We had the good fortune of connecting with Rhandi Foster and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Rhandi, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I started making products to relieve my very dry, sensitive skin around 2014. I had eczema my entire life so I was pretty used to being itchy all the time, and also used to my skin burning every time I tried new products, so I began making my own. It was a hobby, I enjoyed creating products and gifting them to family and friends. I soon began selling them to all the clients at the hair salon my mom worked at and to my colleagues I worked with at Nordstrom. Because making products was my creative haven, I had no desire to turn my hobby into a job. Fast forward to fall 2016, I got fired from a retail job and was praying to God for direction, because I no longer wanted to spend my time selling designer handbags. I wanted to fulfill my purpose, whatever that was lol. All I knew is that I wanted to help people, be creative and travel. I read a story in the Bible (2 Kings 4:1-7) of a widow whose Husband died and His creditor was coming to take her sons as slaves. The widow asked the Prophet Elisha for help and Elisha asked the widow “How can I help you? What do you have in your home?” The widow replied “Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except a small jar of olive oil.” He instructed her to go around and ask all of her neighbors for empty jars, and not just a few. Then to go home and fill the empty jars with oil. She did just that and her small jar of oil filled every jar. She went and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.”

This story is so powerful. This woman undermined what she had, she didn’t think she had enough, but it was all that she needed for God to work with. This story reminds me of my thought process at that moment, in the situation I was in. Lost my job, dealing with a dui case, on and off with my ex, just moved back in with my parents. Sleeping on an air mattress. I was in a very low place. I was struggling with self doubt and feelings of not being enough, which my volatile relationship only made worse. I had nothing. This story reminded me to look at the things I did have. And it’s so funny how the story was literally talking about oil and filling jars and I refused to consider my face and body scrubs, my sacred therapy lol. Instead I chose to revisit teaching English as a second language as I had in the beginning of the year.

I soon was offered an opportunity to teach English as a second language with a company here in Cleveland that was brainstorming how to occupy their space. I went ahead and purchased my llc, obtained my EIN and opened my business checking account. I ended up declining the opportunity because it wasn’t a good fit for me and began preparing a course of my own. Choate Studio ESL. I had no idea this was the beginning of a journey I least expected. I chose Choate as the name of my brand because it meant to be complete and perfect in and of yourself. It was my way of denouncing the lie I believed, that I am not enough. My goal with my business was to help people see beauty in their challenges and to help them overcome them.

Spring 2017, I’ve been building my site and curriculum just about ready to market and bring students in. I walked away from that toxic relationship and took my power back. July comes and my friend invited me to set up a table and sell my products at the Larchmere Street fest in front of her mom’s salon, Martel Salon. No real labels, no branding, just my little jars of face and body scrubs that helped me relieve my problematic skin. We sold out. This motivated me to build my brand. My business had been in my hands, I refused to see my purpose in my hands because I wanted to keep it to myself. To officially answer the question, my thought process behind starting my own business was my battle with self love, self acceptance and renewing my mind to love and see myself the way God does, so I can help other women do the same. We often look everywhere else except within when God has given us everything we already need. But we are Choate. Perfect and complete in and of ourselves.

Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Choate BODY is a Cleveland based organic handmade black owned skincare company that provides relief for problematic skin types such as oily, acne, aging and dry/dermatitis prone skin. We raise awareness against Human Trafficking with each jar to educate our community. Our products help people cope with problematic skin by loving on their skin and provide relief and help build back that confidence. It’s still crazy to me how so many people enjoy using my products and that something I create with my own hands helps them daily as it does for me and that alone is rewarding. It has not been easy at all. All the challenges I’ve faced along the way have shaped me into the woman I am today. Losing loved ones and friends, persevering through bouts of depression and even copy cats have made me stronger. These challenges have led me to build a stronger relationship with Christ, to explore more of what I love, to ask for help, which I absolutley loathe, to think outside the box and also led me to find my people, my crew that inspires, supports and motivates me to go harder. I really appreciate my people for carrying me through my hard times. And my customers on every occasion who have shared how my products have forever changed their lives. My customers who continue to support us, shout us out, share our products and refer their loved ones to us are invaluable. I’ve learned not to wait until everything is perfect to make a move, to use what’s in my hands at the moment. I’ve learned that you have to shift your mind and habits from being an employee to a business owner. I’ve learned that you can’t be afraid to be rejected by potential customers you have to just let them try a sample so they can see what makes your products better than the rest. I’ve learned that when one door closes another opens and also nothing happens without walking by faith. I want the world to know that Choate is a reminder that you are already complete in yourself, you are enough regardless of how your skin looks or where you are in life, you have to embrace and love the imperfections to see the beauty in it.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
If my best friend was visiting the area we’re going to be drinking the entire time so, we’ll have to start our Monday at Lifetime Fitness to get a workout in and layout by the pool. We’re going to River 17 Grille in Chagrin Falls for lunch over looking the falls then visit my girl Liz at @JuicyLucy to shop some cool designer pieces then to Haven for some cute trendy items. Go and get facials at @Vershantelynnartistry. We’ll head to Beachwood Mall to shop with a few of my favorite Black owned Businesses @sovainbyash @Layrofficial. Head to dinner at L’albatros for their amazing bouillabaisse, but their burger is the best in city. The next day we’ll have breakfast at Lucky’s Cafe in Tremont then head to my friend Wayne’s new store @FlourishGallery for some dope sportswear. Stop at The Grocery in Ohio City, a cute woman owned Cafe and grocery for a smoothie. Go Kayaking in the flats if the weather permits. Ginko for Sushi then stop at the Spotted Owl for some moody cocktails. The next day we’ll grab brunch at First Watch. Go on coventry and shop for records, stop at my favorite black owned boutique Charley’s Closet, do some thrifting at Avalon Exchange then get lamb chops and a glass of Bordeaux from Bodega.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
So many people have impacted my story in so many different ways. You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero, was one of the many books that inspired me to take risks and step out of my comfort zone. My mom Tracey Foster, bravely supported me by trying my concoctions from the get. My late grandma who I keep going for. @MariahWilliams who believed in my products and invited me to set up at my very first market in front of her mom’s salon, Martel Salon. Edith Wheeler, owner of Bang’s Salon who allowed me to set up in her Salon every month. @Eyeofriy and @AmberJuelle for working my booth with me in 100 degree weather at the Rosebowl Flea. My aunt Terri for loaning me whatever whenever. My Dad for coaching me, always. My sister @RhianKristen1 merchandising my booth displays. Kellee Etheridge, @nicnacc, Paris Payton, @SkinByMiki, Quiana Rivers, Brittany Bucey, The 4 Bistro.

Website: Choatebody.com

Instagram: @rhandikai @choatebody

Twitter: @choatebody

Facebook: @choatebody

Coupon code for readers first purchase: 20% off use code VOYAGELA. 

Image Credits
James Southerland Rudy Duran Marisa Nieves

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