Updated: Nov 14, 2022
When Marcella Graham became sick during the pandemic, she found it hard to find nontoxic, healthy products that were also inclusive of the BIPOC experience. Noticing this widening gap inspired her to create her own wellness brand, The Root Remedy. Its mission is to create an inclusive community around self-care, quality products, and beauty that starts from within.
Marcella is the first Black woman to create a gummy beauty supplement. Their hero product is the apple cider vinegar gummy, sugar-free, and packed with vitamin C. It helps with gut health, improves skin, and boosts immunity. Growing up in a Jamaican and Panamanian household, she was all too familiar with using natural ingredients to enhance her well-being, so creating The Root Remedy felt like a natural transition.
What's the biggest risk you've taken?
The biggest risk that Marcella took during her business journey was taking on debt. She said, "Like I'm in a lot of debt because of this business. And a lot of business owners don't talk about that in the beginning. When you're first starting your business, that would be the biggest risk, but it all pays off in the end, and it's all paying off.
I think also I could have easily got caught up in the rat race of making the packages at my house, just kind of simple-minded instead of actually taking the time to structure it like a business and find groups and resources like Black Girl Ventures or iFund Women or other programs that I'm a part of to make sure that people can actually support and help you to really elevate you to a different level."
What fears did you have along the journey?
Some of Marcella's biggest fears were how she would start a business by herself and what support she would receive along the way. She had to figure out how to work with manufacturers and what it meant to run a business. Marcella said, "Marcella said, "So it was basically like a crash course in entrepreneurship. It was like a master's program, for sure. That's kind of like what I'm equating it to."
The biggest shift for her was changing her money mindset. Marcella went from working a corporate 9-5 with a steady paycheck to eventually transitioning to The Root Remedy full time. She wasn't expecting to be asked to create 6,000 units for her product and have to raise $30k the next month to fulfill the order. She said, "I had to shift my mindset on how much money is a lot of money and just really restructuring that in my mind when it came to entrepreneurship.."
She did a lot of journaling to retrain her thoughts and fears around money. She said, "Just retraining, I guess my thoughts when it came to how much money was a lot of money and money not really being like just this tangible thing.
You know what I mean? Like it's just money at the end of the day. A lot of people in our community have a lot of fear around money. So I just feel like that was something I had to break too." When Marcella changed how she looked at money, money began to flow.
So tell us about any major setbacks and how you recovered.
A retailer approached the Root Remedy within three weeks of launching. This was a massive undertaking for her. She said yes too quickly and, in hindsight, would've waited.
Marcella said, "I'm not going to say that that was a mistake, 'cause that put us on the map, for us to be in a retailer and stuff like that, but I wasn't ready to handle it.
So, I think just like not a setback, but the speed and velocity of the way things were running were kind of making me hiccup a little bit more, but it definitely gave me experience as far as, like now, I know how to talk to buyers. I've learned so much along the way, like, for example, certain contracts that need to be in place when you go into a retailer—it can get very grimy."
Marcella learned much of what she learned through trial and error. She reached out to other founders, she asked many questions when she found herself stuck.
She said, "Just ask people questions, and people will most likely tell you a lot of the game for free. If you just ask them questions and you're just like, hey, this is what I'm running into. This is what I'm doing. People want to help you, regardless of—I don't know why people say nobody wants to help me. Like, I don't know, people have really helped me, like on the way, because I don't know if they just see my potential, or is this just me asking questions?
You know? But I feel like that definitely helped me just asking people questions and people just saw, you know, the position I was in and just like soaking up all that knowledge.
What are you most proud of when it comes to The Root Remedy?
Marcella is proud of herself for committing to this journey. As a young business owner, there were times that she wanted to quit because of all the roles she had to take on as an entrepreneur. Marcella had to do extensive research. She knew nothing about venture capitalists or organizations like Black Girl Ventures. She said, "Just taking the time to research things to work smarter, not harder is like one of the biggest accomplishments."
Describe what it was like preparing for the pitch competition.
This was Marcella's first pitch competition. She was excited to be a part of this because this was a pitch competition for beauty brands. Marcella first signed up for a seminar and took a pitch deck course taught by Olamide Olowe, founder of Topicals. This was five months before the Black Girl Ventures pitch competition.
Marcella also attended the pitch practices curated by BGV. She said, "It was good. It was tough love, I would say, which I appreciate. The pitch practice was pretty organized. Wendy was the organizer, and she was really dope.
She helped me a lot. She was very friendly. There was communication throughout the entire pitch competition. The people that came in later on, like the advisors from Ulta, and a buyer from Rare Beauty, gave pretty cool advice. It was good feedback to prepare us."
Getting the votes takes a bit of strategy because this is not just a pitch competition but also a crowdfunding opportunity. To prepare, Marcella joined iFund Women and studied their crowdfunding videos. Using their support she created a strategy and executed it.
Her advice for those looking to pitch is, "Listen to your advisors in the pitch practice, because they could put you on to something that you can't see, like your blind spots, and make adjustments and changes, but don't overthink it. That would be my main thing.
And then also, make sure all the elements are involved, do some research. You have to come and prepare like this is a business. Do your research and look at other pitch decks. Like there is so much out there even in your industry, but not even in your industry, you could look at freaking Uber's first pitch deck.
You can look at any of these companies that we know, Airbnb's first pitch deck before it was even called Airbnb. Like you got to look at these people's pitch decks and see the way they're formatted and see the way they tell their story, so you're conveying your story because that's what people are looking for backed by real data."
Support isn't always given to Black and Brown women in business; when has this shown and hurt or disappointed you the most?
Marcella said, "Honestly, you can't really think about where the lack of support is. You have to think about who is actually supporting you. Yes, in the beginning, I was hurt that certain people I thought would support me didn't support me, but I, excuse my language, don't give a f*** at this point. I'm not worried about them. Let them have their life experience, and you have your life experience.
Maybe they're not your target demographic. Not everybody is your target demographic. Not everybody is your customer. A lot of these people—I don't even know if I want you to be my customer. Like my customers are bougie. My customers have a certain—they love wellness and beauty from within. They love taking care of themselves.
If you're not there to support that, then there's nothing I can do about that. You know what I mean? Focus your energy. Where attention goes, energy flows, like focus your energy on the people supporting you, not on other people not supporting you."
What's the most critical lesson that you've learned about business?
Marcella learned earlier on that not everybody will be your friend. She said, "This is business. This is not selling your little body butters at the farmer's market. This is business. You know what I mean? If you want to get into talking to buyers, really talking to people who have been working at these big companies for 20 plus years who have seen brands like us come and go 20 million times, like you, they don't care—not saying they don't care about you. Still, you just got to realize that this is a business, and you can't have too many feelings and emotions involved. And to make sure that each party is getting what they want, including yourself."
Marcella believes that Black women often take what they can get, but she encourages them to truly look at themselves and what matters most to them and their businesses. She said, "You have to realize where you're going. And is it in alignment with your goals as a business owner? Because a lot of times these companies will try to use your—as long as it's a beneficial relationship, don't worry about it.
But like a lot of times, these companies will use the fact that we're not as knowledgeable in finances. We're not as knowledgeable in business. We'll take the crumbs just to say that we're on this or we're on that even though we're not really getting what we deserve."
What is an important skill or asset you need to succeed in business?
The most important skill or asset that every entrepreneur should have is objectivity and being able to look at what's happening to you as an entrepreneur from an objective perspective. Marcella encourages business owners to don't wing it all the time but to do their research and prepare. She then recommends being efficient with your attention and priorities because it's easy to focus on multiple parts of your business.
How do you measure success?
One of the core values of The Root Remedy is community and inclusivity. Success is having growth in that area of their values. Often, they collaborate with nonprofits or allies to further the mission of showcasing other BIPOC businesses and influencers who are mission-driven and love the positive impact that The Root Remedy is having on their health.
What's the most exciting part of your business?
Marcella enjoys developing creative marketing strategies that also include the aesthetics of her business. She also enjoys working with influencers and describes them as long-lost friends. Again, community and connection are a huge part of the brand. Marcella also enjoys focusing on the vision and watching the journey unfold. It's exciting to experience the support and people recognizing her potential.
If you and I were meeting three years from now, looking back, what would it take for you to feel over the moon about your progress?
Marcella would love The Root Remedy to be acquired in three years because that would mean someone else can expand The Root Remedy with resources that she may not currently have. She envisions having more products, being in retail, and raising her impact.
What do you think the future holds for Black and Brown women entrepreneurs?
Marcella said, "I think the future is great for us because we're hot right now. A lot of people are giving us attention. So, I feel like, you know, strike now if you're trying to get inside these opportunities. But more importantly, the people building the foundation, like the founders with whom I'm building a network, have already started their businesses and stuff like that. We really have an opportunity to give back to Black and Brown founders.
In the next five to 10 years, we can be like, this is what I did, and this is how you grow and scale. And these are the resources and opportunities that I took advantage of, so I think just keeping it within no gatekeeping and keeping it within our community to really teach and put people on who have questions and or want to start their businesses.
Maybe they didn't start their business when the time was right. But there will always be opportunities as long as we continue to educate other Black and Brown founders."
Running a business while balancing a personal life can be demanding and taxing. How do you take care of yourself?
Mental health is a huge component of Marcella's business as she intentionally partners with nonprofits that focus on mental health. She isn't the founder that will sacrifice sleep for her business. She does regular massages and reflexology. Marcella journals every day and meditates. She finds ways to remain grounded and is mindful of scattered energy.
She said, "The more grounded you are, the better things will work out in my opinion. So mental health is a priority for me. It literally is my entire existence in life."
What is your favorite quote or mantra?
"Where attention goes, energy flows."
What is a book and podcast that you would recommend?
Book: Breaking The Habit of Being Yourself: How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New One Paperback by Dr. Joe Dispenza
Podcast: The iFund Women Show
What's your favorite business hack or app that you can't live without?
Name one food item you have a hard time saying no to.
What's next for The Root Remedy?
The Root Remedy is going through a rebranding process and is looking to scale in 18 months. They are working on new gummy vitamins and are looking to break into the skincare market. The goal is to support their customers in every paint point possible in their beauty and mental health regimen. They are working on getting their gummies up to European standards to ensure that their products are cleaner than they are now.
Any last words…
Marcella said, "I thank Black Girl Ventures for the community and interviewing me. And then also, I actually became friendly with the other founders in my pitch competition. So that was pretty cool. So it's not just like the competition where you have to bite people's heads off or whatever."