Dayo McIntosh Yateou

Dayo McIntosh knew she was not alone in her struggle to find the right hair and skincare products, so she began to experiment with natural oils in her kitchen. What became a therapeutic practice, especially as she experienced painful events in her personal life, ultimately grew into her business, Yateou. Today McIntosh’s beauty brand stands in a class of its own, not because its sustainable, clean, 100% natural, vegan and ethically-sourced – but because every customer can customize their own product according to their own needs – and she’s created the first of its kind robotic mixologist to fulfill the orders. Her ADE robot was challenging to build (especially without a background in technology) but McIntosh was determined and in 2020 even won the Entrepreneurship Award at the Silicon Valley Robotics ‘Good Robot’ Industry Awards. Today the Newark, California-based entrepreneur has become familiar with the highs and lows of entrepreneurship but knows her passion for what she is building will carry her through the hard times.

McIntosh’s story, as told to The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project:

What was your reason for starting your business?

Yateou was started out of my personal frustration with the lack of safe and inclusive products on the market. Growing up it was always a challenge to find products that catered to my type of hair and skin and then because I didn’t look my best, I didn’t feel good and that impacted my self-esteem. The sad part is I am not alone, millions of women, especially women of color, relate to this pain point.

Four years ago, I experienced a lot of pain and loss and I was amazed at the strength, and perseverance displayed in the midst of adversity. In a moment of clarity, I determined my scars and past didn’t define me but rather, they contributed to my essence so I decided to embrace my authenticity. Because I now saw value in myself, I wanted to take better care of myself and address some of my lifelong hair and skin challenges. I did a lot of research but there was a lot of clutter and conflicting information. Additionally, I became alarmed at the lax beauty industry regulations in the US; and upon learning that some of the permitted chemicals cause reproductive dysfunction, it hit too close to home. I sought a one stop shop where I could find the natural products I wanted plus the support and guidance I needed but I didn’t find what I was looking for so, I decided to become what I needed. Inevitably, I started making my own products in my kitchen and this self-care, self-discovery investment was therapeutic and cathartic.

Yateou was born out of my frustration and took shape from my desire to share this restorative path with the others who are looking to do better, love themselves and live their best lives. 

How do you define success?

The goal in life is to find joy in living and make a positive impact in the world around us and if I am able to do that walking in my purpose and building my dream then I am beyond successful. If life has taught me anything, it is that it is fleeting and so we have to make the most of every minute we have. My brother went missing four years ago while backpacking through Nicaragua and that changed everything. He’d constantly told me that I wasn’t living life, just existing and on one of many sleepless nights after his disappearance, I was propelled into action. The phrase “what would you do if you weren’t afraid” became my mantra; up until that point, I would say I lived life cautiously and in fear and it was unfulfilling. Since that time, I have ventured out of my comfort zone, going after the things I want, learning and satisfying my curiosity about the world around me and even taking a gigantic leap of faith to start a purpose driven business with ambitious plans. If I compare my life now to my life four years ago, I would say it’s been a success because I am living a fulfilled life and one day seeing the impact that I’ve made in people’s lives and in the world will make that complete.

Tell us about your biggest success to date

I built my beauty robotic mixologist, the first of it’s kind, without any previous experience and for a fraction of the industry cost by being very scrappy and resourceful – see attachment for details. I know I am building something incredible with Yateou, I am also very biased. Without an engineering background and with no capital, I got very      resourceful and was able to build my proof of concept that was awarded the Entrepreneurship Award for the Silicon Valley Robotics ‘Good Robot’ Industry Award in 2020. Because I had such low self-esteem growing up, I am amazed to be this woman doing incredible things. My ability to get to where I am with limited resources and support validates my capability and strength and I don’t think I will ever stop marveling at that.

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

In a way, my biggest success is driven by my top challenge. We all know that women have a difficult time raising capital to invest in their businesses and when you factor in race, female minority founders are even less likely to get the resources they need to put them on the path to success. That, is my reality. I’m building a clean beauty company which is a tough industry to begin with but when you factor in the robotics component, it elevates the complexity of my startup build and to be honest it is daunting. Without experience in the beauty or robotics industry, I embrace the challenge because I am passionate about my company and I know I am building a game changer. The reality is if I were a different sex, race, had the right pedigree, I would have a ton of resources and support but I can’t change any of those things and so I’ve invested my own money and I’ve learned to be resourceful and think outside the box to achieve the results I need to build and grow my company.

What is your biggest tip for other startup entrepreneurs?

Start small in order to test the market and don’t wait for perfection before you launch.

How do you find inspiration on your darkest days?

My faith keeps me going, I am also encouraged when I listen to podcasts like ‘How I Built This’ and realize that many of the successful entrepreneurs didn’t necessarily have it all figure out but came out on top by being consistent, flexible and determined to be succeed.

Who is your most important role model?

I can’t pin point one individual as the one I look up to but I am constantly amazed and inspired by women like me who face obstacles and adversity and despite it remain steadfast and focused on building successful companies. I understand grit and determination and these interviews give me so much hope because on the days when I feel like I am failing and just about ready to give up, I refer back to their journeys and it gives me the strength to keep going. I plan to be on the podcast one day and my hope is that my story gives other women the encouragement they need to keep going.

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