After one visit to Los Angeles, Nyakio Grieco knew where she wanted to be. Drawn to the city’s creative energy, she landed a job as an assistant at one of Hollywood’s biggest talent agencies and eventually moved to the management side of the business, where she was hands-on in managing and guiding the careers of actors. But there was one undeniable problem she couldn’t escape: No matter how hard she worked, she wasn’t getting promoted.
“That was the hardest part, and that kind of became a running theme for me through working in the [entertainment] business,” Grieco remembers. “I always felt that I was observing others pass me by, and I couldn’t understand why because I was just as qualified and just as hard-working.”
After a few years in the entertainment industry, Grieco began to see her career in a new light. She realized her most exciting days were those spent with clients—working on photo shoots, executing brand deals, working on campaigns—and they all had one thing in common: beauty. Though she loved beauty, she also came to the disheartening realization that wherever she looked within the “global” beauty industry, the African continent seemed to be absent. As a first-generation American of Kenyan descent, Grieco saw an opportunity to not only fill the void in the market but also honor her own heritage.
Grieco quit her job in management and set off to create a beauty brand based on the traditions passed down through her family for generations. Within four months, Grieco had secured her first round of funding, and less than a year later, she launched the first iteration of Nyakio Beauty. “I think that’s also part of the reason that I became an entrepreneur. I gave myself my own promotion,” says Grieco.
After many stops and starts, brand resets, and two decades of perseverance, Nyakio has grown to include cultural traditions, beauty secrets, and recipes from 13 different countries across the world, including Asia and Europe. Today, the brand is available via Target.com at an accessible price point, a factor that is deeply important to Grieco.
“Through anything that I produce, I want to make an impact. From the communities that I’m sourcing from to the communities that I work in, that I live in, where my products are sold,” Grieco says.
Grieco is a shining example of the Second Life phenomenon. “My purpose, I figured it out in my 40s,” Grieco reflects. “I’m here as a storyteller, but I’m here to help other women, and young women who look like me, know that they can do this.”
Head to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or anywhere else you listen to podcasts to tune in to this week’s episode of Second Life and hear how Grieco went from guiding the careers of actresses to creating a beloved skincare brand that’s bringing underrepresented cultures to the forefront of the beauty conversation. And to shop Nyakio’s incredible formulas, keep scrolling.
Next up, hear how Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan became the Fug Girls and best-selling novelists.