Why Collective Ownership Is Key To Empowering Women, According To Sharmadean Reid
Plus, the beauty products she can’t live without.
Despite having three incredibly successful businesses to her name, Sharmadean Reid doesn’t consider herself an entrepreneur. “I think I’m just a really good founder of things,” the 37-year-old tells me over Zoom. “I’m really good at building cool things that people really enjoy hanging out in.”
Most recently, Reid founded female-focused business publication The Stack World, which she launched in March 2021 as a way to deliver in-depth features and economically empower female entrepreneurs. The platform reports on everything from beauty and wellness, to business and culture, offering a tiered membership which ranges between £1 and £9.99 for access to a weekly mailer and virtual events. Since its launch, the platform has amassed nearly 1,000 paying members and is on track to reach 10,000 in the next year.
In 2009, Reid was behind the nail salon chain WAH Nails London, which she ran for 10 years before ceasing operations to focus on BeautyStack, which she launched in 2017. BeautyStack’s booking platform connected 2,000 beauty professionals with more than 20,000 clients. Reid raised nearly £4 million in a funding round to launch it, making her one of the 10 Black female entrepreneurs raise that level of venture capital. She’s clearly a force to be reckoned with and works tirelessly behind-the-scenes to ensure that women are reaching their full potential.
To mark International Women’s Day, Reid discusses her money mindset, her downtime routine, and everything in between.
Why was it important for you to create a safe space like The Stack World for women to connect, collaborate, and build their businesses?
I wouldn’t call it a safe space as such. I just found that my personal brand, my type of woman and my interests, wasn’t represented on the internet. When I launched WAH Nails London it was because I didn’t see women like me getting their nails done all the time. The salons we were going to weren’t playing the music that I listen to, didn’t have the magazines I liked to read, or the interior style I wanted. If I’m spending a lot of time in these spaces (which I was), don’t you think it should reflect on me a bit? I just want to see a world that is more reflective of the things that I’m interested in and that I deem important.
Was one giving opportunities to Black women like yourself to build their own businesses one of your goals?
I think now I definitely have a grand vision and mission, but when I started I didn’t. I just went with wherever my feelings and intuition took me, and I opened WAH Nails very naively. It was initially just for me and my mates to hang out. But the more time I spent in the salon having close interactions with thousands of women, the more I learned about what they needed.
What were the things that were missing when you first started out?
I didn’t know what I wanted to do after university. I mean, I did, because I’m a Gemini, but after I left Wolverhampton for London, I wanted to become a fashion stylist. I scored an internship with a very famous fashion stylist before I started university and worked for him throughout my time at university. So when I graduated, I was getting styling work immediately. So I never had this want of like, “oh I don’t have X, Y, Z opportunity” because I made that opportunity four years before. I’m a big believer in planning and creating opportunities.
What does ‘sisterhood’ mean to you?
Collective ownership. Talking is good, but action makes change. So while sisterhood is supportive, collective ownership and collective action is where the power is at for me. For example, the decriminalisation of abortion in Columbia, that’s collective action.
But do you know what would be great? If women owned buildings, art, and just owned things that would deem them wealthy. I’m really big on women having ownership. Stack members can invest in The Stack because I felt like I couldn’t really talk about economically empowering women without giving them a chance to own the community that they are contributing to.
How many women have invested?
We have about 20 invested members currently, some of them wrote big cheques, but the exciting thing is that now it has the potential to allow collective ownership. We’re working on some really exciting projects which means our members can be rewarded.
What lessons did you learn growing up about financial literacy and how has it impacted your money mindset now?
It’s both a blessing and a curse that I grew up fairly poor. I’m Black and Jamaican, and there’s always such pride in our households so I didn’t feel like I was poor, you know? My house was nice, but we didn’t have any money. My mum never saved anything, so I had to work if I wanted something, which meant I worked from the age of 14. But it also means that I don’t attach huge value to material goods.
Right now I’m obsessed with buying my first house because I feel like that investment will pay me back, and it will also give me a sense of security. But it’s very difficult if you don’t have parental help and London is very expensive.
What advice would you give to young women who are feeling stuck after lockdown?
I think the easiest way to get new ideas is by talking to people who have a lot of them. Go for dinners, coffees, and ask people what they are working on, seeing what resonates with you, seeing if you want to join them, or start your own thing. I’m most happy when I feel understood by like minded people. When I’m chatting with a friend and they’re like so gassed and I’m gassed and we’re high together, and it’s like living off each other’s vibes. That’s what I love. I think the more you can find people that give you that feeling of “you understand me you see me,” the better.
What do you do when you need downtime?
The spa is my spiritual home. I go as often as possible, really. Not to have a treatment but to spend time in the steam room, though I love a beauty treatment and regularly get full body massages and facials. I just love lying back and letting someone else touch my face.
Which beauty product can you not live without?
Coconut oil. I could live without anything else, but I can’t live with dry skin!!
What about your go-to scent?
I like jasmine scents. I’m wearing Frederic Malle Carnal Flower. It’s very heady and seductive.
What’s your goal for the next five years, and where do you see The Stack World going?
I’d like to increase the GDP of the women’s economy somehow through women earning more money and sharing resources. To think that women would get turned away for credit cards and bank accounts only 30 years ago without the presence or permission of her husband is wild. So I care about women having their money, loaning it, and lending it to each other.
Maybe launch The Stack Bank?
Maybe. Watch this space.