Dalaise Hickey BabyDonna
Dalaise Hickey, founder of BabyDonna. (Credit: Courtesy of BabyDonna)

Dalaise Hickey’s entrepreneurial journey was inspired by significant loss. Over the past few years, several close female relatives of Hickey’s passed away. Their deaths hit hard, and inspired a fundamental reevaluation of her life. Hickey, a mother of two, decided that she “couldn’t keep putting off what was important,” and wanted to prioritize spending time with her children and pursuing her goals. In 2022, she launched BabyDonna, a company that sells sheer, reef-safe, mineral sunscreen sticks for Black and Brown babies, toddlers and children. Today the Shelton, Connecticut, entrepreneur is figuring out how to get the word out about her product – especially because the more she sells, the more she can give.  Hickey donates 5% of all sales to nonprofits benefiting youth in the U.S. child welfare and juvenile justice systems. 

Here’s our lightly edited Q&A, from The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project.

How is your business different from others in your industry?

BabyDonna is the only Black-owned sunscreen company offering a mineral sunscreen stick specifically formulated for babies with darker skin tones. Our sunscreen stick took almost a year to perfect, because we wanted to ensure that it really was a cut above the rest.

Tell us about your biggest success so far. 

Launching BabyDonna! There really are no words to describe the feeling of watching your dream and vision become a reality.

What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?

Marketing. We are a startup, the funds needed for full marketing campaigns just aren’t there. As a result, we have leaned on word of mouth, purchases from family and friends, customer feedback and assistance provided by nonprofit organizations that work with small business owners.

Have you experienced any significant personal situations that have affected your business decisions?

In 2018, I lost my mother, my aunt and my paternal grandmother. In 2021, I lost my maternal grandmother. The loss of so many women in my life really impacted me – it made me realize that time was truly a gift. I realized that I couldn’t keep putting off what was important to me. It was time to take the leap and follow my dreams.

What is your biggest tip for other startup entrepreneurs? 

Be your own cheerleader. Not everyone will understand your dream or your vision. A lot of doors might be closed before one finally opens. But continue to believe in yourself, and know that eventually your hard work will be seen.

How do you find inspiration on your darkest days?

My children keep me going. They are why I decided to start my own company. I am beyond grateful and thankful to be able to be their mom and proud to have created two amazing human beings.

What is your go-to song to get motivated on tough days? 

“TEMS” by Free Mind.

Who is your most important role model?

BabyDonna is a tribute to my late mother — she is the most important role model of my life. Her middle name was Donna, and I wanted to build a connection to her into the business some way. She always instilled in me that I could do big things. She raised three girls on her own as a single mother in the Bronx in the 1980s. That in and of itself is a huge accomplishment. But she also always helped us to remember we were more than what people viewed us as. I am beyond proud to keep her name going, and am thankful for the time I had with her. ◼

Facebook: @babydonna

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