Kendra Bracken-Ferguson is a brand-building visionary with a passion for beauty, wellness and innovation. The business maven gives us a glimpse into her goal to help transform the $500 billion beauty industry through principles of diversity, parity and equal opportunity.
Bracken-Ferguson’s work as the first-ever director of digital media for Ralph Lauren and her partnership with Halle Berry to launch re-spin, a health and wellness platform, has cemented her status as a pioneer in the field. Boldly combining business, beauty, and digital content, her gift for developing effective brand strategy is unparalleled and her usage of inclusive business practices have laid the groundwork for a more diverse industry.
BrainTrust, the social media and brand development agency Kendra founded in 2015, recently announced the launch of its Founders Studio– the latest example of Bracken-Ferguson’s expanding initiative to accelerate diversity and equity throughout the beauty industry. The Founders Studio is a “transformative ecosystem to create inclusive economic opportunities for Black beauty and wellness founders, increase business performance, build sustainable pathways for growth and unleash millions of dollars in untapped revenue from diverse consumers.” The company has secured over $100 million in soft value from corporate partners such as JP Morgan Chase, Shopify, and Clearco. The goal of Founders Studio is to meet critical business needs, provide marketing resources and supply financial growth tools to its participants.
Bracken-Ferguson is devoted to real change, through increasing access to resources for entrepreneurs of color and employing her career expertise to make the industry a more equitable space.
AN ENTREPRENEURIAL UPBRINGING
Kendra Bracken-Ferguson: Growing up, my mom would take me with her when she’d go on business trips. I was always immersed in business and working. I wanted to be a publicist and I interned at one of the top five PR agencies in the world when I was in college. I ended up getting an internship with Fleishman-Hillard. I did my internship there, came back to school and ended up winning a scholarship to get my master’s in Sports Administration while I was working at the Indiana Pacers. Then Fleishman-Hillard called back and said, “We have a full-time job. You have to be in New York in two weeks.”
Kendra Bracken-Ferguson: We created BeautyUnited, a nonprofit organization that’s dedicated to providing access, education and resources to wellness leaders, as well as uniting the beauty and wellness industry. It was born out of COVID-19 by my co-founder Moj Mahdara and me. In the wake of everything that was happening, it was really this notion of, “What are we going to do as beauty and wellness leaders?” We did a six-month mentorship program where we paired mentors with mentees who were all Black and Indigenous beauty and wellness leaders.
PIONEERING THE DIGITAL LANDSCAPE
Kendra Bracken-Ferguson: I went from wanting to be a publicist to being this person in the agency who knew social and digital. They called it digital PR. I ended up helping build the digital practice group with Fleishman-Hillard. I became the youngest VP in this global agency.
At the time, I didn’t realize I was an entrepreneur. It wasn’t until later that I realized everything that I was doing at Fleishman-Hillard was building a new practice within something. I was helping to change the dynamic of what people thought of as traditional PR . I was then recruited to go to Ralph Lauren as their first director of digital media.
I had to teach myself Google Analytics. Then I’d sit with the PR team and we’d just look through blogs. My first business partner, Karen Robinovitz, and I decided that we were going to manage bloggers and started Digital Brand Architects. We saw these bloggers as the new influencers, and we called ourselves their managers; this was at the end of 2009-2010. I ended up leaving to do that full time and that’s when I really became an entrepreneur. It’s quite different when you’re in the midst of it, especially when you’re creating something that didn’t exist. We had to really change the dynamic and terminology around bloggers.
HEALTHY SELF, HEALTHY BUSINESS
Kendra Bracken-Ferguson: I really think that we have to be kind to ourselves; we have to have empathy and grace. We also have to take the self journey to determine who we are, what we want and what works for us to be happy and have joy. There’s no one-size-fits-all model. We have to be okay with recognizing what we need and take time for that. I know when I need to recharge and I know when I need to rest. It’s important to accept that sometimes we’re going to be tired, and sometimes things won’t go our way. If we can strive to remain positive, and ground ourselves in what we need spiritually, mentally and physically… things tend to unfold as they need and, more often than not, we find alignment.