Meet The Creator: Nina Ekukole-Sone

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Nina Ekukole-Sone is one of our 2020 Class of Creators honorees for her innovative beauty company, Royal Wink Lashes. We sat down with her to hear more about her journey in launching an maintaining a cosmetic brand that was tailored towards first-time eyelashes wearers and people who wanted more of a natural look from their eyelashes.

On becoming a creator...

Her Campus: Do you remember the moment when you decided to start Royal Wink Lashes? 
Nina Ekukole-Sone: Yes, I spent the entire summer at my mom’s office and I had a lot of free time on my hands. I start brainstorming business ideas to pass the time. By mid-July, I got really invested and decided that I could turn all my ideas into a reality.

HC: Was this your first time embarking on a brand launch journey?
NE: This is the first time I officially launched a brand of my own. In middle school, I used to make and sell hair accessories to my friends and classmates, but I was just doing it for fun. I didn’t think about actually launching a brand.

HC: Is there any advice you wish you could tell your then self?
NE: I would tell myself not to be discouraged. It’s a learning process and sometimes it’s fun and simple and other times it can be difficult. 

HC: When do you do your best work? 
NE: I do my best work midday. For the most part, I’m awake and I have the energy to mail orders, work on the website, and write down ideas in my notebook.

HC: Where is your favorite spot to work?
NE: I don’t really have a favorite spot to work. As long as I have the items I need then I’m good to go.

HC: What’s been your proudest moment with your brand/followers/company?
NE: My proudest moments come from customers telling me how great the lashes are and how much they love wearing Royal Wink.

On her beauty look…

HC: You have an important meeting: how do you prep and what do you wear?
NE: If I have an important meeting I usually prep by going over all the material that might be covered in that meeting and sometimes I carry a notecard with bullet points of things that I might forget or key points. When it comes to wardrobe, I would most likely wear a colorful blazer and pair it with my favorite button-down shirt and slacks from H&M.

HC: How has your curly hair inspired your style/beauty look?
NE: My natural hair inspires to get out of my comfort zone and try new things, especially when it comes to my personal style.

HC: If you were stranded on an island and could only bring one hair product/brush/accessory, what would that be?
NE: I would bring a moisturizing product! My natural hair would not survive without daily moisture.

HC: How has your hair played a part in embracing your individuality? 
NE: My hair and I have been through a lot; numerous years of perms and three big chops. After my second big chop, I finally realized that my hair does not define me or my outward beauty. My hair teaches me to love it at every stage, and that’s what I strive to do. I used to want my hair to be like everyone else, voluminous and long, but I like it short and curly.    

HC: Why are hair products like Aussie’s important to you? 
NE: Hair products like Aussie’s are important to me because it allows me to take care of my 4c hair with love and care. Just knowing that I’m putting in beneficial oils and ingredients into my hair makes me happy and excited to continue on my natural hair journey.

Shop Nina’s Aussie Picks 

On her free time...

HC: You have 10 free minutes, what do you spend it doing?
NE: I’d probably scroll through my Instagram. When I’m on my personal account, I like to see what my favorite fashion influencers are up to and when I’m on my business account I’m updating my story highlights.

HC: It’s Saturday night, where can you typically be found?
NE: I will most likely be out and about in New York City. I don’t have a typical place in mind. I just like exploring different parts of the city, trying new foods and making memories with friends.

HC: How do you manage the stress/frustration that comes with being an entrepreneur?
NE: I just tell myself to sit back and reevaluate any trouble areas. I try hard not to get worked up over things that don’t go accordingly. Life is constantly throwing us curveballs, and sometimes we just need a backup plan for when that happens.

On finding inspiration...

HC: When working, what fuels you? What are you typically snacking on?
NE: I’m a very self-motivated individual, so that keeps me working. I don’t have a go-to snack item, sometimes I might eat a bag of PopCorners or other times I might drink water or tea. 

HC: What is your biggest source of inspiration? Your current muse?
NE: I gather my inspiration from a lot of different sources, but I would say my main source is my mom. My mom owns and operates her own business and it’s just mind-blowing to me when I think about where she started and how far she has come. She has always nurtured the entrepreneurial spirit in me and encourages me in my business endeavors.

HC: What entrepreneurs/brands do you look up to?
NE: In the beginning stages, I was having doubts about whether I should launch an eyelash brand because so many other people had eyelash brands as well. I remember scrolling through Instagram and I saw a post about how Rihanna could have said there are so many other cosmetics brands in the world and not launched Fenty, but she did anyway. Rihanna created an inclusive cosmetic brand and she changed the beauty industry. From there Fenty by Rihanna became a brand that I looked up to. 

HC: When planning, do you take notes on a laptop or notebook? In your iPhone notes?
NE: I write everything down in a notebook. I only use my laptop to create mood boards for upcoming projects.

On what she’s learned...

HC: What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten since starting this journey?
NE: The best advice I received was to get a notebook and write everything down. Ever since then, I write down my thoughts on new lash designs, business goals for the month, calculations and etc. Writing down everything helps me to be organized and it’s nice to see how much progress I’ve made since the beginning.

HC: What’s been the hardest lesson you’ve learned?
NE: The hardest lesson I learned was to not compare my progress to other businesses. Every brand is different and we all have unique paths to success. I had to keep reminding myself that the path I’m on is right for me. 

HC: Who/what is your biggest support system?
NE: My friends and family have been my biggest support system. When I first launched my brand, they were the first ones to purchase. Sometimes they act as my marketing and sales team when they post my products on their social media and refer my lashes to their friends. I couldn’t ask for a better support system.

HC: How have you managed to keep your individuality in your company/resist conforming to norms?
NE: I think it would be a waste of time of being like everyone one else. Starting your own brand is about bringing your own unique ideas to the table. I just try to stick to my ideas and what I know, but at the end of the day it’s my brand and I try my best to make Royal Wink Lashes as authentic as possible. 

On her business goals...

HC: What is your biggest goal for your brand in 2020?
NE: I would love to expand Royal Wink Lashes in 2020! At the moment I am working on a Spring/Summer 2020 Collection that could possibly be featuring more than just eyelashes. 

HC: In 2030, where do you hope you’ll be with your brand/career?
NE: Sometime down the road I want to make Royal Wink into an e-boutique and hopefully by 2030 that happens. Also, by 2030, I hope I’ll be working in the fashion industry. I haven’t pinned down what career I want to pursue but the top two are working as an editor for Vogue or public relations for a well-known fashion brand.

HC: What do you hope your brand accomplishes for your peers?
NE: I hope my brand inspires someone to start on their entrepreneurial journey. Just like Rome, Royal Wink wasn’t built in one day. It took some time and dedication for an idea in my head to turn into a reality. If I, an ordinary person can do it, so can anyone else. 

Shop Royal Wink Lashes Here

Follow Nina on Instagram 

Inspired by Nina’s story?! Read more about our 2020 Class of Creators here.