Everything about KéNisha (Kaiye) Ruff’s aesthetic exemplifies the time-honored care and attention to detail that shines through her brand. Fashion icon Audrey Hepburn’s photo frames her office; her blog exhorts the beauty secrets of women like Marilyn Monroe (pro tip: Monroe used vaseline as a primer and highlighter); Kaiye informs her readers of Yves St. Laurent’s timeless advice, “Fashions fade, style is eternal.”
Ruff’s fashion and personal styling company, Styled By Kaiye, and her cosmetic line, Marie Hunter Beauty, are inspired by her lifelong passion for fashion and her intense focus on family. “I’ve always had an interest in fashion and beauty,” she tells Madison365. “I like to blame my parents for my addiction as they always had me in the newest and latest trends growing up.”
Ruff began building her empire in 2009, the same year her son, Cash Hunter, was born. “’Marie Hunter’ is a combination of my name and my son’s name. My middle name is Marie; his middle name is Hunter. He is one of the reasons I went to beauty school,” she says.
Ruff is well aware of the many challenges of balancing her business and family, but she gets it done with intention and planning. “I schedule everything,” Ruff says. “I make sure that I have time for my business life and my personal life … you have to learn how to make them both work.”
Recently, Ruff achieved one of the most significant milestones for an entrepreneur, becoming her own full-time boss. Entrepreneurship is risky, but it was worth it for Ruff since it means that she can pursue her passion and set a positive example for her son. “I went to school for criminal justice … once I became pregnant with my son, I decided it was time to actually pursue something I was deeply passionate about and make money while doing it and I’ve always had an entrepreneurial vibe. I’ve never really liked working for other people; I always knew I wanted to work for myself.”
Ruff prioritizes her relationships with other entrepreneurs from all over the country as a source of business knowledge. “As entrepreneurs, we can feed off of each other. If someone has been an entrepreneur longer, you can get feedback from them about what you can improve or things you should try,” she says. “Everyone knows something that you don’t know. I love that we can connect with each other and keep each other inspired. It’s like a big mastermind group.”
Her fellow entrepreneurs serve as a great source of inspiration for Ruff. She is also a voracious reader and lover of life and allows the world around her to ignite her spark. “I look up to Marissa Webb [former Creative Director of Banana Republic and president of fashion Label Marissa Webb] because of how she manages both brands successfully. I read a lot of magazines and books, Harper’s Bazaar is my favorite, and I just finished “The Power of Broke” by Daymond John. June Ambrose, the fashion stylist, I love her, too. There are also a lot of other bloggers that I follow, like Wendy’s Look Book. I find inspiration in everything.”
Ruff hopes her clients are inspired to own their looks and their lives through fashion and aims to expand her brand in the future.
“I believe that confidence speaks volumes when you’re dressed well, and you look good from head to toe your confidence automatically goes up,” Ruff says. “Building a personal relationship so [clients] feel comfortable is important to me, I provide quality in everything that I do. I am a perfectionist … that is what sets me apart.”
Her perfectionist spirit propels her to think long term about her dreams. “In the future, I want to expand Marie Hunter Beauty into five beauty studios in major locations,” she says. “I want to turn Styled By Kaiye into a full fashion line. I’ll manage to make them both work and build my empires.”
Slay on Kaiye. Slay on.