Meet Andrea Polk. Founder of Solo Noir.
"I was inspired to create Solo Noir while in graduate school at Tennessee State University. I worked to design a groundbreaking grooming system that’s as effective as it is simplistic. Crafted from soothing, organic, all-natural ingredients, my grooming solution is designed to help you look your best without complicating your life.
The lessons that I have learned during this entrepreneurial journey have inspired me to share the message of encouragement with others in hopes that it helps them pursue their dreams and overcome their weaknesses. I am thankful for the opportunity to use the Solo Noir platform and my aesthetician background to educate teens and men on proper grooming etiquette and how to achieve healthy skin."
Andrea Polk is and the sole founder of the Solo Noir premium line of grooming products designed for all men of color. She is a certified Licensed Aesthetician, and she holds a Master of Business Administration in E-commerce and Logistics and a Bachelor of Science in Marketing, both the Tennessee State University. The Solo Noir brand serves as her tool in empowering the community, one confident man at a time.
In the words of renowned poet, Dr. Maya Angelou, “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” From a shy and introverted girl, Andrea Polk overcame defeats and huddles in life to achieve her ambitions. She founded Solo Noir out of her determination to empower consumers by making them look, and feel confident. She believes that her line of grooming products for men of color is the very definition of rising up and tackling each day with self-confidence.
The Solo Noir brand name is an ingenious definition of Andrea. Solo means done alone, and noir means black, which is how she defines herself. Despite her current achievements, including various entrepreneurship awards, Andrea actually never conceptualized being an entrepreneur while growing up. The idea behind Solo Noir was the brainchild of a mock business plan assignment while studying at Tennessee State University. She was asked to identify an untapped market and offer a solution that provided value. With some market research, she realized that men of color were underserved in the grooming industry. This discovery aligned with her innate passion for facilitating natural health care, sparking an urge to explore more.
Wielding a Master of Business Administration in E-commerce and Logistics, a Bachelor of Science in Marketing, experience in corporate America, and motivation to empower the community, Andrea set out to provide grooming products to men of color. Her stars seemed to align when she met a couple that made products out of their kitchen. She pooled all the resources she could find, including savings from her Grad tuition, to buy small batches of the home-made products and market them to a few retail store, expos, and events. As time went by and her business evolved, Andrea began exploring the wonderful benefits of organic ingredients. This interest led to a new path as she began crafting her own formulas – carefully curated formulas that would one day earn her “Ariel Investment’s Top 40 Under 40 Game Changers in Chicago in 2014,” and “The 2017 Best Consumer Product in Chicago” entrepreneurships awards. But not without falling and feeling defeated along the way.
“When life knocks you down, try to land on your back. Because if you can look up, you can get up. Let your reason get you back up.” – Les Brown. In Andrea’s case, she was overwhelmed by increasing responsibilities, and her dream was knocked down after 3 years of operation. Despite having a promising product, Andrea soon realized that she had chewed more than she could swallow. Managing a business, dealing with the challenges of school, and the hustle of starting a job in corporate America proved too much to juggle. She needed more resources and a game-changing strategy to recover.
True to the words of Les Brown, Andrea ‘landed on her back’ thanks to the support of her friends, family, and community. Although she nearly gave up on her dream, she was constantly nudged by people in her life to reignite and pursue her dream – they helped her to ‘look up and get back up.’ She began crafting a new business vision, armed with the experience and invaluable lessons of her failure. With the help of a creative team, Andrea brainstormed a product line with natural and organic benefits, that possessed empowering titles to empower the consumers. They sourced the ingredients from certified organic and all-natural vendors to help launch the 5 core 2-in-1 products – Dapper, Refined, Smooth, Sleek, and Brave.
After designing the label, creating the website, crafting the brand story, and finding a manufacturing partner, Solo Noir was introduced to the community in a successful launch party that included over 100 attendees. The news of the launch party soon reached the ears of her boss at the time. But in an unusual turn of events, he was proud of her efforts and supported her by offering his advisory services and paying her through the end of the year – right before firing Andrea to let her pursue her dreams. From that moment onward, Andrea has never looked back. She remains and promises to stay committed to her initial mission of uplifting her customers. She hopes to empower the community through their appearance and confidence, the same the community empowered her when she was down.