“If I’m going to come out with a product that is vegan, it has to align with the same environmental values I have,” states Jaylah Koree Webb, a University of Virginia sophomore. At 19 years old, Webb has a passion for our planet, evident in her Global Studies major with a concentration in Environmental Sustainability, as well as for her minor in Entrepreneurship. Just a couple years ago, she started making her own vegan body products, such as lip balms and body butters, which would soon blossom into the small business known as Koree’s Kare. [bf_image id="qvq4fzbwg4qpjc9kqhhx4r"]
On the surface, Webb appears like your typical second year college student, doing homework and exploring her love of nature. She has a collection of approximately 40 houseplants she cares for and considers her children. She laughs as she says, “I feel like a mom without having to have kids.” Growing up in rural North Carolina, she loves the natural world, and her plants make her feel like she has a little bit of outdoors inside with her at all times. However, Webb is much deeper than a plant-loving college student; she possesses a unique story and confidence that gives her the ability to advocate for modern causes, such as sustainability and representation. Webb decided to become vegan during her senior year of high school. A vegan lifestyle includes eliminating all food and products with any animal byproducts, so Webb had to do some research on new brands and items she could introduce into her daily life. However, in her small town, this became very complicated.
“I was looking for different products that would fit my lifestyle. [I] definitely wanted it to be Black-owned and operated, female run if possible, and I could just not find anything at all," she explained. So, Webb took matters into her own hands, ordered some products, and went into her kitchen to experiment with different formulas and create her own vegan masterpieces. She originally intended her recipes for personal use to deal with her severe dry skin, but her father knew her products had the potential to help other people. With his encouragement, she decided to create small pop up shops along UVA’s campus, and Koree’s Kare was born.
As the Earth continues to suffer from climate change and plastic pollution, Webb strongly believes in bettering our planet. Angered by the statistic that by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans, she ensures that all her packaging is eco-friendly and zero waste. The tins that hold her products are made from materials that last longer and do not pollute when they are discarded. When asked why she believes it is important that companies start enacting sustainable practices, she shows an optimism that consumers will soon come to value the importance of preserving our planet. Brands need more sustainability because "in the long term, people are going to be looking for that.” As a business owner, she holds herself to a high standard, as she proudly buys clean, ethically sourced products. She stated, “If you genuinely care about your customers, you are going to want them to use the best products on the market [...] nothing that is going to harm them or the places they live.” She executes a responsibility that is rarely seen in other companies, which is part of what makes her business so special.
Webb’s love for sustainability stems from her life motto of “going back to your roots.” Her middle name, Koree, represents this phrase she lives by. When I asked about her name, her whole face lit up. She exclaimed, “I love my middle name. I love what it stands for!” She explained that before she was born, her father, Jimmy, was deployed in Korea. While he was in Korea, his mother unfortunately became very ill. When they went to say their goodbyes, his mother kept rambling, “Do you see that baby? Do you see that baby? She looks just like Jimmy!” With no baby around, the family thought that her medication was going to her head. But, about a month later, Webb’s parents learned that they were pregnant with her. Webb's middle name is Korea with an "e" instead of an "a" to honor her grandmother. To Webb, her middle name honors not only her family, but also the importance of remembering our history and how it can impact us. She practices this belief with her ingredients by importing pure shea butter from Ghana for her body butters. Shea butter has a history of healing, and Webb holds these stories close to heart; she says, “People dismiss the old wives' tales, but that is sometimes what is best for us.”
In addition to sustainability, Webb advocates strongly for representation. She originally marketed Koree’s Kare towards Black women, but decided to expand to all marginalized communities. “You don’t want to leave anyone out [...] As a Black female, I know what it’s like to not have someone there who looks like you.” Webb is looking for ambassadors that are plus size or live with disabilities to further expand her inclusivity. Webb is no stranger to the importance of representation and facing discrimination. In response to what her biggest challenges were, she replied, “Being a Black female means it is harder to get your name out there.” Webb says that she has found age to also be one of her biggest barriers, since she has to balance school and her business. It is also harder to find people who take her seriously. However, she does not let these setbacks define her, and she encourages all women who want to be entrepreneurs. Her best advice? “Be confident, you got this. I say that because too many times, especially for women of color, we don’t have that representation.”
Webb is serving as a role model for aspiring Black business women not only through her brand, but also her actions. She practices self love and self care, especially towards her natural curls. She proudly says, “My natural hair is huge and I love it.” I asked, if she could be any product, what she would be and why? She quickly replied a deep conditioner because of how it relaxes her and “takes care of one of the main features [she loves] about [herself].” To her, self care is “having time to internalize and check in with yourself.” This self-love fueled her products for Koree’s Kare. “Using the body butter is a time to really stare at your skin, get in there. There is something about that that makes me feel better.” Webb’s practice of self care enhances herself as a person both mentally and physically as she continues her journey as a Black entrepreneur.
From sustainability to representation, Jaylah Koree Webb serves as an example for the next generation of business leaders. Her authentic heart and confidence shines through her lifestyle as she continues to advocate for causes she loves through her business.