Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Raquel Riley and Maria Raquel Thomas Are Helping To Change Our World
Ask for help. For instance, we are in the cosmetic business, we could have asked more questions to people who already own cosmetic brands. Some people don’t mind helping you especially if they are already successful. They want to see you succeed.
As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”,, I had the pleasure of interviewing Raquel Riley Thomas and her daughter Maria Raquel Thomas.
Raquel Riley Thomas is an Entrepreneur, Army-Veteran and Humanitarian. She is the founder of Raquel Riley Thomas Beauty. Her daughter, Maria Raquel Thomas is also an Entrepreneur and Humanitarian and she is the founder of Maria Raquel Thomas Cosmetics. The mother-daughter duo is taking strides to not only uplift teens and women through their cosmetic brands, but to also advocate for homeless teens and Veterans.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Raquel Riley Thomas: I come from a family of performers. My grandmother was a violin virtuoso, my mother played the piano, and she played the drums. When I was younger, I used to play the drums and the violin. During that time, my grandmother reiterated to me how important it was to always look your best when you were performing, so beauty and fashion go hand in hand with my family. It was important to me to make sure that I continued that tradition of always standing tall and looking good no matter what I was doing. I later went into the military because again my grandmother my mother and my aunt all went and served the military. So, I felt it was important that I served my country first before I started moving into focusing on serving the community in a separate way. In 2011, I started An Officer and Gentlewoman, LLC and in 2020 I started a subsidiary, Raquel Riley Thomas Beauty.
Maria Raquel Thomas: I have a background in sports. I have taken gymnastics, ballet, tap, modern dance and now I am a varsity cheerleader at my school. We always have to look our best when we are performing in front of people. When I became a teenager, I started having a challenge with lip chapping. So, I started to mix my own products and came up with a formula that worked for my lips to stop them from chapping. I then showed my friends and let them try it out. It worked and Maria Raquel Thomas cosmetics was born!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
Raquel Riley Thomas: One of the things that is interesting since we started this company was that we didn’t realize that the customers were going to mix and match our brands. And because of that we decided to do a collaboration here recently of a makeup collection called R ^2. The collection is a mix of both of our styles!
Maria Raquel Thomas: Something interesting that happened when I first started my lip care collection was that I sold out in one week! We were stunned! We were so thankful and humbled that people responded to the products like they did. My mom taught me a lot about discipline and respect and I wanted to make sure that I respected the customers and gave them exactly what they wanted.
It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Raquel Riley Thomas: One of the mistakes I’ve made was not having enough product on hand. In the beginning, I didn’t realize that certain products would take off like they did. And while it was a blessing it also did not go over favorably with some of the customers who really wanted their products. We had to quickly manufacture more product to get the customers what they needed. That was a big lesson learned.
Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?
Maria Raquel Thomas: During the pandemic it was important to me to make sure that teenagers especially girls, kept motivated throughout the pandemic. It was a tough time for all of us and it was important to me to keep them uplifted. I named a collection called Girl Power using positive affirmations such as: Adventurous, Beautiful, Dreamer, etc. These are adjectives that describe us as teenagers and the more we talked about being positive the more it became a reality for so many teens.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
Raquel Riley Thomas: One thing that I instill in my daughters is to always give back regardless of what you have. I work with several organizations that focus on helping Veterans. A portion of my proceeds in my company goes back into the community to help homeless Veterans. I am on currently on the Board of Advisors for Operation Renewed Hope Foundation, a non-profit that works with Veterans to get them into housing and off the streets.
Maria Raquel Thomas: I am the ambassador for StandUp for Kids. This is a non-profit organization that focuses on combating youth homelessness. Just like my mom’s company a portion of my proceeds from my cosmetic brand goes back into the community to help those in need.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
Raquel Riley Thomas: Three things society can do to help us address helping Veterans. The first is to make sure that all Veterans have housing. The second item is to make sure that Veterans have the opportunity to get hired for jobs. Remember, if they can serve our country, they can serve your business. And last, be kind to Veterans. Many of them have gone through traumatic experiences and it’s important for us to make sure that we are empathetic. So always be kind and if you have a little extra, to an organization that helps Veterans and their families.
Maria Raquel Thomas: I believe the community should really take focus on teens. There are so many extraordinary teens who unfortunately have had challenges in their lives. If we can wrap our arms around them and help them up, I’m sure they could move forward and do wonderful things in our world. I’ve told my mom on several occasions that just think about the fact that there could be a homeless teen out there we could help who could be a scientist one day and help us discover the cure for something. You never know unless you help.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Raquel Riley Thomas: Leadership to me is about taking charge when no one else really wants to do the job. It means coming to the table with several solutions for a problem and not just one solution. It means instead of talking about the problem, talk about the solutions and put in action the solutions for which you have advocated.
Maria Raquel Thomas: I believe that leadership means being just in charge and guiding. It means making sure everyone is good to go.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
Raquel Riley Thomas: Five things I wish someone told me when I first started was:
Number 1: Ask for help. For instance, we are in the cosmetic business, we could have asked more questions to people who already own cosmetic brands. Some people don’t mind helping you especially if they are already successful. They want to see you succeed.
Number 2: Pace yourself. A great company is not made in a day.
Number 3: Search for more grants. There are several companies out there who are helping women-owned businesses get off the ground by giving them grants.
Maria Raquel Thomas:
Number 4: Have more product on hand. Sometimes if your sales increase very quickly, you have to wait 30 days to re-stock your product.
Number 5: It is not going to be an easy road. However, you can make it happen if you really want it.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Raquel Riley Thomas: I would want to help military Veterans across the country to get into housing. According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), there are over 40,000 homeless Veterans. This needs to be fixed.
Maria Raquel Thomas: I would want to help homeless teens around the country and get them off the streets and into school. StandUp for Kids connect homeless youth with services such as mentoring, counseling, outreach centers, transitional living, and community support. As an ambassador, I have done clothing drives and I have helped the organization raise over $150,000 by participating in races in the past two years. We can always do more.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Raquel Riley Thomas: My favorite quote that I came up with is that if you are a leader you should come to the table with more than three solutions for one problem period and you should act upon those solutions and not just talk about it. I live on that philosophy.
Maria Raquel Thomas: My favorite life lesson is to always have integrity. Always do the right thing even when your customers can’t see you. Make sure that your product is safe and effective.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Raquel Riley Thomas: I would want to have lunch with I don’t know Cindy Eckert. She is a phenomenal businessperson who was a trailblazer for the female products. She is an advocate for female entrepreneurs and I respect that about her.
Maria Raquel Thomas: I would want to have lunch with Zendaya. Not only is she a great actor, but she puts a lot of time and energy into social impact services. She uses her name to not only entertain us but to also give back to the community.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Raquel Riley Thomas: My website is www.raquelrileythomas.com. My company Instagram is @rrtbeauty
Maria Raquel Thomas: My website is www.mariaraquelthomas. My company Instagram is @mrtcosmeticsofficial
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work.
Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Raquel Riley and Maria Raquel Thomas Are Helping To Change Our… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.