Aniyah Smith’s imminent career was disrupted—happily—by the Husky Startup Challenge shortly after she began studying for an MBA at Northeastern.
She had been planning to pursue her entrepreneurial ambitions later in life. But the timeline underwent a radical adjustment last year at the startup challenge for Northeastern students where Smith placed second, based on her idea to create inclusive and accessible cosmetics for a diverse population.
“I did not expect to be building a company at 22 years old, but I’ve learned to be an opportunist,” says Smith, founder of the cosmetics startup Push Beauty. “Being an opportunist has allowed me to meet so many new people, to find those resources, to experience what it means to build a company—and just how hard it is.”
In support of her efforts to develop Push Beauty, Smith has received an inaugural $2,500 Innovator Award from Northeastern’s Women Who Empower inclusion and entrepreneurship initiative. The awards recognize 19 women who are graduates or current students at Northeastern. The organization is distributing a total of $100,000 in grants to help fund 17 ventures.
Smith had been focused on a career in cosmetics since she was 15. She graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in cosmetics and fragrance marketing from New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology. She earned graduate certificates in
entrepreneurship from the University of Pennsylvania and in organizational leadership from Northwestern.
She says her goal of creating an inclusive line of cosmetics has evolved to include products for disabled people that can be opened and used with one hand.
“I realized that diversity goes past color, wealth, and background—it’s really about environments and experiences that people have, and a lot of the time they are very different from your own,” Smith says. “And so my goals have changed. My career choice to be a founder of a brand has stayed the same, but what that brand is and what it means to people has definitely evolved.”
Smith is using the $2,500 Innovator Award to develop packaging for her line of color sticks that are meant to be applied by hand, rather than with a brush.
“In my research, speaking to people who are both disabled and able-bodied, they say that they love being able to blend it out with their hand,” says Smith, who models the products on her website aniyahsmith.com. ”It’s this super-versatile product that can be used on your lips, your eyes, and your cheeks. It’s convenient and easy to do your makeup the way you need to do it.”
Smith’s mentors have included Betsy Ludwig, executive director of women’s entrepreneurship at Northeastern.
“Aniyah saw a great need not only for more cosmetics targeted to dark skin—from color palettes to skin type—but also for accessible packaging that is easier to open, use and apply,” says Ludwig. “Aniyah is using her innate passion for and expertise in the beauty industry to create products and solutions for people that have been traditionally underserved. We are very proud to be supporting such a young, ambitious innovator.”
The opportunity that emerged during the 2020 Husky Startup Challenge has been life-changing and eye-opening. She has continued to develop her startup while also serving a co-op with the analytics, insights, and measurements at Hasbro, a toys and games manufacturer in Rhode Island—with the long-term goal of learning to apply data to her own business ventures.
“My plan actually initially was to graduate with my MBA, work somewhere for three or four years, and then build a company,” Smith says. “It’s all happened much quicker than I was expecting, and since then I’ve had the amazing support of the Entrepreneurs Club, Women Who Empower, and all of the resources at Northeastern.”