Nicole Brown describes herself as an “accidental entrepreneur” on several occasions. It’s a catchy phrase, if not completely false.
She didn’t intend for her online company, Izzy & Liv, to earn millions of dollars in revenue—nearly $7.
5 million in 2020—making it one of the fastest-growing private companies in the country, according to Inc. Her initial intention was to simply use graphic T-shirts, home décor, and other accessories to inspire and empower women of color.
Her company began in 2015 with $1,000 in Facebook ads and a solid $55,000 in first-year sales. Brown was soon able to leave her work as a digital marketing manager and devote her full attention to growing her e-commerce business, which currently employs eight full-time employees and a dozen freelancers.
Brown says, “It’s not like I invented something fresh in terms of products.” “There were only a few options available for Black women.” It was a requirement. My goal from the start has been to create a community where everyone feels like they belong, that they are seen and heard. And it was just a matter of time before community and commerce collided.”
“It gives me the motivation to keep going.” This is much more than a job to me. It’s as if we created this universe.”
However, Izzy & Liv isn’t Brown’s first effort at forming such a group. She founded Mahogany Butterfly, or Manu for short, a website for women of color in 2003.
Brown managed the site for over six years, despite having three young children, a wife, and a full-time job, until technical issues and time constraints made it all but impossible. Brown claims that not a single day went by during the next few years when she didn’t regret closing down Manu.
Olivia, her fourth child, was born four months early in 2013. She was born weighing only one pound, five ounces, and spent four months in a neonatal intensive care unit 45 minutes from Brown’s home in Monmouth, New Jersey.
The family was ultimately able to take the infant home after multiple surgeries and rigorous treatment sessions.
Brown says, “They told us it wasn’t common for a child to endure what she did.” “I wasn’t getting enough sleep.
I needed an outlet because I was about to implode from the drive, taking care of our other three kids, and the excruciating stress. I began to recall my previous website. Unfortunately, little had changed in terms of what was available to Black women.”
Brown quickly developed Izzy & Liv, a brand named after her children Isabel and Olivia, who are now 7 years old and healthy. Although she didn’t understand it at the time, her background gave her the unusual opportunity to manage the company for several years on her own, reaching revenue of more than $2 million before hiring any support employees.
In 2017, the company shifted its focus to subscription boxes. Brown Sugar Box, the company’s first product, was a monthly subscription box that included T-shirts, cosmetics, purses, electronics, leggings, hair accessories, and more. After two weeks, there were over 1,000 subscribers, and after a year, there were over 10,000.
Brown’s company now produces over 60,000 units of product per month, and he has no intention of slowing down.
She admits, “I haven’t perfected appreciating what I have.
” “I’m one of those people who simply goes, goes, goes.”
“We want to grow.” We wish to increase our equity. We want to see our little planet expand. We want to be the first destination women of color think of when they go online looking for Black culture options.”