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Hidden Gems: Meet Riean Knight of HoneytoCocoa

Today we’d like to introduce you to Riean Knight.

Hi Riean, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstories with our readers.
I started as a freelance makeup artist, mostly serving women of color. I remember I was really getting into building my personal makeup collection back in 2013 and a popular cosmetic brand came out with a new lipstick that I wanted to try.

Naturally, I googled the name of the lipstick and added “on dark skin” and “on black girls” and literally only 2 relevant results came up. It was really frustrating than to not be able to easily find this lipstick on people who look like me.

Later down the line, I noticed that people would offer to pay me to go to Sephora or Ulta to help them pick out a foundation shade because they didn’t feel confident in the beauty advisors or themselves. I realized this was a larger problem than I thought, so in 2017 I decided to create a blog that would feature people of color wearing various shades of lipsticks and foundations showing what these shades looked like on a variety of skin tones. I received a ton of great feedback about the concept of how I was trying to solve a complex problem, but I always had a higher vision for how this could be done.

Two years later, I shut the blog down because I felt there was a better and more scalable way to leverage technology to help with shade matching. I became increasingly frustrated with seeing brands suddenly shift their marketing strategies toward women of color. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful thing to finally be included, but I felt that brands were way too late and didn’t do enough to solve a new problem they inadvertently created: makeup wearers of color now had more choices than ever before and not enough tools to help them make informed purchases.

That’s when I developed the idea of the HoneytoCocoa app that will use AI technology to eliminate the guesswork of finding your perfect match. I quit my job at a tech company 7 months ago, and today, my cofounder and I are building our app’s algorithm and hoping to launch by the end of this year!

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Absolutely not, but the journey has been the most rewarding part! We’re bootstrapping our start-up so obviously, funding has been challenging, however, I’d say the most poignant struggle has been designing our methodology for how we’ll collect the data we need for a matching algorithm.

I’m sure we’ve pivoted at least 5-6 times before landing on our current (and hopefully final) method. I also got kicked out of a Sephora once (ask me about that later lol).

Lastly, leaving my full-time job to pursue HoneytoCocoa full-time was an incredibly hard decision, however, I realized that you can’t wait until the fear dies. It never does. You just have to do it scared!

As you know, we’re big fans of HoneytoCocoa. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about the brand?
HoneytoCocoa is an app that will leverage AI technology to help people of color match makeup to their unique skin tones across multiple brands. Existing technologies inadequately serve this population as it doesn’t account for the nuance of non-white skin.

I believe what sets us apart from others is our commitment to accuracy (we reeeaaallllyyy want to get this right) and the fact that our founding team is connected to/affected by the problem we’re trying to solve. I’m proud of our tenacity and willingness to pivot as many times as we need to get to the best solution.

We’re launching a beta version of our app in winter 2022, and we’re currently hosting two model calls on Aug 27 and Sept 17th for ALL people of color! We hope to see you there!

So maybe we end by discussing what matters most to you and why.
Freedom matters most to me! Freedom in all facets of life/being. There’s so much power in not only financial freedom but freedom of choice, expression, etc. I think a lot of us are led to believe that we enjoy a certain level of freedom (and to some extent we do), however, it’s clear that a lot of our day-to-day choices aren’t led by what really brings us joy because we need to survive or we have fears.

Imagine what we could do if we were free to really live lives that were completely heart-centered. The freedom to unequivocally be my most authentic self is something I have to intentionally strive for daily, and in that, I choose to only do the things that matter most.

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