Beauty product entrepreneur offers stories, advice at Berkeley Forum event

Ketki Samel/Staff

Jasmine Lawrence, the founder and CEO of multimillion-dollar beauty company Eden BodyWorks, has been a guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show and TEDx — and now the Berkeley Forum. At a Berkeley Forum event Monday, Lawrence spoke about her journey to entrepreneurship.

Lawrence began the talk with her story. At 11 years old, an attempt to straighten her hair ended in disaster when the product she used caused her hair to fall out. Lawrence said she decided to use natural ingredients available to her to create a product that would make her hair grow back faster and healthier. By age 15, she got her first business deal.

Lawrence told a room of students that entrepreneurs not only find the solutions to problems, but have the drive to pursue those solutions.

Lawrence said she wants to help students who are thinking of starting their own businesses to “make their own decisions.”

“I am always inspired by the questions that people ask, and figure out where this group is leaning, either in joining or starting their own company,” she said.

In addition to running her company, Lawrence is a technical program manager at Facebook. Students asked her about managing both careers. To Lawrence, beauty and technology go hand in hand. She said working with beauty has taught her empathy in the tech sector.

“Beauty and technology are the two industries that affect us most when we wake up every morning,” Lawrence said. “We check our phones, check the mirrors.”

When students asked about how social media could negatively impact self-image, Lawrence replied that although she knows “anything can be used for bad,” she plans to use social media for the better. She said she uses Facebook as a platform to diversify the “hair stories” of different women and to make these stories more relatable.

“My goal is to leverage anything that I can for the benefit of humanity,” she said.

During the event, students asked Lawrence for entrepreneurial advice, as well as how her unique experience as an underrepresented minority and a woman in the technology industry has shaped her career. Lawrence replied that she wishes there were more of an open dialogue in the technology sector about being a minority, adding that she was hired “to bring my personality to make the company better.”

Srividya Ramamoorthy, a graduate student at UC Berkeley’s School of Information, said the talk was “inspiring.” After working for Facebook and Uber, Ramamoorthy decided to pursue her interests and go to graduate school, despite being urged not to do so. She said Lawrence’s talk made her realize that “there is never a wrong time” to pursue a given career path.

“It shows that you can always dream bigger than you think you can, and you don’t need to put a ceiling over yourself,” Ramamoorthy said.

Isabella Sabri is the lead student life reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @isabella_sabri.