Kai Newman

Zandra Cunningham: Inspiring Young Entrepreneurs Through TEDx and Beyond


Sep. 8 2023, Published 8:52 p.m. ET

Zandra Cunningham is the brainchild behind Zandra Beauty, a thriving company that makes natural beauty products for young women. A business that began with offhand remarks from her father when she was 9 years old has turned into a multi-million dollar enterprise. Besides her business success, she's the youngest graduate from the University of Buffalo Women Entrepreneurial Program.

She is also among the few teenage TEDx speakers significantly impacting her Buffalo community and beyond.

Zandra Impact as a TEDx Speaker

At the TEDx event in 2015, Zandra, who was 14 at the time, spoke about her entrepreneurship journey, including her challenges and successes in the talk titled, “The Business of Being a Girl.” Her story inspires young people to be creative and pursue entrepreneurship as a path to success. As an advocate for girls' education, she used the platform to showcase that underprivileged girls can attain their educational goals if they persevere and remain determined.

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She talks about a 7-year-old Haitian girl who dedicated her life to gaining her right to education. After an earthquake destroyed the girls' entire village, only boys were allowed to go to school. However, she visited the make-shift school every day and was sent back until one day, the "No" turned into "Yes."

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Educating and Empowering the Girls

With a passion for educating and empowering girls, Zandra uses her influence to bring change to her Buffalo community and beyond. One of the educational projects she's involved with is the International Day of the Girl Expo.She hosts this event every year on October 11, bringing together different organizations and community leaders to expose young girls to everything from technology to arts and science.

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She hopes the girls will have access to different opportunities through the expo. She also promotes opportunity and education for girls by giving 10% of the profit she earns from her brand’s Lemon Tea Tree Line to girls’ education. Zandra does this in partnership with the Girls Educational Collaborative (GEC), a non-profit organization creating opportunities for young girls in developing countries. In addition to working with brands, GEC also receives support from members of the Buffalo community who want to help underprivileged girls in developing countries attain their educational potential.

Helping Students Attain Their Potential

To help high school students attain their potential, Zandra also runs the "Science Behind It" program designed to help students gain hands-on business skills through a series of workshops.The trainings are designed to help students learn how to formulate personal care products like facial masks, lip balms, and skin scrubs. In addition to learning, students participate in a competition where they use their business plan to pitch ideas about their ideas and build a mock business.

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Following her many requests to speak about entrepreneurship skills, Zandra launched the Young Mogul Prep School. This training platform guides students on the different levels of business development. The training is designed to help middle and high school students attain their dreams of becoming their own boss.

Shaping the Next Generation of Young Entrepreneurs

The successes of Zandra Cunningham attest that young girls can attain their goals with perseverance, enthusiasm, and determination. Besides working to help middle to high school students build hands-on business skills, she is also focused on promoting girl's education. “The best part of running my business has been the people I’ve met, the incredible things I’ve done, the travel I’ve been able to do…,”she told Kebloom. “The best part though has been those who have come up to me and told me they’ve been inspired by my story and journey. This helps me satisfy my purpose, ensuring that I am working towards change.”

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