Any medium- to dark-skinned woman knows how difficult it can be to find the right SPF. Most mass-market SPF products are catered to lighter skin tones, and the potent UV-blocking titanium dioxide and zinc oxide have a way of leaving an unflattering white or grey cast on the skin.
Enter Tai Adaya, founder of HABIT: a mixed-race woman who saw from her early teen years that the anti-aging skincare industry was totally out of whack.
All marketing in the mass skincare industry was catered to feed into a fear of aging, something Adaya has been working to fight since the birth of HABIT — a convenient SPF spray sunscreen that happens to be one of the only SPF products that doesn't leave a grey cast on my skin.
Every skincare lover knows the importance of sunscreen, but what Adaya is doing is bringing its importance to the forefront of skin health for the masses. This is the story of her entrepreneurial journey.
What is the story you hope to tell with HABIT?
Anti-aging skincare can be as simple as applying SPF daily and the SPF you apply daily can be elegant and — surprise — actually, enjoyable. Skincare can be overwhelming and intimidating but if you care about your skin health (and the majority of us do!), making SPF a daily habit is the most impactful action you can take.
What has been your biggest challenge and highlight as an entrepreneur?
My biggest challenge definitely was and has been fundraising. Especially if you go the venture capital route — the numbers are not in your favor if you're a woman — and especially if you're a woman of color and if you don't come from a wealthy background.
My biggest highlight has been connecting with our community and seeing the beautiful images our customers have created with Nº41. I've met people that know about HABIT without knowing me and that's pretty cool!
How much does coming from a marginalized community play into the way you conduct business on a day-to-day basis?
Day-to-day, I am very conscious of who we work with as a business. I like working with creators and influencers that are not the typical go-to's of other brands.
When an agency or vendor asks for a call, we have a screener in which we ask about the company's ownership structure (is the business owned by a minority or female owner?).
How do you feel social media and community building within it has changed the way you do business?
Social media has allowed us to build a direct business — it's been amazing to connect with other people through HABIT, especially through 2020 when we've been so isolated.
I love that we are building products with our community's input and really understanding people's misconceptions around sunscreen.
What advice would you give to the upcoming generation of entrepreneurs coming from marginalized communities?
Be pushy. Be decisive. It's going to be much harder for you but we can make it a little easier for the future.
What can we expect from the future of HABIT?
Only 10% of Americans use sunscreen daily (versus 30% in places like Korea). In the U.S., sunscreen is only a $2 billion industry versus the $32 billion Anti-Aging industry. You can expect us to be dramatically driving up that 10% and $2 billion.
What are your favorite accounts to follow on social media?
Because she is such amazing mixed girl inspo and I love her IG presets, @taylorlashae
To what one characteristic of yours do you attribute your success?
As a mixed person, I never quite felt like I belonged. I always saw things differently and that taught me to approach problems differently.
Tell us a book you'd recommend.
I just read and absolutely loved "The Vanishing Half" by Britt Bennet.
What charities do you support?
Charities are touchy for me. In a just society, we wouldn't need charities because everyone would have equal access to resources and our society would have an adequate safety net.
A lot of philanthropies tend to be wealthy, white people throwing parties to raise money or selling you the idea of a "pair for a pair" to boost their own bottom line.
Obviously, we don't live in just society. I donate to political candidates that inspire me. I donate to bail funds and to the ACLU. I also recommend subscribing to news organizations committed to truthful, professional journalism or becoming a member of your favorite museum.
What is on your nightstand?
Byredo bibliotheque candle, makeup wipes because I am terrible about falling asleep with makeup, and cherry melatonin gummies for nights I have trouble sleeping.