We had the good fortune of connecting with Symoné Gates and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Symoné, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
If I didn’t take risks, I wouldn’t be in New York, let alone have a company. I was once told that moving to a new city without a job lined up was risky, but at the time no one was considering applicants if they weren’t already in the city. Eventually, I said screw it and moved to NYC with two suitcases, no job and nowhere to live on New Year’s Eve 2015. This motivated me to always follow the path I was most scared of. Since I’m the most over-thinking, micromanager you’ll ever meet, it’s quite a paradox that when faced with a decision, I force myself to always take the riskier path. It’s a mindset that’s always paid off. When I was injured and began formulating my own home remedies, I could not ignore the idea of starting my own wellness company. Standing in my kitchen, I remember thinking to myself, “You can’t tell your future daughter she can do whatever she wants if you never tried.” I didn’t want to be a hypocrite so I decided to try it out. If it didn’t work I’d have a few lessons under my belt and at least I could say I tried. Launching Sincerely, Bädé years ago was the riskiest but most fulfilling decision I’ve ever taken.
Please tell us more about your work. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
I am truly proud of the fact that Sincerely, Bädé originated from me rolling with the punches. Our mission is to elevate plant-powered body care by combining high-quality oils and herbs, but the journey has been colorful and challenging. Several years ago, when I began experimenting with formulas and was in the process of building our products, I was not only physically ill, but also mentally unwell. Making products by hand was very therapeutic for me. In my case, launching a business was a no-brainer; I was single, didn’t have children, had a flexible job, and thankfully didn’t have any debt. Though I did my due diligence prior, there were some things that I wish I had considered longer, like the brand name. When I launched, the name was Bädé Collection, but after speaking with two different attorneys that conducted extensive trademark searches, I was encouraged to change the name to maximize my chances of getting approved.
Yeah, that didn’t happen. I sat on the information for two years before filing the paperwork, and by then everyone and their cousin had an interest in filing on some form of “BADE”. At the moment I feel like I’m going through a business crisis due to a future re-brand, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything because I am so confident that it’s making me a better entrepreneur. For instance, the pandemic was actually a blessing for our business. When sales stagnated, I used the time to provide free wellness classes to the Harlem community. There were clear differences between how black and brown communities were affected economically and mentally compared to other communities. Thus, I began thinking of ways to incorporate community-driven learning into our hands-on production process. It is my ultimate dream to build a Harlem headquarters, hire locals, and provide Harlem with economic and entrepreneurial opportunities. My goal is to help change the narrative within eco-luxury wellness by being an impact driven black owned company.
It gives me a huge sense of satisfaction and purpose to be an entrepreneur, I take the opportunity seriously and share my knowledge and experience with others. Though I am self-funded, I am far from self-made, and I think it’s important for business allies to know that oftentimes entrepreneurs are better off receiving guidance than they are receiving funds. Although I have been fortunate to receive many grants and participate in many accelerators, if I had not had mentors who laid a foundation nor been financially savvy, I would’ve missed out on opportunities that additional funding presented. Anyone with specialized knowledge/skills, etc., which generally require money to acquire, should share their time with beginning entrepreneurs. I think this is hugely helpful and helps close the equality gap for women- and black-owned businesses.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I really take advantage of any free time I have and generally love linking up at a nice restaurant or bar. Of course I’m partial to West Harlem so I always make it a point to take my visiting besties to the below places:
The Honey Well- An amazing premium cocktail bar with kitschy decor. It’s underground and looks straight out of a old school Foxy Brown movie. The menu is constantly changing and the music is always on point.
The Edge Harlem- A nice late brunch spot for Caribbean food
B2 Harlem- Another go-to for brunch, prepare to spend hours there with their cocktail carafes and extensive food options
Toast- I love this spot! I can go there anytime and the vibe is very much cozy neighborhood with great conversations. You don’t feel obligated to dress up and you can always come solo, sit at the bar and meet a new friend.
The Apollo Theatre- Of course a Harlem stable, they have a lot of impromptu events so you always have to keep an eye out for last minute announcements on the marquee but I think that makes it such a unique experience.
Riverside Park- This is always THE place during the summer. Families and friends flock there to hang out by the water and it’s such a beautiful park
Harlem Stage- A performing arts theater in a converted landmark, it resembles a castle on the outside and they have regular events featuring artists of color.
Harlem Haberdashery- If you like unique clothing and prefer to avoid the traditional 5th stores, then this is the place to head to.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My gratitude goes out to everyone who has helped me along the way. I’ve been helped in many ways; I want to dedicate this shoutout to the books that gave me meditative comfort; to random strangers who’ve shared surprising pieces of wisdom that forced me to ponder for days; to the woman who fired me three years ago and made me feel at my lowest; to my amazing partner; to the mentors whom I’ve had the honor to follow and of course my parents who taught me hustle and entrepreneurship without even realizing it. While I was growing up, my mother and I sold gently used items at swap meets and my father started a kid entertainment company with his best friend. Although these were small weekend hustles, they had no idea that just by watching them, I would one day become an entrepreneur and the hardest hustler in Harlem.