Buffalo teen builds national skin care business

Posted at 10:20 PM, Dec 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-20 17:14:58-05

Zandra Cunningham can tell you everything you want to know about skin care.  She may only be 16-years-old, but she's already been in the business for seven years.

"I started my company when I was nine-years-old," she said. 

As a child, Zandra was always asking her father to buy her lip balm.  One day, without even realizing it, he gave her a business idea.  "He said no I'm not going to buy you any more lip balm.  Why don't you learn to make your own," Zandra explained.  "So that's when I learned how to make my own."

She started making lip gloss in her kitchen and then passing it out at church.  Before long, she was growing her small business, selling her products at the Broadway Market and local farmers markets.  With help from her parents, Zandra has expanded her line from just lip balm to more than 30 products.

"She's a legitimate boss.  She's convinced me and her mother to become investors," said her father James.

These days Zandra is renting a space where she makes and fills orders.  She's a hands-on entrepreneur, but she always has family and friends by her side helping.  The size of the business has changed, but what hasn't changed is her commitment to an all-natural product.

"I have sensitive skin, and I wanted to fill a void for girls like me who want a product out there," she explained.  "I wanted something that looked really cool, smelled really good, but was also really good for your skin as well."

And each product has a positive message.  Zandra hand-picked each one to brighten your day.

"So when you're reading it in the shower or you're using the sugar scrubs, it reminds you of how great you are.  And how much you have to look forward to.  Just giving you that uplifting affirmation," she said.

While she's becoming quite the businesswoman, this entrepreneur sees the importance of giving back.  Zandra donates 10% of her profits to support education for girls across the world.

"In other countries they don't have the same rights we do here.  They're denied their education," she said.  "Other girls are fighting for their rights to go to school.  To hear that that was still going on, I jumped on the opportunity. All they want is for someone to say yes.  You are allowed to read a book."

Zandra has been given a number of awards for her work.  She is also the Buffalo-area ambassador for "Day of the Girl" which helps empower girls, and provide them with opportunities.  It's a role she'll continue to fill as she moves her business forward, and she had this advice for potential entrepreneurs:

"You can't be afraid of hard work.  Fear is huge.  But you can't be afraid to conquer that.  It's all about taking risks.  Entrepreneurship you have to be comfortable being uncomfortable," she said.

To learn more about Zandra's products, or to find out where you can order them, click here.