that than through makeup?
It’s that celebration and care of women in all shades that is so subtly and effortlessly woven into every aspect of the line, and what has earned it the reputation as an eminent line for women of colour. But even in discussing that position in the marketplace, Lake is candid about the chasm between her intent and her reputation.
“[Plain Jane Beauty] is a makeup line for all women. I am often asked, ‘is it for women of colour?’ The answer is yes, of course! Women of colour come in all shades. However, I believe that the question really being asked is ‘Do you have shades for darker-skinned women?’ And I don’t mind the question, because I know that darker hued women are not used to being included in ‘all women’, especially when it comes to makeup. They’re asking the question, ‘Did you think of me too? Did you consider me too?’ The answer is YES! I very deliberately considered dark brown skinned women. When I, Lake Louise, say all women, that’s what I mean. If you’re a woman, I got you!”
“Darker hued women are not used to being included in ‘all women’…”
It’s a powerful stance – made more formidable by its lack of explanation, and its insistence on normalizing what remains a rarity in the beauty industry – but it is a calculated one.
Lake’s awareness of her role and presence as a Black woman in an industry that has either categorized or ignored Black women is tangible. In our discussion, she talks about her decision to stay behind the scenes, even going so far as to not put out a picture of herself for the first five years. Her intent was to educate and provide solutions for women that were sustainable, and that focused on whole body wellness. That vision was never ethnicity-specific. It was a conversation meant for everybody, but her own activism and education (she has a minor in Black Studies) had already taught her how quickly that conversation could be overshadowed in a climate where a minor in Black Studies still had to exist. She had already brought this air of inclusivity to her roles as an educator in her high school world geography and history classes, discussing the events and perspectives of people ignored in text books and class materials, and she would continue in that same spirit in the development and evolution of her brand.
Not everything with Lake is so calculated though. By her own admission, she “stays in the flow”. Sticking to a plan that no longer serves its purpose doesn’t make sense to her, and doesn’t allow for her creativity or make room for the unexpected, even if she thought it was a good plan a year ago. She thinks in shorter-term two year stretches, versus five to ten year plans, and speaks openly about how raw and unrefined she allows her process to be, seemingly guided more by life’s currents than by rigid business plans.
“100%, spiritually guided intuition has guided me through my business growth, and has ensured profit and sustainability.”
And indeed, the sense of self and balance she exudes in our conversation is palpable. I asked how she transitions, if at all, between work life and real life, that mythical “work life balance” that all the cool kids are talking about. Does she feel the need to be a different person when she’s taking meetings and expanding her footprint? Her answer is forthright. There is her business self, and there is her personal self. That doesn’t make either version of her inauthentic – it’s all just a part of the game that she’s learned to play so well. “Just like actors and musicians, there is a performance self and a private self. In business mode, we’re here to talk about business, let’s close the deal.”
When speaking about any challenges she’s faced in building her beauty empire, Lake highlights that perceived “challenges” are just messages to change direction. Challenges no longer become challenges once you understand your purpose for doing what you were put on this earth to do and learn. The support circle she’s built remains one of the most important factors of her success, and she’s surrounded herself with a team that encourages her need to work and process in the way that she does. Her husband is her Quality Control Manager – a former football player whose presence, both physically and energetically, is significant, and who continuously helps her to channel her passion and balance her own dynamic spirit.
Lake has plenty of advice for women looking to take their first steps into the entrepreneurial sphere. She talks about the many businesses she’d started before, and about how changing direction is not synonymous with failure. She’s big on learning when to shut down, practice self-love, and express gratitude.
Her advice: “Believe in yourself, believe you can do it. It doesn’t matter if you never end up doing ‘it’ – the point is that you always believe that you can. Because if you don’t believe you can do it, no one else will. Be gentle with yourself. We can work 24 hours a day for 30 days and not get everything done on the list. And that’s alright.”