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#BDM: ‘Put some butter on it’: Everbella founder Mekisha Banks turns adversity into triumph with natural skin care line

With more than 25 SKUs, the beauty brand promotes body positivity, inner spirit and natural beauty and reaches women of colour and those of all skin tones

#BDM: ‘Put some butter on it’: Everbella founder Mekisha Banks turns adversity into triumph with natural skin care line
Mekisha Banks, founder of Everbella, a skin care line that promotes inner beauty and uses natural products to connect with those in need, is pictured here. She recently spoke on a panel for Black entrepreneurs at the Small Business Summit at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. PHOTO BY MEKISHA BANKS

The looks and stares were hard enough to bear, but ultimately, as a young Black girl, it was the lack of representation Mekisha Banks felt most when she addressed her skin issues with others outside of her community.

Her Blackness, hair, attitude and spirit: of all the features held under a microscope, her skin ailments caused her the most scrutiny. Growing up in Mississauga, where her schools felt the most segregated, she was often one of only a few Black students in any given class.

So, like most outsiders, she was bullied and teased by students for having eczema and reactions to environmental conditions. In general, for being different. Searching for understanding and a solution, she sought the advice of a medical professional, who offered neither.

“I remember many of my teachers were very segregated. They didn’t have answers. Even talking to my doctor, I remember him saying, ‘Oh, you should have put some butter on it. And I was like, ‘what?’”

“It takes a toll on you because you didn’t have many people to relate to or talk about it,” Banks told Black Dollar Magazine.

Soon after, she decided to take matters into her own hands and be the solution. At 13, she started the skin care company Everbella, a product line of natural oils and herb-infused creams, to represent young Black girls like her.

From side gig to 24/7

Inspired, Banks began to pursue her skin care line part-time while in high school. Free from common drugstore beauty ingredients and conventional prescription drug chemicals, she sourced simple ingredients like oils, different kinds of butter, dried flowers and plant oils. Over time, it would help heal dry patches and prevent breakouts, dehydration and pigmentation issues in her skin.

Her first creation was Tango — a butter that fuses castor oil, mango butter, grapefruit extracts, lime essential oil, and Vitamin E oil. Today, it’s one of her best-selling products. It’s a moisturizer that can quench dry skin and manage eczema.

Founder Mekisha Banks with products featured in her Everbella skin care line. PHOTO BY MEKISHA BANKS

Everbella's skin care line has expanded from the Tango butter mainstay to include 26 SKUs. It includes products for people with sensory issues, those living with arthritis, and others suffering from muscle pain. It also offers healing rubs for people with hyperpigmentation, discolouration or general inflammation.

Launching the line developed in her a set of values, confidence and strength — all while still in grades 9 to 12. And since, she has shaped her ideas about the beauty industry and accumulated these experiences along the way.

"I didn't like the beauty industry; how one's appearance was more important and how your entire aesthetic was constantly judged. So it was a falsehood of beauty to me," Banks said.

Upon graduating high school, Banks became a medical skin care specialist, hair stylist and nail technician. She later became a medical esthetics teacher at a college institution, which she chose not to name due to privacy reasons.

She recalls her experience teaching a body contouring class. Bringing a natural approach to losing weight, she encouraged enrolled students to focus on nutrition before turning to machines and costly surgeries to tackle weight loss.

She was shocked to learn that some students considered dangerous and costly procedures to "appear beautiful."

"Internal comes before external, and it's the same thing when it comes to the pharmaceutical industry: It is not addressing the issue of people having a disconnection with themselves," Banks said.

"Our communication is about wellness, health and home, and using these products to help you do it naturally. It's not just about the result. I'm not against the beauty industry (per se) because there are things that they help you with, for sure. However, some things do not come naturally and we should target our audience to talk more about the internal versus external."

Route to six-figure entrepreneurship

In 2021, Banks left her role as a teacher and decided to pursue her dream of becoming a full-time entrepreneur.

Discussion with representatives at the Brampton Entrepreneur Centre led to her hearing about the Black Entrepreneurship Startup Program, run by Futurpreneur Canada. The non-profit organization’s program supports entrepreneurs between 18-39 with financing, mentoring, and support.

She enrolled in two business courses: understanding cash flow and creating a company strategy. After applying, she received a loan spanning five years to grow the business.

It includes two years of weekly or biweekly meetings with a mentor, so enrolled companies can meet their monthly goals. According to the program details, she has to repay the loan within five years.

“Getting the opportunity was one of the biggest things for me. It gave me the capital that I needed,” Banks said in an interview. “Getting the opportunity was one of the biggest things for me.”

Banks said she is using the loan to improve her packaging and labelling and enhance her digital and print communications strategies. She also routinely does speaking engagements and panels for young BICOP entrepreneurs and recently made an appearance at the Small Business Summit at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on Oct. 26.

“We can’t do what we’re doing with aggression. We need to do it with the intelligence, passion and love we have for the business. And all that starts from within,” Banks said.