A Whole Vibe
DBA Spotlight: Tiffany Wesley makes Forbes’
The Next 1000
Story by Dana Rieck
Photos by Demetrius Lee Neal Photography
Tiffany Wesley is a successful business owner and a participant in the spring 2021 cohort of Greater St. Louis, Inc.’s Diverse Business Accelerator, but the Florissant resident’s push to build equity and ownership in her community may very well be what landed her on Forbes’ prestigious The Next 1000 in June.
The three-month Diverse Business Accelerator, created for ethnically, racially and gender-diverse business owners looking to advance their enterprise’s capacity to grow by planning actionable business goals, marketing and communicating their services, and making meaningful connections to further the growth of their business.
Wesley said the program challenged her thought process as a business owner while providing networking connections and resources she needed to grow her body care company Pure Vibes.
“The diverse business accelerator just helped me hone into certain resources I didn’t know about … It was my first time diving into a retail store, so it was very different than e-commerce — it’s a lot of things that you don’t think about,” the 32-year-old said.
Adding, “I think that [the accelerator] really prepared me to do the planning right to do the work.”
Following her accelerator graduation, Wesley was named to the Forbes’ prestigious The Next 1000 list, a year-round initiative that showcases entrepreneurs throughout the country who are operating with under $10 million in revenue or funding.
“I honestly would have to say it would probably be my passion,” Wesley said of why she thinks she made the list. “I am someone who just doesn’t stop in the face of adversity and when things are challenging. Even in the pandemic, I believe those are the times when miracles are born, or when things are going bad, we get the greatest gifts out of them.”
And while her business’ story took an interesting turn in 2020 when she turned it into a cooperative, it all began for Wesley eight years ago when she was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome — a hormonal disorder that can make a person pre-diabetic or develop a sensitivity to gluten, among other symptoms.
So, Wesley set out on a health journey and conducted a self-audit of all the products she was using.
“I wanted something that was more natural in the sense that it didn’t have any artificial fragrances or any artificial dyes and that was gluten free at that particular time and I just didn’t find anything,” Wesley said. “So, I decided to go ahead and create it. And that’s how pure Vibes was born.”
Pure Vibes, established in 2017, sells essential, plant-based skin and self-care products.
Then, during the COVID-19 pandemic that left many companies struggling and shuttered so many others, Wesley decided to do something that she said many advised her not to do: she transitioned her company into an employee-owned cooperative.
“There was so much social unrest and so much division in the country,” she said. “But I felt like I needed to do something to bring the sense of community together. And not only that, I wanted to be really intentional about creating a path to ownership.”
Wesley, who currently employs three fulltime and two part-time workers, opened her first brick and mortar store June 5 at 8322 Olive Blvd. in University City.
“It’s one thing to start a business and help create jobs, but how do we create equity and ownership in spaces where it otherwise didn’t exist? And that was really important for me, especially for people of color, oftentimes we can seek out these high paying jobs, or these particular titles, but how much of it do we really own?”
If you had asked Wesley five years ago, she would have said she was headed to Atlanta, Georgia, with her company because she saw that as the place to be as a young business.
“But St. Louis has done a great job of providing those resources and in starting to learn that there’s a gap in resources for those who are underserved and for people of color,” she said. “And honestly, I would have to say St. Louis has taken this company and made it its own.”
She noted there aren’t many cooperatives in the state, creating some challenges for her while turning her company into a formal cooperative. She said she couldn’t have done it without the Diverse Business Accelerator and the Washington University Legal Clinic.
Wesley says her five-year goal is to have Pure Vibes 100% worker owned and operated so that she can set her sights on her next major goal: creating a cooperative school that is owned and operated by students’ parents to address disparities in childhood education.
“I understand where the education system is in St. Louis for early childhood education, and I think that’s the next thing — as a mother of a of a three-year-old and five-year-old, I often see the gaps of education and how they exist. So, that’s something that’s really driving me,” Wesley said.