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Prior to founding her vegan skincare company in 2017, Trenise Watson spent nearly a decade working in customer service and sales at WaterStone Bank. Though banking is a far stretch from the beauty industry, this experience taught her the importance of entrepreneurship, commercializing products and building relationships with customers.
Watson’s Asili Naturals offers a full line of skin care products created using fresh, plant-based ingredients like lychee fruit, Spirulina, lemongrass, lavender, clary sage and rosehip.
Learn more about this community-minded young entrepreneur, helping women put their best face forward.
Name and Title
Trenise Watson, founder of Asili Naturals, beauty enthusiast and philanthropist
Defining moment in your personal life?
My own self-love journey has shaped my life and led me to start this business. As a teenager, I struggled with skin issues and witnessed firsthand what that can do to a woman’s confidence. Through self-education, I began making my own skin remedies and found that I was both skilled at it and fulfilled by it. I created clean products that worked, clarifying my skin and helping to boost my own confidence. After many years of practicing self love and care, I’ve learned to embrace who I am naturally and no longer let anything define who I am.
What has been your most impactful professional experience?
When I became a board member of Make-A-Wish Wisconsin, Young Wishmakers, I was moved by how much they impact the lives of children with critical illnesses. For wish kids, just the act of making their wish come true can give them the courage and hope they need to keep going through medical treatments. To see the looks on their faces when their wishes are granted is priceless. This drove me to partner with other local organizations like Community Advocates Women’s Center, which helps provide comprehensive services and treatment for women, men and children whose lives have been affected by domestic violence, addiction, mental health issues, homelessness and poverty
What made you want to start your own business?
There was a huge need for clean products that worked. When I first started making my own products in my kitchen in 2007, there was a lack of organic, vegan or cruelty-free options on the market. If there were options, they weren’t affordable. This left me with few options and as a teenager with a tight budget. I had to settle for drugstore skin care products. While using the products, I noticed regular sensitivity, irritation and dryness to my face, leaving it in terrible condition. This was the catalyst for me to start really doing my homework and reading the list of ingredients on my conventional skin care products and working to make some changes.
Frustrated with the skincare market, I took matters into my own hands and began making my own skin care products using only natural ingredients. I wanted to be in control of what was in my products down to ingredients, packaging and more. When choosing my ingredients, I carefully hand-picked ingredients which were plant-based, responsibly sourced and sustainable for the planet. Therefore, we only use vegan ingredients in Asili Naturals’ products today.
What’s the hardest lesson you’ve learned?
Securing funding as a small business is an uphill battle. It’s very hard for people of color and especially women of color to find funding for businesses; that has been one of my biggest struggles. I’ve been using my personal finances and bootstrapping to keep Asili Naturals growing. Luckily, we’ve been having a lot of success to propel the company into the new year.
Best part of owning your own business?
Each time an order comes through, I do an actual happy dance. It’s so rewarding to see my hard work paying off in the form of happy customers! The overflow of customer comments and reviews on our products are priceless. I am most proud of building a company and a community for my customers that supports women in feeling inspired, building self-esteem and building each other up.
What do you do when you have free time?
I try and stay involved in the community. We’ve recently partnered with Community Advocates Women’s Center to help women and children who are less fortunate. I am working with the center to host empowerment and wellness classes to promote self-esteem and self-love. In addition, to volunteering and donation initiatives in the new year. It gives me great joy to give back and serve the community.
Any mentors you credit for your success?
I’ve relied heavily on the advice and support from Bizstarts in the beginning stages of my business. They provided me with guidance and support to move Asili Naturals forward. Furthermore, living in the information age has given me the opportunity to have access to resources and knowledge at my fingertips, which I am fortunate to rely on. One of my favorite podcast is How I Built This with Guy Raz. Guy dives into stories behind the world’s best known companies. It’s worth listening to when starting and scaling your business.