Advice from a 16-year-old CEO | How Zandra A. Cunningham turned her dream into a reality!

Meet Zandra. When she was just 10 years old, she began her journey to start her own business. How did her idea start, you might ask? A simple “no” from her father when she asked him to buy her a tube of lip balm.


After this, she decided to learn how to make her own lip balm, which turned into her passing them out to women at her church. One day, one of the women gave her a dollar for the lip balm, and that sparked an idea – she could actually sell her product and make money off of it.  Today, her company, Zandra Beauty, has grown to carry over 40 products on its website – including the sweet mint lip balm that started it all – and Zandra herself has been featured on “The Today Show,” ABC’s “Nightline” and Harry Connick Jr.’s talk show, “Harry,” and has met with executives from top brands, such as Nike and Gap.

She spent time two weeks ago speaking to 26 high school-aged girls from Warren who are involved with YBI’s Women in Entrepreneurship (WE) program and Inspiring Minds about how she came to own her own business at such a young age and to inspire them to follow their dreams. Though her business has been very successful, it wasn’t always easy. When asked about the biggest obstacle that she has faced in her journey, she said it was getting people to take her seriously, since she was so young when she started selling her own products.

She discussed the STEM applications with having a brand – there is more to it than dreaming up fabulous products, after all. She has to make sure ingredient amounts and ratios are extremely precise, or, as she explained, more sensitive products like lotions can come out clumpy or moldy, causing the entire batch to be a loss. She has a production studio in her hometown of Buffalo, New York, and she detailed the impeccable cleanliness that she maintains there – workers wear hair bonnets, gloves and full-body aprons to prevent product contamination, and all of the surfaces are stainless steel to ensure quick and thorough sanitization.

Being a teenager, she does feel that she misses out on some things kids her age get to do, but she keeps a level head about it and likens it to the grass always being greener on the other side. Sure, she has to miss movie nights and birthday parties with her friends, but she gets to travel the country to speak to young women and run a business that she’s proud of, so it’s a sacrifice she’s willing to make.

Learn more about our WE Program here, Inspiring Minds here, and about Zandra Beauty here.