What moved you to start your brand and how did you come to give it the name RECONEKT?
Tobi: The name of the brand came naturally after I found the WHY I wanted to create it and the true intention behind. I wanted to build a brand and a product line that connects us to our bodies and not just our skin. Because as a body worker, for me there is a difference between body and skin.
We can take care of our hair and skin without taking care of our body.
Tobi: When I say the body, it helps me to include our nervous system, our emotions and our mental state which are things that we can neglect and focus more on the outer appearance, forgetting that the inner state is what supports our outer appearance. And to reconnect to the body is to reconnect to nature itself.
Nature is not separate from us; our body is nature and nature is our body. And the closer we get to our body, the more we emerge into nature.
Do you pursue a specific goal with RECONEKT? If yes, which one?
Tobi: When we live in systems that neglect our needs and treat us poorly, we also tend to be mean and harsh to ourselves.
My goal with Reconekt is to remind us that we Black people are worthy, that our bodies, our health, and our well-being are things that matter, and that even though racism prevents us from living a peaceful life, we must commit to coming back to ourselves, to our bodies, from time to time.
Seeing Black Women Creating Soft Spaces is a revolutionary act to me. Why do you think it’s so important for us to create Soft Spaces?
Tobi: It seems revolutionary because nobody sees Black women as soft. I remember when I first started introducing the concept of softness to some of my clients, I could see their resistance to the idea, as though it’s not a mindset they can even dream of embracing.
But this is because society has made it almost impossible for Black women to be soft. We must constantly be in survival mode, fighting to get everything and everywhere.
We have seen our mothers, aunts, grand-mothers using the toxic strength as fuel to achieve everything, and so we continue in the same way. This toxic strength is simply a trauma response.
For me, giving myself permission to be soft, creating soft spaces for other Black bodies is simply humanizing ourselves. It’s breaking a trans-generational trauma chain and accepting healing.
Softness for me is key to healthy and sustainable life in societies that disrespect Black and Brown bodies.
This sentence of Lao Tzu is the one that convinced me that I am not delusional 🙂
«Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear any rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong.»
How does an ideal Soft Day look like to you?
Tobi: I define a Soft Day as an intentional day where we consciously choose not to engage with people, places, topics…anything, that can be stressful and triggering for our physical, mental, and emotional stability.
This will allow our nervous system to rest and regulate itself naturally, resulting in deep well-being.
On my Soft Days, I take time to deepen the connection with my body, through touches. I center my joy and I found it by taking a long walk with Luna, my dog, having quality time with my children and my partner, and staying away from the internet and social media.
Where can we buy your products?
Tobi: On the website www.re-conekt.com
In Germany, a new market for Black cosmetic products is slowly opening. What I love about RECONEKT is that it’s genderless, plant-based, sustainable, and cruelty free. Why has this been so important to you?
Tobi: I found it important to move in this direction, mainly because climate change is real, but also because I am African and growing up there, I experienced the rapid change that has occurred in 20 years.
Although studies have shown that AFRICA is the continent that pollutes the least, it is unfortunately the continent that is most impacted. So it’s a global problem, affecting every corner of the globe and everyone, especially the most marginalized people.
So as a new brand coming into the market today, small or not, we just have to do the work.
What is your personal connection to sustainability and your ways to live accordingly?
Tobi: For as long as I can remember, I have always been a conscious consumer, extremely minimal in all my choices and I love sustainable things in general.
I grew up in Benin, where, for example, at that time, fast fashion didn’t exist at all (I don’t know about today), so everything we have in our wardrobe is sewn by a local tailor or designer. And the most important thing is not the final fabric you get from your tailor, but being involved in the whole process, like choosing the fabric, going to the tailor, choosing the design, or designing something on your own, waiting weeks to try it on, and then making some adjustments until your cloth is ready. This whole process can take anywhere from 1 to 3 months.
And the same goes for the food, and everything else. We appreciate the slow process. Fast living is not sustainable for either humans or the planet, and that’s something I have to remind myself in every decision I make.
Looking back, what did you learn the most while building your own business?
Tobi: ❂ Focus ❂ Consistency ❂ Patience
Do you have one or two special tips, that you would give to upcoming female and non-binary founders?
Tobi: It’s already clear that the world we’re in generally isn’t designed for women and/or non-binary people, let alone the business world. But when we are ready to take the leap of faith, we need to make sure we have a small entourage of people who believe in us and the importance of what we are building.
Then, when we step into it, let’s try not to turn into sharks like some cis men and women can be. A quick reminder that the root of racism is capitalism, domination, and exploitation.
As a Black-African founder, for me, leading with compassion and with my heart is what I have centered my leadership around.
Is there a book or person that has inspired you the most on your personal journey?
Tobi: I have read and learned a lot from books, but the people who inspire me the most are my mother, and my grandmothers, in general all the women in my lineage. From them I learned to hold space for others, to be determined and gentle at the same time.
Thank You Tobi!
If you liked this conversation and felt inspired by it, don’t forget to check out the official RECONEKT Instagram Channel @reconekt.official and Tobis channel @tobi.aye . Here you can find the RECONEKT Online Store. Subscribe to my newsletter, if you don’t want to miss more posts like this in the near future! Otherwise, you can also connect with me on my social media channels.