At BBN, we have been inspired by pivotal women who have made our 5 years in business more impactful than we could’ve imagined. So, it is with a heavy heart that we share that our friend, Dr. Nicole Andrews, succumbed to her battle with cancer this March.
In addition to being one of the kindest, most thoughtful and light-radiating people I knew, she's also an enormous inspiration behind Bourn Beautiful Naturals. Nicole was one of the first friends I truly bonded with after moving to the UK. It took me a few years to feel that connection with someone here. It has been just over a week since I received that horrible early morning phone call about her death, but it is still hard to believe this earth is no longer blessed by her presence. We are all poorer for it.
Nicole and her husband, Dr. Kehinde Andrews (my PhD supervisor and now colleague in Black Studies at Birmingham City University) treated me like family. Our PhD journeys intersected, and we shared lunches together during that time and long after she was finished. I remember wondering if I could achieve what she did in her Viva Voce: gain a pass with no requests for revision (spoiler alert: I had very minor corrections to make). She encouraged me through a difficult time, in 2015, when I had to seek medical intervention for my mental unrest. She was understanding, and optimistic as ever.
The last time we had lunch in early 2020, I did not know it would be the last time. Did not know a pandemic would hit, keeping us apart physically. Did not know Nicole would be diagnosed with breast cancer early into the pandemic, let alone have to undergo so many run-ins with the NHS system during its most in-capacious time. I'm not sorry, but f@ck cancer.
I battled with writing this blog post and sharing Nicole's impact on the existence of Bourn Beautiful Naturals before finally deciding that her influence is a living testimony to exactly what the values of this brand reflects: centring the needs and voices of Black women. As a nerdy confession, this brand is the living praxis of my Black Feminist philosophy: when you centre the needs of the most marginalised among us, everyone else benefits. Nicole is the reason Hair Too Balm exists. She wanted an emollient she could. use on her children's hair. What she did not want: wax, mineral oil, petroleum, thick gloopiness or an oil in a bottle (too messy). What she did want: something with filled with natural goodness, a thing easily rubbed through her palms, safe for her children and herself. It would not have occurred to me to make Hair Too Balm without her request. Today, it is consistently in the top 2 of products we sell and is beloved by many hair types for different purposes.
Nicole was the first person to offer me money for the products I made as a hobby. For £20, in 2015, I gave her 6 or 7 things I had made. She tried some and gave others to friends and family to try. She came back to me and insisted that I turn my hobby into a business. I was reluctant, but she persisted for a year. During that time, her advice also helped improved what is now Oat Rich Lotion (it evolved, in part, from a belly butter for a pregnant friend. She ended up using it for that purpose, too!). She saw something in me and my products. I finally had the courage to listen to her, and the inner voice which told me I had nothing to lose except respect for myself if I did not try. December 2016 I took a low-stake's chance to sell some products at a local Christmas fare to a demographic that was not my target. People bought things and I was amazed. When I told Nicole, she was not amazed because she had already known the thing that took me to long to realise: I'm onto something.
I will miss her, our lunches and our WhatsApp chats. May she rest with the ancestors. Ashay.
Nicole's husband, Kehinde, has asked that Nicole be honoured by donating to her Race for Life page at Cancer Research UK