Updated: Nov 4, 2021
This busy stay-at-home mom of two kids decided to become an entrepreneur, and the pandemic took 75% of her business away. Tracey Kennedy had an itch, like many of us who wake up wanting to change the conditions of our lives for the better. She said, "I'm a go-getter. I felt like I was put in a box when I became a stay-at-home mom. I was trapped in this one-dimensional kind of realm. I wanted to be great at something outside of being a mom, and becoming an entrepreneur was empowering for me." It wasn't planned, but Tracey's hobby turned into a full-blown business. Using the fine dining skills she developed over the years in Los Angeles, working with some of the best chefs in the industry, she decided to step outside of her comfort zone.
But she wanted to solve a personal problem. Her son developed eczema. She couldn't find a safe, natural, and healthy product to use on his skin. She knew foods, if appropriately used, are natural healers for the human body. Using her chef skills, she created California Country Organics Body Care (CC Organics). These products are high-quality raw, organic, unrefined ingredients. Tracey healed her son's eczema with a product she created. In addition, she began healing her cavities with other products she had created.
She said, "Eventually, I became completely passionate about what I was doing, and it became more than something to occupy my time as a home-bound mom. It became empowering to me, knowing that I was creating products that could help so many people on their journey to optimal wellness."
The help of a mom of color group she joined in 2016 welcomed her with open arms. Being a part of that group gave her the confidence to see herself and what she could do for the first time. "I bragged to them about how good my skin felt and how my teeth were white. And how I healed the sensitivity in my teeth. Within two days, I received 100 orders."
Entrepreneurship became Tracey's saving grace. She said, "It gave me so much confidence." She was at a breaking point in her marriage, and she eventually became a single mother. Her ex-husband was the sole income earner. When this relationship shifted, it allowed her to step into herself. "I thought to myself. I need a way to support myself in the future. Every jar I fill, every late night, allowed me to find me. It gave me an opportunity to find something more for myself. To find something that made Tracey feel great. I take the kids to the shows, and they get to see their mom doing something great."
What are you most proud of when it comes to California Country Organics Body Care?
Tracey said, "The joy that my customers get when I get to talk to them in person. Because my customers leave knowing I bought a good product from a really good person. This brand is more than this woman. I'm doing something more outside of the business because I didn't get into this business just to make money. It's all about the integrity." She believes you're not selling a business or a product. You're selling yourself.
What were some of your biggest fears along your journey?
Tracey had a lot of fears on her entrepreneurial journey. She feared failing. Tracey wondered if there was any success in creating an all-natural business and whether or not her products had a strong enough shelf life. Most of all, she feared racism. As a Bi-racial woman, Tracey had constantly dealt with racial issues. She shared, "As a redbone, there were always issues of being too Black for White or not White enough for Black women."
Tracey had a complicated upbringing and dealt with a lot of adversities. She said, "No matter how rough the situation, humor is my medicine. I can't sit here and just be angry." Between losing many customers who couldn't justify purchasing specialized all-natural beauty products and her lack of online marketing skills, she knew she had to pivot into something. While going through her divorce, the pitch competition was an outlet for her. "I wasn't able to go anywhere. I was suffocating. I wanted to face my fears and grow."
Tell us about any significant setbacks that you had in your business and how you recovered?
Tracey vulnerably shared that she was her setback. "I allowed the circumstances of my life to become more important than the potential of my life. It's the case for most of us, where we look for an excuse and someone else to blame. It's us addressing the small bit of doubt in ourselves, to sit in that space and not be afraid to move anywhere. Instead of being afraid, allow yourself to take space and grow from it."
She used much of her time to feel every feeling she experienced so she could process it. By doing this, she moved into a more positive mental state. When she started to create "Morning Confessions with Tracey," it began as light-hearted first, but she used it as an emotional dumping ground to share her story. She is candid about her life, the "good" and the "bad," she admits her flaws and believes it's through that honesty and realness that's helped her sustain her business.
What was the biggest risk you've taken so far?
She gained the confidence to leave her husband to start a business. He didn't believe in her, but she found ways to believe in herself.
Describe what it was like preparing for the pitch competition?
This was Tracey's first pitch competition. Interestingly enough, she didn't plan on applying. But someone reached out to her and specifically requested her to be one of the participants. Shocked and filled with nerves, she accepted the challenge, and with only two days to prepare, she ran into quite a few obstacles. Tracey didn't know how to assemble a visual presentation. She didn't have a pitch or a pitch deck. Tracey reached out to a friend who helped her with writing her pitch and her pitch deck. She rehearsed the night before and figured she wasn't going to win.
When she realized she had gained momentum, she called and emailed people. Tracey said, "I told them to put $20 on it." She even pretended to be her daughter because her daughter is great at selling to a crowd. Her daughter inspired her to ask for the sale.
Tracey used the pitch funds to remodel her kitchen and purchased a bigger stove. She bought products in bulk for better pricing. Then she used the funds for marketing and photography.
Her advice for those looking to pitch in is, "Just go ahead and do your best. It doesn't matter how much you embarrass yourself." Tracey still has fears about being in front of people or around crowds. But she realized, "You never know what's going to happen, and you don't know who's going to support you."
What's the most critical lesson that you've learned about business?
Tracey stumbled upon people willing to sell her a dream throughout her journey because they could sense her loneliness and despair. She believed in herself and surrounded herself with people who also believed in her. She said, "I drill it into my kids to believe in yourself, to support yourself, and encourage them to build that independence. I want them to have firm confidence in themselves, no matter how big or small the task. I want them to say, 'I can do it.'"
Support isn't always given to Black and Brown women in business; when has this shown and hurt or disappointed you the most?
Support may or may not come at different points in a Black and Brown woman's life. Tracey shared, "The most disappointing thing is watching Black women intentionally not support other Black women. Like this competition, for example, many people knew about it and knew well in advance, but it had to come by the last minute. I'm grateful. Yes, they supported me. But it can be frustrating and disappointing when it's conditional support."
How do you measure success?
Tracey measures success through personal fulfillment. She's experienced countless adversities that included homelessness and financial deficits. The common theme continued to be her happiness despite her circumstances. Enamored with gratitude, Tracey said, "My kids look at me, and I can see the joy on their faces. It's how you feel internally, how your soul feels. It's my own personal joy. I put my hands on this Earth for everything that's been given to me."
What do you think is an important skill or asset that you need to succeed in business?
Drive. She doesn't believe you need a degree. You don't need to be the smartest or the prettiest. She said, "All you need is a genuine drive to want to succeed. To want to be more than what society tells you that you need to be."
What's the most exciting part of your business?
Tracey enjoys the people she meets, strangers, customers. She believes everyone that she comes across can gain a different perspective. "Moving to Alabama was a change for me. I live life through people rather than the perceptions I have of them. I look at people, and I don't judge. I ask myself, what can we learn from each other, even if we don't like each other."
What do you think the future holds for Black and Brown women entrepreneurs and small business owners?
Tracey laughed, "A whole a** takeover, done! Boom! We understand our potential, our value. Black women, we're in a time where we feel comfortable enough to speak out and speak our truths and share that with other Black women, so we don't feel alienated and alone. In the process of rebuilding our communities, we're rebuilding the mind frames of our daughters, and we're kicking that box down. Show it in your strength and courage, cross your legs, and walk with your heads a bit higher."
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?
Tracey's end game is to take CC Organics and branch it into a modern-day general store, similar to Crackle Barrel. She would like to create a restaurant in a retail space where she's selling and reselling local artisan-crafted items. She won't only be selling body care but also food. She would like to promote and sell other people's products.
Running a business while balancing a personal life can be demanding and taxing. How do you take care of yourself?
When Tracey has to attend a show to showcase her business, she tries to go by herself. After the show, Tracey takes herself to a fancy dinner, or she'll stay at a hotel or an Airbnb with a pool. She said, "I pretend I'm bougie, and I take lots of pictures."
What is your favorite quote or mantra?
S**** Ms. Mary (I ain't got no route).
What's your favorite business hack or app that you can't live without?
What To Do With An Idea by Kobi Yamada.
What's your favorite business hack or app that you can't live without?
Facebook because she sells products out of her DMs.
Name one food item that you have a hard time saying no to.
Food! I like them all except for lima beans. I'm also a French fry bandit.
What is next for California Country Organics Body Care?
Tracey will continue renovating her home because that's the base for her business. She plans to make products at a higher volume. Tracey's excited to be joining an overseas company to start selling overseas. Further down the line, she'll open a restaurant/retail space. Tracey will continue doing community activism in her neighborhood. She's in the process of creating a neighborhood beautification committee to work with others to rebuild the community.