Niambi Cacchioli, Academic-Turned-Beauty Activist + Founder of Pholk Beauty 

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After years of struggling to find the right oils, moisturizers, cleansers, and more for her combination skin, Niambi Cacchioli, a Jersey City resident, decided to lean on her passions, roots, and expertise to create her own line of skincare solutions. Niambi sought to create her own line of green, problem-specific skincare products that were easy to understand and navigate for people with varying skin types and concerns. Pholk Beauty is a female-owned, Jersey City-based beauty brand that specializes in “soul food for the skin.” 

Niambi used to have a local skincare brand called Bloomsbury Sq. based in the Jersey City Heights, not long before launching Pholk Beauty. Through this experience, she found that it was really hard to entice women of color to come into the store. After a couple of years, she realized that she wasn’t really sharing her own story and her own beauty culture to attract those women. She decided to create an open conversation about her ingredients and their story to try and better connect with her community. 

Read on to learn more about Pholk Beauty founder Niambi Cacchioli and her background, the brand’s ties to Hudson County, her experience as a Black female business owner, and her future plans for Pholk Beauty.

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Niambi’s Story

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Niambi is an academic-turned-beauty activist. As a Southerner, vegan skincare expert, avid traveler, and former historian who studied the African Diaspora, Niambi recognized a common thread amongst her experience and travels – the thread of beauty and healing. Niambi thinks of skincare as a diaspora, which by definition is a scattered “population whose origin lies in a separate geographic locale.”  

Niambi grew up in Kentucky with a strong sense of community — a slow, warm way of life. Even though she lived in the biggest city in the state, Louisville, it felt like a small town to her. “It was more than normal to say hello to whoever I passed in a store,” she shared with Hoboken Girl, noting that socializing in backyards and porches and a sense of community was the norm. She admits to thriving in cities, like the one she grew up in because there are so many types of people, cultures, and creatives to experience. 

Later in her life, after living in Europe for 12 years and visiting places like Iran, Egypt, Italy, or Paris, Niambi’s admiration for the cultivators of culture, botanicals, minerals, and nourishment throughout the globe inspired her to create her own skincare magic-using wisdom and insights from those who experimented before her. But, Niambi’s inspiration for Pholk Beauty didn’t just sprout abroad or at home, the roots of the business were born in Jersey City for a reason. 

Pholk’s Jersey City Roots

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Jersey City’s Monticello Avenue is the perfect blend of all those things Niambi craves in a city – diverse people, cultures, and creatives. Her favorite part about Pholk Beauty’s home base on Monticello is that she “can walk six blocks and connect with shop owners from across the globe and feel welcomed by everyone — West African, Dominican, Phillipino, Iranian, as well as a lot of Black folk with Southern roots whose families moved up during segregation.” 

The camaraderie between businesses and their owners on “the Avenue” is strong. “I feel completely free to be myself and create my own vision of a beauty culture because I’m in an environment that celebrates uniqueness.” 

Read More: This Jersey City Jewelry Designer Made Custom Pieces for The Young and the Restless

The team behind Pholk Beauty is all based in or near Jersey City, too. The company culture encourages sharing personal perspectives, is welcoming, and — most importantly to Niambi — inclusive. 

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When asked about just how connected to Jersey City the brand is, Niambi replied,

“Pholk is such a Jersey City brand! I created our first products based on requests from our customers. It’s such a welcoming and nurturing city, which makes me feel at ease trying new things. I love that my customers will give me constructive feedback when I need to finesse a formulation or packaging. I’m confident shipping the products across the country to customers I’ve never met before because our Hudson County fam has given us years of really helpful feedback.”

 

Some of Niambi’s favorite fellow Jersey City businesses include Palace One Eleven and Satya + Sage {for when she needs to get her “emotional vibe right”, as well as her neighbors Last Place Winners, Snapdragon Cafe, Baonanas, and {Rhythm and Blues landmark} Moore’s Place on Monticello Avenue.

Soul Food for the Skin  

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As a self-described “green girl and historian”, it’s important to Niambi that Pholk Beauty speaks about its ingredients. She tells us, 

“A lot of people don’t realize that ingredients like watermelon, aloe, hibiscus. moringa, frankincense, etc. are rooted in Black beauty cultures. With Pholk, I’m really intentional about sharing my love for our ingredient heritage. And similarly, I think many skincare brands have no idea how sensitive and reactive melanin-rich skin can be. The smallest irritation or pimple can lead to dark marks and scarring.  It’s super important that we also only use ingredients that are natural, ultra-gentle, and won’t clog pores.” 

Pholk Beauty is an all-natural, vegan skincare line inspired by the folk beauty secrets of the African Diaspora. Niambi blends together superfood botanicals from her southern Black traditions with ingredients from African and Caribbean countries. Many of the ingredients in Pholk Beauty products are used in both foods and on the skin, which is why Niambi likes to think of her line as “soul food for the skin.”

The Honeysuckle Rose Face Mist is Niambi’s ride or die product. It’s alcohol-free and helps to quench winter skin throughout the day. The Daily Detox Face Wash is a customer favorite and is beloved by those with oily and acne-prone skin seeking a gentler cleanser option. The Kalahari watermelon seed oil in it breaks down dirt and sebum without irritating skin.

Shop Pholk Beauty online at pholkbeauty.com or in Love Locked in Jersey City. In fact, they actually have a same-day delivery service for our local fam!

The Pholk Family 

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Other than the graphic designer who is sheltering in place with family in Trinidad and Niambi’s retail strategist in LA, everybody working with Pholk is currently local to Jersey City. Niambi lights up when talking about her team. 

When Covid hit, she was forced to make a decision to put the health of her family before her business. But suddenly, the company saw online sales began to pick up because of the March shutdown. 

“When the racial justice movement expanded into the beauty industry, they experienced a flood of online sales, literally overnight,” she shared. Pholk’s web designer, Kerry Deliz, who had been working to overhaul pholkbeauty.com, helped Niambi optimize the site to better manage order fulfillment. Danyelle Valentin, who had been working as a sales associate, took over social media and brought in her sister, Alyssa, to apprentice in the workshop and assist with making products. Stephanie Garced, who had assisted with Pholk’s in-store events, took over press and outreach and Niambi brought in Celeste Ruggia to work on shipping. 

See More: Cryo Cream Jersey City: A Chat with Owner Matt Marotto

She explains that her team is very much in startup mode, but it’s changed both her business and her life to have such a dedicated, innovative and caring team. “Plus they are FUN!” Niambi adds. 

If you follow Pholk on Instagram or TikTok, you may see some of these behind-the-scenes names in front of the camera.  

Pholk’s Part in the #BuyBlack Movement 

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Niambi has a powerful perspective and story as a female, Black business owner and has proudly used her platform to share the Pholk Beauty story with the hopes of empowering other aspiring entrepreneurs and educating consumers about the importance of the #BuyBlack movement along the way. 

Having grown up in Louisville, the same town as Breonna Taylor, hearing the news of her killing brought Niambi into a deep state of grief. She shares, “If this could happen in Louisville, it could happen anywhere. As a mom of two Black boys, I wondered if I was doing enough to create a safe future for my kids.” Initially, Niambi wanted to close her business and focus on social justice. But, because Black and Brown women were also so profoundly impacted by Covid, she nearly immediately started getting calls to participate in virtual gatherings and panels. Soon women were DMing, calling, and emailing Niambi because their stress was manifesting in their skin and they needed her help. When the #BuyBlack movement spread, things got really crazy for her and the brand. 

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According to Niambi, Pholk Beauty appeared on about 90% of the Black beauty brand lists circulating. Although she was incredibly grateful for the exposure, the press caused her a lot of anxiety. When she realized that the revenue spike was a means to flesh out Pholk’s inclusive mission, she doubled down. Holding space for wellness in a historically Black neighborhood, cultivating opportunities for our super-talented BIPOC team, and sharing her beauty culture, are all things that make Niambi feel like she is doing her part and living her dreams.

Support Niambi and Pholk Beauty by following the brand on Instagram and shopping the site.

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Nicole is a born and bred Jersey girl. Originally from Bergen County, she's called Jersey City home since 2016. After years of working in NYC at marketing agencies for big brands, her entrepreneurial spirit led her to turn her side hustle {supporting local businesses as a writer and social media strategist} into her day job. An all-around champion for small businesses, Nicole loves to shop, eat, drink, and share all things local to New Jersey on her Instagram page, @heynicoleraye. When she isn't curating content or networking, she can be found exploring NJ neighborhoods with her college sweetheart, whipping up a home-cooked meal, planning a get-together for her friends, redecorating her apartment, rooting for her favorite teams (go NJ Devils!), or plotting her next adventure.


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