By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times
Working for the Howard University campus radio station gave Yolaine Joseph an opportunity to do something no one else had done before—and taught her a valuable business lesson, as well.
“Something I learned in college that I also try to practice with my business now is to fill a void,” she said. “Nobody was on the radio [at Howard] in the morning, … and I was like, ‘Why aren’t we starting out in the morning with something for people to listen to?’”
Joseph started a morning show on the Howard campus and became the first voice listeners would hear in the morning.
“I would do the weather and what to expect for that day, like events or whatever I could come up with,” she said. “That was my way to get airtime, and it worked out really well for me.”
The business lesson has also worked out for Joseph: “It might not have been fun getting up [at 6 a.m.], before everybody else, but that was where I made a space for myself.”
Joseph, 50, is founder and owner of Yolaine’s Enhancing Skincare (Y.E.S.), a natural and organic skin-care line that she established in 2015, when her children started having skin problems: she has a 17-year-old daughter and a 20-year-old son.
“My daughter had eczema, and my son had some sort of skin issue,” she said. “I never liked medicines, … and sometimes I would spend money on all of that stuff to rub on them, and it just didn’t do well.”
Joseph’s Y.E.S. line currently includes about 20 different products, all of which are 100 percent natural, made with organic ingredients, and formulated with sensitive skin in mind. She does not use dyes or synthetic oils.
When she first started making her skin-care products, Joseph saw the value not only for her children but also for other family members and her friends.
“My coworker was wearing acrylic nails, and her cuticles and hands were swollen. She was like, ‘Something is wrong,’” Joseph remembered. “I looked at her hands and said, ‘You’re allergic to acrylic.’ … I gave her one of my body scrubs, showed her how to use it, and told her to take it home. She came back the next day and told me it worked.”
Others—family members, coworkers, students, friends—saw similar results. Eventually, Joseph started making products, mainly body scrubs, for them. After seeing the reactions of her loved ones, she began her business.
Summers in Birmingham
Joseph grew up in Detroit, Mich., but her family is originally from Birmingham, so she spent a lot of her summers in the Magic City.
“My mom was born and raised here in Birmingham,” said Joseph. “I spent a lot of time by myself or with my grandparents during the summer. I would come to Birmingham every summer to visit my great-grandmother, and my mom tried to keep me involved with a lot of summer camps.”
During her summers in Birmingham, Joseph learned about organic and natural products.
“My grandmother was a beautician,” she said. “She’s always been into organic and natural products, growing her own herbs and using essential oils. Back in the 1970s and 1980s, she was using henna to dye hair, [which] wasn’t really a popular thing then. Now, people use it for hair, tattoos, and everything. … My grandmother would mix up a lot of stuff on her own, but I would be in the kitchen helping her.”
Joseph was educated in the Detroit Public Schools system. When she graduated from high school in 1987, she attended Howard University in Washington, D.C., where she majored in broadcast journalism with a minor in education.
At Howard, Joseph was very involved on campus.
“Howard enabled me to be very well rounded,” she said. “I picked up a lot of the Afrocentric and eclectic side of me when I was there because I was able to take African American history and learn about the African diaspora. It was all-things-pro-black on Howard’s campus. It was good for me as a journalism major, too, because I wrote for the school paper, The Hilltop, and worked for the school radio station. They gave me a lot of opportunity to do internships.”
In addition to starting the radio station’s morning program, Joseph also started a health section in The Hilltop, something the newspaper did not have at the time.
After college, Joseph moved to New York City and got her first job at a radio station in New Jersey. She would travel via Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH), a rapid transit system connecting parts of New Jersey to New York City, taking the train back and forth from home to work.
Joseph moved to Birmingham in 1993 with her then husband and didn’t want to work in radio anymore, so she decided to get her teaching certificate. She enrolled in Miles College in 1994 and received her teaching certification in 1995.
Shortly thereafter, she took a position at Ensley High School, where she taught theater and speech for 10 years. She then joined the faculty at P.D. Jackson-Olin High School, where she taught literature and theater. She also served as an adjunct professor at Miles College. Currently, she teaches Advanced Placement (AP) literature at Ramsay High School.
“Out of all the subjects I’ve taught, I like teaching literature the best because I like reading,” Joseph said. “It’s just fun for me to be able to pass on the love of reading to children because by the time they get to the 12th grade they’re so over it. I think I have a talent for getting children engaged and presenting literature to them in a way that makes it interesting—connecting literature to life.”
Once Joseph began selling her skin-care products, her customer base grew quickly.
“A local lady who owned a spa and had an event and asked me if I was interested in selling my products there, as well. I said, ‘Yes.’ At the time, I [packaged] my products in mason jars and just wrote the name on top,” Joseph said. “[The spa owner] was like, ‘Customers love this! I want to carry it at my spa. How can I get it?’ I was like, ‘I only make it for little pop-up events, so I don’t have anywhere you can get it.’ She said, ‘We’ll just start selling it here, and we can repackage it’.”
Joseph offered her products at Healing Waters Wellness Spa on 23rd Street South, which still carries the products. Bernadine Birdsong, who helped Joseph with her packaging and branding, eventually became her mentor.
“She encouraged me to check out some other establishments in the city. Golden Temple was the next place that began selling my products, and it just kind of took off from there,” said Joseph, whose products are currently sold at several stores around Birmingham: Golden Temple; Bama Health Foods; Health Wellness and Beyond; Organic Harvest Community Grocery Store; Life Touch Massage Spa; Healing Waters Wellness Spa; The Shop; Basics Clothing and Apparel; and T & K Nails.
Within her first year of business, Joseph found someone to create her logo, and she has branched out from selling just body scrubs; her line now includes bath salts, body oils, soaps, hair serum and facial toners.
Tools to Heal
“Our most popular product is Healing Salves. This head-to-toe body moisturizer is good for eczema, psoriasis, burns, stretch marks. It’s a multipurpose body moisturizer,” said Joseph.
It takes a different amount of time to make each product, Joseph explained. Healing Salves, for instance, can take about an hour to an hour and a half. Products are made in batches of 12, and she is typically the only one who makes them—though she often needs extra help around Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Mother’s Day, so her mother and her daughter step in.
“I’m giving people the tools to heal their own health or skin issues,” Joseph said. “No matter what you’re dealing with with your skin, there’s something organic that can heal it. We want to educate the public. We want you to know, ‘These are the things you need to help yourself.’”
For more information, visit www.yolainesenhancingskincare.com or call 205-800-4933; follow Joseph on Facebook at Yolaine’s Enhancing Skincare and on Instagram at yolaines_enhancing_skincare.