Women in Business

By Mary O’KEEFE

Throughout the month of March, CVW will be looking at women who are making a difference within their communities. We start by looking at a young entrepreneur who is not only a savvy businesswoman but is also a supportive voice for her generation.

When Destiny Helligar started her company she was 11 years old. She is now 16 and has built up her company and has reached out to other young entrepreneurs to inspire and mentor them.

“I began making skin care products,” Helligar said. “A lot of my family has sensitive skin.”

She wanted to make a product that was natural and safe for sensitive skin but also appealing to those who wanted natural products. She created her company Afterlite Bodycare.

Her company sells bar soaps, sugar scrubs and bath bombs along with a variety of other items.

“Our top sellers are the body butters and the unscented and scented soaps,” Helligar said.

Starting a company wasn’t easy but she was determined and had an inspiring mentor in her mother Carmenita.

“I started working with my mom and took a lot of online classes that taught how to make formulas, [taught me] sanitation and how to make things properly,” Helligar added.

She said she was surprised to learn how many companies in the same field did not evaluate their products to determine if they would work for everyone and not have side effects.

Although her average customers are women in their 20s and 30s, her base is expanding to reach women her age and also older women.

“And men, too,” she added.

Seeing people use her products and being able to talk to others about her journey is the most rewarding part of owning her business; however, it was not easy getting a foot in the business door.

 “Navigating the business world as a young Black woman I saw a lot of different companies that did not take [me] seriously,” she said.

She added that being so young and Black and female did not make it easy for her but she had a history of business experience prior to launching her company. When she was even younger she had a lemonade stand where she learned marketing skills by reaching out to customers to show that her product was better than her competition’s – another lemonade stand.

Prior to the pandemic she sold her products online and at a local store in Burbank on Magnolia Avenue. COVID saw her sales decline but Helligar is nothing if not persistent and just kept moving forward with her online offerings. Now her sales are picking up.

And if going to school, holding outreach meetings to help other young business upstarts and running her own company weren‘t enough, she also has a non-profit she started with her mother called the Destiny Education Project. She said the non-profit is focused on what affects people most in schools. They are focused on how schools treat, teach and reach people of color including Black and indigenous students.

They work in many areas, including the Burbank Unified School District, support the Burbank High School Black Student Union and have received recognition from the California State Legislature and State Assemblymember Laura Friedman.

“Most recently we had a peer reading group that we brought into [Burbank] elementary schools,” she said. “We donated $1,000 to John Muir Elementary [in Burbank].”

Helligar credits as inspiration her mother and other women in her family.

“My mother has always had inventions and businesses,” she said. “My sister is a doula and works with women to help them.” (A doula is a professional trained in childbirth who provides emotional, physical and educational support to a mother who is expecting, is experiencing labor or has recently given birth, according to American Pregnancy Association.)

Helligar said she had experienced racism in school but has also experienced a lot of positive interactions.

“I want to emphasize the positive more than the negative,” she added.

She never takes for granted the fact that she is a role model for others as a philanthropist and a business woman, and keeps that in mind when negative things are said to her. When someone says something that is either sexist or racist, she typically puts herself in the position of one of the young girls she has met and mentored and tempers her response as if they were there listening.

“I think the message I want to give young boys and girls is that anybody can do anything they want,” she said. “Don’t underestimate yourself just because someone says you can’t do it.”

Afterlite Bodycare can be found at afterlitebodycare.com or at localascanbee.com. The Destiny Education Project can be found at thedestinyeducationproject.org. Donations are welcome.