Founder Nicole Brown Speaks On The Success Of Izzy And Liv: Home Of The Iconic Brown Sugar Box


( ENSPIRE She Did That ) Brown’s Goal For Izzy And Liv Is To “Make Sure That The Things Black Women Love Are Reflected In The Thing Black Women Buy”

ENSPIRE Contributor: Re’Dreyona Walker

‘Culture’, ‘Confidence’, ‘Soul’—explore the world of Founder and CEO Nicole Brown and her company Izzy and Liv, as her products have become a staple in the lives of many women and young girls of color. The online store based in Matawan, N.J. sells clothing, home decor, and housewares that have inspirational and empowering themes that are designed by and for Black and brown women. The brand sells a variety of appeal, accessories, home, and living and bath and beauty for Black women, teen girls, and little girls, and has a goal to design pieces that reflect their shared cultural experiences and pieces that empower the beauty they possess and the things that bring them joy. 

“I am constantly being inspired by our culture and the passion to give our voices the platform they deserve,” says Brown. “Our brand itself is a breathing example of our blackness, uniqueness, and beauty.” 

Photo: Founder and CEO Nicole Brown holding Izzy and Liv’s bestselling product, the “Brown Sugar Box”

Izzy and Liv first started 2013 as a blog called Mahogany Butterfly (MaBu) that featured posts and content surrounding Black women, as she wanted to create a space that empowered them and reminded them of their strength and beauty. She created the blog after realizing that there weren’t many spaces and websites that cultivated a secure ‘sense’ of community for Black women. After running the online community and website for about five years, she decided that even though she enjoyed the hobby she had started, she would need to shut it down to focus more of her attention on her full-time job as a digital marketing manager for a creative agency and on raising her growing family.

Not too long after shutting down the online MaBu community, Brown, unfortunately, discovered that she had developed a life-threatening pregnancy complication called HELLPS Syndrome while she was pregnant with her fourth and youngest child, Olivia. Because of this, her only option for a safe delivery was to give birth to Olivia four months prematurely at one pound, five ounces in 2013. From this stressful and life-altering experience, she then looked to leave her working from home job in digital marketing to focus more on the health of her newborn baby—as she had to spend the first four months of her life in a NICU and a year of surgeries and doctor’s visits.

Looking for something to give her comfort during this time, she eventually gained the inspiration to create a new community that will speak to the beauty of both Black women and little girls as well as truly reflect and celebrates their culture and interests. Wanting something that gave an outlet to both Black women and girls who want to see more of themselves and the things they love in the mainstream, she created a brand named after her daughters, Isabel “Izzy” and Olivia “Liv.”

Photo: The official Izzy and Liv logo, with the brand being named after her two daughters, Isabel “Izzy” and Olivia “Liv”

“Though it’s gotten better, the huge lack of diversity in media and [online] markets at large was my tipping point into my career,” said Brown. “I decided to finally pull the trigger, and leave a 20-year-career in marketing after my fourth child was born prematurely to build a business that I knew would empower and serve my daughters, myself, and others that looked like me to feel worthy of being the first thought.”

After the growing success of her business started to take off shortly after launching, it started to positively change the course of her life; after battling through a tough time with the premature birth of her daughter and the stress of working full-time and caring for her other children. With Izzy and Liv, she started to believe more in herself, in her dreams and in what all she’s truly capable of. “The experience made me realize that life is too short to not follow your dreams,” said Brown. “I also learned to be comfortable in being who I am and that I can show up free to make creative and advancing decisions for myself. I believe this will also set a precedent for others like me.”

Izzy and Liv’s best-selling item to date is the Brown Sugar Box, which is a bundle of the online store’s best-selling products, such as effortless chic graphic t-shirts and fun, colorfully patterned tumblers and curated products chosen from Black-owned businesses. The monthly subscription box was first launched in 2017 and has even grown into unboxing parties hosted by Izzy and Liv lovers.

Photo: Products that have been featured in the monthly subscription “Brown Sugar Box”

“Our boxes have built a huge online community!” says Brown. “Our boxes feature products from various black-owned businesses, not just our own, which has made people really gravitate toward the box. After launching in 2017, members in our 15,000-strong Facebook group held unboxing parties. They call even themselves “Brown Sugar Babes!”

For the past year, the pandemic has affected businesses nationwide, but Brown says that knowing that her goals and mission for Izzy and Liv lies beyond her no matter the circumstances is what has kept her and her team motivated during the COVID-19 pandemic. As for some advice for Black women who want to become entrepreneurs and start an eCommerce business from home, especially during this tough time, she says to “Live out what you are passionate about. Believe that anything is possible. And, planning is one of the most, if not the most, important steps in pivoting your career. It’s crucial to think ahead for any situation that can arise. With a clear vision, you’ll be able to push past the times of doubt and uncertainty to grow a successful business.”

As a strong, leading woman of color in business, Brown has set a hopeful example for future, trailblazing Black businesswomen. She advises that allowing your passions to lead will ultimately lead to your success. “[Izzy and Liv] being listed on both the Forbes Next 1000 and INC 5000 list as a leading business while standing firm on my beliefs and voice as a black woman will be my footprints in the sand so that the next generation knows that it is possible. And some advice to future trailblazing women: Allow your passions to drive you!” she says.

To shop Brown’s wide variety of Izzy and Liv products, you can visit the website as well as the official Izzy and Liv Instagram and Twitter pages. You can also view Brown’s Instagram page to discover any new updates on the brand.