A reflection on the rollercoaster of entrepreneurshipFeatured

“It’s possible for ordinary people to choose to be extraordinary” – Elon MuskMy name is Dayo Ogunniyi McIntosh and I am the founder and CEO of Yateou which means ‘exceptional’. We are a sustainable clean beauty robotics brand harnessing the power of premium botanical oils to create haircare, skincare, and aromatherapy products that are 100% natural, vegan, cruelty-free, and ethically sourced. The spirit of Yateou is customized products tailored to individual personal care goals and needs, but we offer a variety of pre-made products for those who aren’t interested in the heavy lifting. Our products are handmade with love by humans and our patent-pending essential oil robotic bartender, ADE!I created Yateou as a unique solution to the lack of safe and inclusive personal care products in the market. It has always been a challenge to find products that work for my hair and skin type and because I didn’t look my best growing up, my self-esteem suffered and that followed me well into adulthood. It wasn’t until four years ago, after recovering from my miscarriages and a devastating divorce, that I realized I was proud of the woman I was, and she deserved to be well and healthy. I intentionally sought clean and inclusive products but wasn’t satisfied with the offering in the market so I started making my own products in my kitchen; a year into my wellness journey, my brother went missing and that was the catalyst that led to the creation of Yateou. He had always told me I wasn’t living life; I was merely existing, and he challenged me to be more. On one of many sleepless nights after his disappearance, his voice pierced through and I was compelled to become the person I needed. By morning, I had a business plan drafted for the makings of Yateou.My startup journey is fraught with ups and downs, many of which were not amusing in the moment, but now I look back and laugh because I see how all of it has contributed to who and where I am today. I, Dayo, hacked my way to a viable MVP for a fraction of the cost – “ADE” is the first consumer facing robot for the beauty and wellness industries. I’ve had success as an athlete and in my professional career but Of all my accomplishments, I am most proud of that feat.No, I am not an engineer or technologist by any stretch of the imagination. What I am is a person with vision, on a mission. I am often asked how I came about the idea of “ADE” and until recently, I had no adequate response that explained the seeming randomness of Yateou. A couple months ago, I made the connection between my Clifton StrengthsFinder top two strengths – individualization and futuristic – and Yateou. I am a visionary who loves the unique attributes of each person and I’ve always been fascinated by technology. It would appear I subconsciously manifested my strengths into something I’d give everything for. I am a huge proponent of self-discovery, understanding your makeup, and embracing who you are – strengths, character, quirks, flaws, all of it – because knowing who you are empowers you to realize your full potential.The incorporation of “ADE” presents a unique challenge to the already taxing conundrum of navigating the beauty industry as an outsider. I came up with the “build-a-bear” apothecary-meets-robotics concept in November 2017, but didn’t have an MVP until November 2019, two years later. Not for lack of trying, but I just couldn’t find anyone willing to invest in my business plan, even after participating in an accelerator. I came to the realization that for my capital-intensive idea, I would have to bootstrap my MVP and show traction before I could aspire to get any sort of investment. And even then, the probability of that was a meager 0.2% - predicated by my race and gender.I’ve seen similar concepts raise millions simply because the founders had the right pedigree and/or right genetic makeup. I’ve had investors voice their derision at my idea only to find out they are investors at similar business concepts. This happens. A lot. At times, I honestly just want to cry at the unfairness of it all. And I do. For a moment. But then I wipe my tears and get back to building.In May 2019, I got a business loan to build my BETA which was demoed at Afrotech (unofficially) in November 2019; the loan I was approved for was a fraction of what I had been quoted to build my concept and I immediately knew I would have to hack my way through and it would require all my years of creative problem solving to bring my concept to fruition.For the realization of my dream, I have lived out of my comfort zone, which is a scary place especially for an introvert such as myself. My journey is filled with what I call hustler adventures all interwoven to deliver the results you see now; stories of camping out in a cold rental car for an opportunity to pitch or how ADE ended up built into a 2000 Ford moving truck instead of the intended storefront or better yet, the EPIC story of how I actually acquired my robot “ADE” which I’ll save for another time; instead, i’ll tell you how I connected with the engineer that worked with me to build my MVP.When I acquired ADE in July 2019, all the engineering and fabrication leads I had went radio silent once they learned I was bootstrapping. I remember thinking that I had failed before I even got off the ground. As it happens, my best works have often come about when my back is up against the wall and so after quitting for the millionth time, I challenged myself to do what I do best which is to think outside the box which led me to this equation:
  • I have a Kuka bot
  • Tesla = largest Kuka customer here
  • I live close to Tesla HQ
  • Therefore, there must be Tesla engineers nearby, with Kuka robot experience that are potentially open to working on a side project
And so began this frenzied effort of searching and messaging on LinkedIn, every engineer at Tesla that I assumed programmed robots based on their titles and job profiles. I must have contacted 50 people, got a handful of replies and eventually connected with the engineer that helped me bring my crazy idea to life.I know the hustle is a rite of passage and I would imagine most founders have similar stories of the unconventional and sometimes drastic measures they’ve taken to move their businesses forward; I take comfort in the fact that I am not alone.I wish I could say it’s been smooth sailing since then but in February 2020, a week after I resigned from my 9-5 to focus on Yateou full time, I faced the biggest setback, my truck with ADE in it was stolen! And just like that, seven months of hard work went down the drain. I ran local Facebook Ads and that led to the recovery of the truck sans operating system. They completely vandalized the truck even going so far as to urinate on the things they didn’t take, all the fixtures that I painstakingly added to the truck were destroyed. Devastated does not even begin to convey how I felt in that moment; a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, a lot of hacking, a lot of sleepless nights had gone into that build and for a week after the incident I shut down mentally. I am grateful for family and friends that pick you up when you are down and motivate you to keep going.Entrepreneurship, I am finding, is a rollercoaster, rewarding yet challenging with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. BUT, I wouldn’t trade it for anything; for the first time in my life, I feel aligned with my purpose and I’m convinced Yateou is a billion-dollar company in the making. I am learning, through this journey, to be kind to myself and to continually forgive myself for failing and for not meeting my expectations. I am learning that despite what I’ve been primed to believe, it’s okay for a woman to proudly and confidently tout her accomplishments, to marvel at her journey and progress and to celebrate her wins.At the end of the day, Yateou is so much more than a consumer product business, it is about empowerment and community – a movement to counteract the negative messages we are inundated with that are detrimental to our self-esteem and hinder our ability to live our best lives. If, after interacting with Yateou people walk away feeling supported enough to embrace their authenticity, encouraged to invest in their wellbeing and committed to helping others and moving the world forward positively, we’ve succeeded.Every day with Yateou is a great adventure. In many ways, this gift saved me because it gave me hope at my lowest point and continues to do so. It is a love letter to myself, a constant reminder that I am worthy and valuable - EXCEPTIONAL. So are YOU!