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Zandra Cunningham: How a 9-Year-Old's Lip Balm Hobby Became a Million-Dollar Brand


Aug. 1 2023, Published 8:50 p.m. ET

Zandra Cunningham ventured into the entrepreneurial space with a bang.

According to Entrepreneur magazine, the 21-year-old is one of the youngest millionaires in America thanks to her plant-based skincare brand, Zandra Beauty.

Zandra was also honored as Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2017 by the Small Business Administration and was one of Teen Vogue’s 21 under 21 in 2019.

She has also been featured by and collaborated with nearly countless brands, including Black Enterprises, Forbes, Nickelodeon, Steve Harvey’s Funderdom, Teen Boss, and ABC Nighttime. Now an author, consultant, and international speaker, Zandra is a force to be reckoned with in the beauty industry, but her journey goes way back.

Explore Zandra Cunningham’s path from starting her skincare line at 9 years old to becoming one of the youngest millionaires in America.

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Fueled by the Power of No

Zandra’s fascination with beauty products began at a young age. She was only 9 years old when she ran out of her favorite lip balm, and she turned to her father for some more. Tired of how quickly she always ran out of products, her father politely declined and asked her to make her own playfully. While most girls her age would turn to sulk, Zandra’s father unwittingly kindled the embers of her entrepreneurial spirit because she indeed took to making her lip balm.

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With her mother overseeing the process, Zandra would experiment with different ingredients on her home’s kitchen table until she found formulations she liked. Slowly, she went from making not one lip balm but several, and with a $500 loan from her parents, what began as a hobby to address her personal needs steadily blossomed into a full-fledged business.

Zandra would make a few products and hawk them at nearby farmers' markets. "We earned it together. We didn't know anything about formulations or ordering raw materials," Zandra told Buffalo News of her mom’s role in her business. "She took the lead, taking me where there were no kids allowed and bringing me around business owners so I could see that life up close.”

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From Farmer’s Markets to Big Retailer Shelves

Slowly but gradually, Zandra’s products began gaining popularity, marking the birth of Zandra Beauty. As her products continued to take off in farmer’s markets, Zandra, with the help of her supportive parents, decided to ride on the wave of this popularity and launched an Etsy Shop for her brand in 2012.

A year later, she launched an official website for her products to reach a larger audience. The beauty mogul also increased her beauty inventory and selection to include skin and hair care products. Her products are everywhere today, from local shops to big retailer shelves.

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Committed to Sustainable Beauty

Zandra uses plant-based, vegan, and organic skincare and beauty formulations in all her products. The brand also uses eco-friendly and biodegradable packaging across all its products. Her goal with Zandra Beauty was to create a brand that pushes out products that are safe for users and friendly to Mother Nature.

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Today, the young entrepreneur owns a GMP-compliant manufacturing facility based in Western New York. "Honestly, I want to see this company through," she added. "I want to build my empire 15 stories high."

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Zandra Beauty: The Gift That Keeps Giving

Zandra has technically grown alongside her brand, and her goal remains the same: to deliver skincare products that make you look and feel good. She believes that girls and women should be confident in their skin, and her product packaging features affirmations and uplifting sayings meant to encourage every user to embrace beauty from the inside out.

Zandra also donates 10% of her profits to initiatives that support girls’ education. Zandra also runs entrepreneurial workshops on creating natural products nationwide. Zandra also founded the Day of the Girls Buffalo, an all-expense-paid movement for girls meant to connect and educate girls within the international community. She is indeed a gift that keeps giving.

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