In February, Beatrice Dixon, co-founder of the Honey Pot Company, appeared in a Target ad that many people found inspiring. In the ad, the CEO affirmed that "the reason it's so important for Honey Pot to do well is so that the next Black girl that comes up with a great idea, she can have a better opportunity."
But some viewers took offense. Negative comments and scathing reviews of Honey Pot's line of feminine products flooded social media. Dixon held her own, and she says her company has come out stronger for it, a lesson for everyone in this contentious, extremely online moment.
"It was beautiful experience," she told Inc. editor-at-large Tom Foster in a streaming event today. "It was the best thing that ever happened to my business. Literally the best thing." The criticism revealed to her exactly who her audience is--and precisely who she doesn't need to pay attention to. If someone thinks her message is the wrong one, there's nothing she can do to change their mind, so why even try?
That was just one of the challenges Dixon has faced as she's grown her Atlanta-based company. Here are some other insights from Dixon's interview.
Controversy Can Be a Gift
"You can't really control people's reactions," Dixon says of the brief but destructive social media storm she found herself in earlier this year. While she knew she couldn't control other people, she was able to control her message.
Dixon took the higher ground and let the social media cycle play itself out. While the comments may have been aimed at hurting her business, the support of her customers--old and new--is what she ultimately took away from it.
Know--and Tell--the Story of Your Brand
In recounting her founding story, Dixon told Foster that in 2011, after a yearlong bout of bacterial vaginosis, she had a dream in which her maternal grandmother, whom she'd never met in waking life, shared with her a list of healing ingredients. Working as a floor buyer at Whole Foods Body at the time, Dixon was able to pull together a combination of herbs that healed her condition.
By the time Dixon was able to pitch her line to Target, she'd been selling in various forms for years. Here are a few questions she suggests you ask yourself before you make a pitch:
- What made you start your product in the first place?
- What got you there?
- What made you say, "I have to do this because I'm not finding what I need?"
"You need to tell that story," Dixon says. "You have to deliver that message." Her growing line of products is available on the shelves of Whole Foods, as well as Target and other retailers.
Be Yourself, Nothing More, Nothing Less
Dixon is nothing if not 100 percent herself. Without a hint of self-deprecation, she calls the Honey Pot Company "the vagina company," and says she's inspired by one thing: "I start at the simplest place: my vagina."
Similarly, when she meets with executives, she brings her authentic self to the meeting. "You need to dress how you dress, be who you are," she says. "They're really there to buy you--who you are. Who you are is what speaks to and grows your brand."
Happy Founders Make for Happy Companies
"The most important way for people to succeed is when they love themselves," Dixon says. "I think that's essential in these times."
Your personal wellness will help define your brand, your company, and your customers' experiences of you.
"If you aren't happy, if you aren't well, if your mind isn't vibrating at a good vibration, it's going to be hard to run a good startup," Dixon says.