STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — After growing up in a strict religious household where E. Aponte wasn’t allowed to wear makeup, there was no other career path that piqued her interest more than the beauty industry.
“My passion for beauty began as a teenager. Growing up in a strict Pentecostal household unable to wear makeup as a teenager or go out with girlfriends, I needed something to do. So I sold Avon with a family friend and developed a passion for beauty products. I knew one day I was going to create products of my own,” said the 59-year-old Prince’s Bay resident.
“When I was younger, I just fell in love with and developed a passion for cosmetics. I wanted to know how they were made. I looked at all the brochures, and wanted to find out as much as I could about the products,” Aponte added.
After attending Wilfred Academy of Hair & Beauty Culture in 1983 to become a makeup artist, she said she dreamed of a career that has finally come to fruition: the launch of Aponte’s own cosmetic line, OAK Beauty.
“It’s never too late to start over and go for your dreams,” she said enthusiastically.
She added she has long “mapped out” this dream, and at the same time, has managed to also fulfill various roles: wife; mother of three now-grown children; grandmother.
“I’ve always had a checklist of all my goals and dreams, and began to cut out images representing each goal, and created a vision board at a time when I was unaware there was such a thing,” she recalled.
But it took a lot of hard work and past disappointments before she successfully launched the cosmetic line last year through her company, Casa de la Moza LLC.
Aponte first started a line of lipsticks in the 1990s while raising her family and working full-time.
“At the time, I didn’t know anything about anything. … And I learned my brand name was already in use and registered. Devastated, I took a break from beauty, but I knew it wouldn’t be for long,” said Aponte.
After her divorce four years ago, she restarted her mission to create her own beauty brand.
She founded Casa de la Moza LLC , the company behind OAK beauty, a little more than two years ago — right before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic shuttered the globe. Even though the health crisis further delayed her dream, she used this time to develop a trademark.
“I couldn’t do anything until I had a trademark,” said Aponte. “It took over eight months to have my trademark registration approved for OAK Beauty. …It’s a dream come true for me.”
The company, named for her three granddaughters — Olivia, Ameena and Khaleesi — is aimed at providing vegan, cruelty-free beauty products to the public.
“I was vegan, and so I really like vegan products and all that is cruelty-free and breathable,” said Aponte, who has created a line of nail polish under her brand.
“There are less chemicals, and nail enamel allows the nail bed to breathe, unlike traditional nail enamels on the market. It’s healthier for the nail,” she said.
Aponte said the products have also become halal-certified, which means the nail polish is acceptable according to Islamic law.
“Muslim women worldwide spend billions on beauty products. Big cosmetic giants are developing halal- certified beauty products, and that gave me the idea to create a nail enamel line that is breathable,” said Aponte.
“When Cover Girl named its first Muslim spokesperson, Nura Afia, a beauty blogger for the brand, and Playboy featured a Muslim woman in a hijab, I knew I wanted my products to be inclusive,” she added.
In development are OAK Beauty lipsticks, she said.
In addition, Aponte said she currently is working on an OAK beauty blog and a reality series depicting her journey to launch and grow the company.
OAK BEAUTY AT A GLANCE
New Businesses in Focus is a weekly column that relates the stories of new Staten Island business owners. If you have a new business on Staten Island, e-mail [email protected].