Nude Color? There are Many!
By : Cary Williams
May, 31 2017
Nude Color? The Nude Problem!
Atima Lui, the Co-Founder and CEO of NUDEST set out to fix it! Read her amazing story below.
1.What/who inspired you to start your company?
As a young woman with a very dark skin tone growing up in Topeka, Kansas, there were not many people in my community who looked like me. I learned from an early age that something was different about my skin. Whether I was watching TV or reading a magazine, I regularly absorbed the message that I did not match the standard of beauty.
Fast forward a few decades, and I’ve come to accept myself. I’ve cut my hair short and embraced my dark skin as beautiful. However, the journey getting here was not always easy, so I began searching for ways to improve the confidence of women and girls who felt like I did – like they didn’t measure up because of how they looked.
While a student at Harvard Business School I discovered “the nude problem” – the fact that fashion items labeled the color “nude” don’t match 84% of the global population. After talking to family and friends, surveying over 800 women, and brainstorming with entrepreneurs in residence at the Harvard Innovation Lab, the idea for NUDEST was born! An algorithm to match anyone’s skin tone to fashion items like hosiery, lingerie, footwear, and more. It’s been a year since graduation, and a year and a half since starting the company, and I haven’t looked back since!
2.Where did you grow up? What was your childhood like?
Outside of my confidence issues around beauty standards, growing up in Topeka, Kansas was pretty awesome! My father is a Sudanese immigrant and my mom is a Black activist from Detroit. Together, my parents gave me a strong sense of identity, even though I struggled to fully appreciate my Blackness until I was in my early twenties.
I have an older sister who is an amazing role model (she’s a breast cancer researcher!) and a fantastic little brother (he’s a software engineer!). I also have three international brothers who came to the United States from Senegal to pursue their educations. Having hard-working parents and siblings also on a mission to achieve their dreams has given me amazing support, early in life and through today.
3.If you could have any super power what would it be and why?
Definitely reading people’s minds. Think of all the BS you could call out! The truths you would know! I can’t imagine anything more powerful.
4.Tell us a story/incident that happened while starting or running your company that may have made you feel defeated. Now tell us how you overcame that.
Early on before NUDEST was named NUDEST, we were working on building an MVP (minimum viable product) version of the algorithm to test demand. Would people be interested in shopping a site that matched them to clothing for their skin tone? We built the MVP in WordPress – it took multiple all-nighters to complete while still taking a full course load at business school – but it was amazing! As a non-engineer, I was so proud.
However, the test site was not complete without one finishing touch: a user account system requiring our MVP testers to log in to the site. To achieve this I uploaded to the site some open source code to generate user account log-ins. This code suddenly broke the entire site. Not only were graphics breaking, but at times it wouldn’t even let me log in to the backend to make edits! I had locked myself out of my own site!
Who was I to think I could start a tech company without a computer science background. I couldn’t even get my test site to work! Sleep-deprived and devastated, all my exhaustion hit me like a ton of bricks. I didn’t know what the solution would be, but one thing was for sure – I had to get some sleep. That’s when I learned that sometimes the solution is to just take a step back from the all-consuming stress of startup life, rest, and take care of yourself. Then come back with renewed determination.
Two days later, with my mind fresh, I was able to structure of a series of tests on the site to pinpoint where the error was in the log-in code – and get it to work! In the end, we not only had 300 test users log on to the site, but another 1,100 successfully request access using their names and email addresses. This served as an excellent starting point for our contact list prior to launch.
5.Have you ever been underestimated simply for being a woman? Tell us how.
Interestingly, I find when I’m pitching NUDEST or in the past when I would make presentations in corporate America, the combination of me being Black and a woman often shocked people. People underestimate me. But after they see me in action, they’re pleasantly surprised. It’s almost an advantage – being “other” in the workplace or in the tech industry, and arriving prepared and on point often allows me to stand out. And in a world where success is determined not just by how good you are, being remembered can take you very far.
6.Are you working on any upcoming projects you can tell us about?
The great thing about working on “the nude problem” in fashion is that there is an entire community of women entrepreneurs working to create fashion lines inclusive of all skin tones. We have partnered with 11 of these brands, and have awesome things in store. We can’t wait to reveal them!
7.What are your goal with the company?
Our goal at NUDEST is to go beyond matching women to fashion items at mynudest.com. That’s all I’ll say for now… Stay tuned! 😉
Our Female Founders Giveaway this Friday will feature one of The Nudest pieces along with one of our tops.
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