Raynell Steward dropped out of school at 16 but has built a $50 million cosmetics brand

BY Preta Peace Namasaba May 28, 2024 10:05 AM EDT

After leaving high school at the age of 16, Raynell Steward, also known as Wuzzam Supa or Supa Cent, developed a strong work ethic. She persuaded her aunt to hire her at an aquarium and committed to working full-time. Steward began an entrepreneurial journey that would culminate in having a significant impact on the domestic cosmetics industry with her brand The Crayon Case. Transitioning from being a waitress to becoming the CEO and founder of a $50 million brand, this social media star continues to engage her fans with content that documents her inspiring story.

“I told my aunt, who was my manager at the time, that I didn’t have to go to school every day so I could work during the week. One time [my mom] popped up at school and called me, I was at work, and she was [asked], ‘Where are you?’ I said I was at school, and she said, ‘No, you’re not because I’m at your school,’ and I hung up the phone. I got on a bus and went home. I got in trouble and told her I would quit the job, but I didn’t; I just stayed at work,” Steward said about her early interest in work.

But first, she would have to be tested.

Steward worked at various locations around New Orleans and was able to support herself financially. However, the life she had built for herself was destabilized by Hurricane Katrina which struck southeast Louisiana in 2005. Steward and her family did not evacuate the city and braved the storm, eventually leaving a few days later. Steward relocated to Texas where she got into the service industry and learned crucial marketing and customer service skills.

She managed to secure a job as a server in a restaurant named Oceania Although she did not have extensive experience as a waitress, she turned to her co-workers for answers and was soon excelling. In 2011, Steward made her debut on the show Kitchen Nightmares with Chef Gordon Ramsay as a server. The appearance showcased her bright personality and many viewers connected with her pureness and authenticity. Breaking out as a social media star would prove to be essential to Steward’s rise as an entrepreneur.

“Every time I did a video that went viral, I started selling something from it. I was selling anything that I was seen with on social media. If I was wearing fanny packs, I would be selling fanny packs. If I was wearing headphones and my followers asked about them, I would try to sell them. I felt like, if people were going to ask me where I got something from, I might as well sell it,” Steward said about how she leveraged social media for business growth.

While in Oceania, Steward was impacted by her employer’s mastery of marketing and customer service. The establishment utilized all marketing pathways, giving away free items, letting police eat for free, and applying word-of-mouth incentives to bring in clients. Steward emulated these tactics and implemented them to sell items on her website. She used the capital raised from her retail business to fund her cosmetic line.

Her love for the colors ignited her interest in makeup. In a quest to learn more about makeup and master its application like a professional makeup artist, Steward created the “Crayon Case.” She persistently sampled and invested to realize her vision of democratizing cosmetics with the cosmetics line for novice make-up users and up-and-coming make-up artists. The packaging concept was marketed to resemble a box of crayons, representing “a world of opportunities and igniting a color array of dreams — dreams that would come true.” Steward initially bought samples from suppliers, put her logo on them, and marketed the products through the live video streaming app Periscope.

In 2018, Steward sold $1 million worth of cosmetics in just 90 minutes on Black Friday. She followed up this remarkable feat with a staggering $1.37 million sale the next year. The Crayon Case has since been featured on Oprah’s Favorite Things twice and has cemented its dominance in the beauty market. Despite lucrative acquisition offers, Steward is committed to preserving her brand’s authenticity and community roots. She continues to grow her brand, with multiple sellouts and hectic restock days.