An Interview With Sharmadean Reid: Why The Stack World Puts Community First

by Christina Donoghue on 30 June 2021

The BeautyStack CEO talks reading broadsheet papers aged 14 and the importance of community-led platforms in a post-pandemic world.

The BeautyStack CEO talks reading broadsheet papers aged 14 and the importance of community-led platforms in a post-pandemic world.

Above: poster for The Stack World's second session on salary negotiation with Talent Atelier

If the past year has taught us anything, it's that safe spaces and communities are integral to society and everyday living - needing to be protected no matter what. Not only do they allow minority groups to unite and share their experiences, but they also encourage people to surround themselves with others who are like-minded. Through providing a break from judgement and unsolicited opinions, safe spaces offer unconditional support to the people who need it most. The pandemic has worked towards demolishing physical safe spaces over the past year, leaving many marginalised groups feeling lonelier than ever. Lo and behold, The Stack World is here to help.

Upon realising the essential need for communities in a post-pandemic world, Sharmadean Reid, CEO of online platform The Stack World, decided to build her entire business around the heart of the community she cares about the most - women. The Stack World, in a nutshell, is a place where women can go to and read about issues that affect them the most; a platform that offers helps and support to all different types of women. Their most recent feature, 'The Importance Of Queer Networks And Seven To Have On Your Radar,' goes to great lengths to uncover queer safe spaces in 2021, documenting their history and the activists who have paved the way for such acceptance to be granted today. Split into five categories - beauty, wellness, business, culture and society - The Stack World provides a voice for those struggling to find theirs.

Following the 2009 launch of the now closed WAH Nails, the cult East London nail salon business, Reid created an app-based beauty service booking platform BeautyStack in 2018, making it her mission to empower customers and professionals alike ever since. The pandemic only accelerated Reid's understanding in the power a community can hold, which saw Beauty Stack launch The Stack World; a platform that's not only there for your beauty needs but also the people behind them. Beauty is still at the heart of The Stack World, present in everything they do. As is the idea of community, focusing on the importance of a woman's experience in a world that still undoubtedly belongs to men. Despite being built on a love for beauty, The Stack World users no longer just come for their beauty-related needs. A quick scour on their website will leave you filled to the brim with knowledge and information that's not only empowering but uplifting too. From publishing 'Where to Gallery-Hop Around London as Curated by the Coolest Women on the Art Scene' to Conversations With My Sex Therapist: Who Owns My Body?', a quick glance over the The Stack World's website will leave you feeling as nourished as a good heart to heart with an old friend. Covering a myriad of topics, it's near impossible to pin The Stack World to just one thing; struggling with grief? There's an article for that. Want to know how to nail a great pitch? You can read about that too. Wondering how to perfect the 'no make-up make-up' look? Yep, it's all there.

In January 1918, the first amendment act was passed granting women the right to vote. Fast forward 123 years later, it seems easier than ever to take for granted that there was once a time when women couldn't vote or didn't have a voice. Especially when you look at influential platforms like The Stack World, making you realise just how far we've come and wondering how it's taken us so long to get here. Yet, if we were to look at the political party in power and (more specifically) Boris Johnson's cabinet that has lead us through the Coronavirus pandemic (that one's up for debate), its majority is still alarmingly white and well, insufferably male. Businesses that often didn't personally benefit certain members of the UK government were shunned and given little to no support - no matter how large their financial contribution to society. As beauty professionals were left uncertain and unsupported during the UK lockdown, Reid helped create the #BringBeautyBack campaign last summer, campaigning against the government's choice to open pubs and other retailers while the beauty salons and their hygienic practices remained forcibly closed. Penning an open letter to the government, the campaign gave a much-needed voice to several beauty professionals, who, despite being part of an industry that contributes over £28 billion annually to the UK economy, were overlooked as part of what many people considered to be a 'gendered reopening plan'. (Yes, that's right, barbers were allowed to offer face trims, yet close-contact beauty treatments - such as eyebrow threading and facials - were entirely off-limits).

Inspired by the community Reid has created with The Stack World and her unwavering support for women everywhere, we spoke to the CEO on the importance of beauty in our society, female-led business and what the future of The Stack World holds.

Sharmadean Reid by Nick Knight for SHOWstudio
Campaigning for Boris to #BringBeautyBack during the first Lockdown was a wake up call to many that beauty is political. The Stack doesn’t just tell you the most expensive-smelling perfumes to buy, it goes deeper

Christina Donoghue: Where did the idea come from to start The Stack World?

Sharmadean Reid: The Stack World is our evolution of BeautyStack. Over the various virtual events we ran over lockdown, we realised that our most engaged users were the ones who were the most ambitious, resilient, and open to learning – and that they came to us for everything beauty related but also so much more. I first read a broadsheet newspaper when I was 14 and I’ve been obsessed with magazines and media ever since. The more I consumed, the more I realised how full my newsfeed was of, at best, takedowns of female CEOs and, at worst, issues that had nothing to do with women. I wanted to build a platform where front page headlines were conversations about childcare policies or female VC funding rather than the colour of Theresa May’s shoes. Crucially, The Stack is not just content for women, it’s a community for women in a post pandemic world. With the physical community of salon spaces we championed at BeautyStack temporarily unreliable, it felt vital to create an online space where women can share their knowledge and their power.

CD: Who is The Stack World for?

SR: The Stack World was built with all of the incredible and ambitious women that I know in mind. More generally, our users tend to be city-based women with a desire for change, whether that’s personal, political, career or otherwise. It’s for entrepreneurs and change-makers, hustlers and hosts; it’s for anyone with discerning taste and an insatiable appetite for learning. The Stack aims to provide information and actionable insights in order to help them in their pursuit of excellence, irregardless of where they’ve come from or where they plan on climbing to next.

CD: Why do you think female-led businesses are important in today’s society?

SR: We won’t see societal change in favour of women until more women are the creators rather than just the consumers of businesses, media content, government policies, and new technology. When women run businesses they’re able to champion change on issues like equal pay, equal maternity and paternity leave, free in-office childcare and a culture that celebrates kids around the workplace. The CEO of Bumble, Whitney Wolfe, has just announced a week of paid leave for all her employees to help prevent pandemic burnout, which is just one recent example.

CD: How did you build your team for The Stack World?

SR: I’m so happy with the stellar team we put together for The Stack World launch. Bad hiring was one of the big things I got wrong in 2019 with the BeautyStack team, namely, hiring too many junior and inexperienced team members who needed a lot of direction and management, which I just don’t have the time or patience for. So when it came to hiring lead roles for The Stack I only hired people with proven experience. I mean truly experienced, like they’ve done the role at least 2/3 times before, been at a startup and are looking for a new culture, new product, new challenge. Laura Weir, The Stack editor-in-chief, has years of experience at British Vogue and The Sunday Times; our head of product, Paul, has twenty years of experience in digital, with five of those heading user experience at Burberry.

CD: Where (and how) do you think the importance of beauty fits into our society?

SR: Campaigning for Boris to #BringBeautyBack during the first Lockdown was a wake up call to many that beauty is political. The Stack doesn’t just tell you the most expensive smelling perfumes to buy, it goes deeper to question why there is still so much class prejudice around ‘cheap perfume’ and investigate the olfactory history behind Chanel No. 5. This year Notting Hill Carnival and Pride parades – community celebrations of diversity and shared identity as expressed through beauty – will be cancelled for the second year in a row, whilst football fans are still allowed to flock to Leicester Square in their thousands – there’s no denying that beauty is political and I’ve said before that beauty salons were the original social networks. The Stack readers are socially conscious beauty consumers who care about where their money and loyalty goes. They want to buy from brands that support LGBTQ+ communities, champion women, or do everything they can to protect the environmentThe Stack aims to empower them with that data. At The Stack World we know not to take someone less seriously because they care as much about what moisturiser they use as they do about their pension provider. Beauty does not ‘fit’ into our society, it is both a highly telling product of it and a defining, shaping force.

CD: Name three women you admire the most.

SR: I admire so many women it’s impossible to choose just three! There are so many female founders and trailblazers who inspire and support me: Amy Thomson of Moody App, Phillippa De-Ath of Arbor Tech, Tabitha Goldstaub of Cognition X, Michelle Kennedy of Peanut App, Nick Birkett of Elefant app Grace Ladoja, Anne Marie Imafidon and many many more. Oprah also has some great words of wisdom; she once said that your only real job is to become more of yourself which always reminds me to keep writing down my personal principles.

CD: In your own words, could you sum up the main goal of The Stack World?

SR: My personal principle has always been to empower women. It’s that simple. The Stack exists to provide women the knowledge, insight and information that we all need to make considered choices with autonomy. The Stack aims to help women achieve higher ground and higher purpose by connecting them to a network of like-minded women. My priority has always been about gender equality and I believe media, technology and business are powerful tools to do that.

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