We were lucky to catch up with Serena Cowans recently and have shared our conversation below.
Serena, thanks for joining us, excited to have you contributing your stories and insights. Alright, so you had your idea and then what happened? Can you walk us through the story of how you went from just an idea to executing on the idea
Ever since I was in elementary school, I have always had an interest in how businesses operated. I found myself asking my questions, and a lot of them revolved around the mystery of how could I, one day, become just like the bosses around the world that contribute to providing goods and services. The biggest misconception that I had when it came to understanding what I needed to become an entrepreneur was that I needed thousands of dollars to start. That mindset went out of the window when I was assigned my first ever business project in just the 5th grade. Attending J.P. Starks Vanguard Academy, located in Oak Cliff, Tx, I was challenged to put my motivation to the ultimate test. I was assigned a project that required me to “own” a business. This pushed me to do extensive research on what it took to turn a dream into reality. The biggest takeaway from this experience was that all it takes for me to own a business, is to write my ideas on paper, because once it’s on paper, it’s possible. throughout the following years that followed, I spent time discovering the things that I were passionate about that I would be willing to turn into a business. In my middle and high school career, I attended Irma Lerma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School, where I participated in a number of projects similar to that of my 5th grade year. Instead of brainstorming random business ideas just to say that I completed the assignment, I used business ideas that I could see myself taking to the next level in the real world. These ideas ranged from all you can eat ice cream bars that catered to children, to designing and selling footwear to all possible shoe sizes for both men and women.
After graduating high school, I attended The University of Texas at Dallas, and took courses in the business school. During this time, I started to obtain a hunger to determine what I would want my business to be about and represent. But first, I needed funding. I got a job working for The Home Depot, where I put money aside from my checks that I would use to invest in my business. It wasn’t until May of 2020 that I found the perfect idea that was just right for me-natural skincare. I was always invested in watching videos on how to maintain healthy skin and a clear face, so I thought maybe I should dig deeper and see how I can take what I learned, and provide that knowledge to others. Digging even deeper, I found a way to not only share my experiences with others, but how to turn it into something that people were willing to invest in. On May 6th, I spent the evening designing and drafting business names, and created my first logo that night. The way I came up with my business name is quite interesting; my name is Serena, as you all know, and I always get told that I care too much about anything I put my mind to. Therefore I merged Serena and the caring characteristic and came up with Carena. Initially, I planned on sticking to just Carena, but I felt like it would produce too simple of a logo, so adding Body Care gave it identity and pizazz. At this point, I had a business name and logo, next was a product. I spent time researching DIY skincare products that could be made with basic ingredients, then I tried them out myself. My first debut product was whipped shea body butters. It took a lot of trial and error in finding the perfect base recipe that accommodated to what I wanted for my business. After I wrote down all the steps that I took to get that far, I started to experiment with different types of oils that served different purposes, and which ones could be combined to perform together well. Nearly a week into the process, I was satisfied with the results of testing the products out on myself, as well as getting the opinions of my friends and family members. By mid-May, I had spent multiple nights designing and coding carenabodycare.com. I eventually was ready to debut my business and its first product, whipped shea butters made from all natural ingredients.
Great, appreciate you sharing that with us. Before we ask you to share more of your insights, can you take a moment to introduce yourself and how you got to where you are today to our readers
I learned how to create websites and was introduced into the world of ecommerce. Ever since then, I knew one day, that I would have my own business. Throughout the following years that followed, I spent time discovering the things that I were passionate about that I would be willing to turn into a business. I decided to take a leap of faith and launched carenabodycare.com. I promoted my business through social media channels such as Instagram and Facebook. Thanks to my amazing supporters, my business attracted a lot of traffic. I analyzed the numbers and orders that I processed and was able to find a balance in how much my materials would cost on average, and the time it would take to fulfill a single order. After doing it for a while, things became fairly easy to manage, as I found a comfortable pattern in managing my time between my retail job, college life, and my own business. During the summer of 2021, I decided to add boutique items to Carena Body Care. As of today, Carena Body Care offers whipped body butters, epsom salt soaks, lip and body sugar scrubs, face oil serum, roll on body illuminator, and boutique items such as furry headbands, eyelashes, sunglasses, and self-defense keychains. What sets me apart from others is my dedication to satisfying my customers at all times. There have been incidents where packages were lost in the mail and I instantly remake the order and send out replacements. Some people may think that it is a loss but I personally believe a happy customer is worth more than the finances that are gained from my craft. I am very proud of how far I have grown within my business, as well as learning the lessons life throws at me. It is not easy, and it requires a lot of risk-taking, but as long as it is something that I can find pride in, I will always be willing to make those sacrifices.
How did you put together the initial capital you needed to start your business?
As stated before, in order for me to start my business, I needed to generate funding. The best way that I knew how to do this was to work a 9-5 job so I could save as much money as possible. The good thing about working in order to get money to start my business is that I had income coming in on a regular basis, so it was easy to budget for materials and find a routine in doing so. While I was saving money, I had lists of things that I would have to purchase in order to start putting my ideas together and testing out my products. Once I had accumulated enough funds, I was able to start making my ideas my reality.
Can you share one of your favorite marketing or sales stories?
October 2020, I sent a gift containing a jar of each epsom salt variety that I sold to YouTubers and social media influencers De’arra Taylor and Ken Walker. In this package, I included a letter explaining my business and my future goals that I wish to accomplish. This was a simple way that I could market my business cost-effectively. In this day and age, sending gifts to influencers that have large audiences is a very smart way to get our products out there, which only takes one step- just do it. On November 24th, I was working at The Home Depot when my cell phone began to explode with notifications from my friends. Little did I know, De’arra posted on Instagram a video of her opening my package and showed the entire world what Carena Body Care was all about. She complimented everything, from the packaging to the scents of the body soaks, and even mentioned her using them in the future. This was a big turning point for me and my business. The following weeks consisted of me fulfilling three times the amount of orders I was used to, which became overwhelming. Knowing that I wanted to be successful and consistent, I pushed through.