Senior biology major and chemistry minor Aysia Hilliard, 21, is one of many business owners at Howard University. TrapStix, her lip balm brand, has amassed over 6,000 orders and has been written about in Essence and Sweety High.
Hilliard has run Trapstix since its creation in 2018, but she almost discontinued her brand in its initial stages. The products were not selling in the way that Aysia Hilliard wanted them to and she had put TrapStix to the side to focus on college.
When she came home from college due to the pandemic, her father, Franklin “Ron” Hilliard, encouraged her to post about TrapStix on TikTok. Hilliard was apprehensive about this as she felt that she might’ve been too old for TikTok, but she listened to her father’s advice.
The same TikTok video now has nearly 500,000 views and over 100,000 likes. Trapstix’s TikTok page has 94,000 followers, and its posts have a total of 2.3 million likes.
“We’d never seen that many views on any type of video, especially TikTok because it was just so early in people being viral so we had no idea what to really expect,” Hilliard said. “That’s when the orders started coming in and that tik tok alone, that first tik tok, skyrocketed everything for me and this business so it was a really pivotal moment.”
However, Hilliard struggles with certain aspects of running TrapStix.
“I think one of the main hardships is definitely staying motivated because I’ve always had these other aspects of my life especially with school because school is so different now you know being in college,” Hilliard said. “In high school you know you go to school for free and in college you don’t, and I’m ten hours away. So kind of like staying motivated because I really feel like a lot of the heart of trapstix is obviously back home in Georgia and being away from there does kind of make me disconnected.”
Trapstix was originally inspired by popular trap and hip hop artists, but has now expanded to include popular artists of many genres such as R&B and Pop. “Really we’re interested in any artist genre.” Hilliard said, “Where I’m from Atlanta, Trap music is a big part of our culture, so that’s why we also mostly focus on mostly trap music.” She has creative names such as “J. Cola” and “Leminem” that has brought millions of views to her business on TikTok.
The products range from $1.00 for individual lip balms to $12.99 for a “collection case” of lip balms, according to the website. Trapstix also sells sweaters, hats, bags, t-shirts, hoodies, mugs and other merchandise on the website that are branded with the Trapstix logo.
TrapStix came about accidentally when Aysia Hilliard mispronounced chapstick as “trapstix” while she was at the movie theater with friends. That’s when Hilliard thought about the idea of TrapStix, connecting lip balm to trap artists. It became a clever concept for her own enjoyment, when she brought the idea to her parents at 17 years old.
“When she told my husband and I, she said ‘I know it’s stupid’ and so we both looked at each other and I was like ‘actually, I think it’s a good idea!’ Ericka Hilliard, Hilliard’s mother, said. “…and my husband was like ‘yeah I think it’s a good idea too, what would your first flavor be?’ and ‘gucci mango’ was born that night.”
Within a couple weeks from that night, Aysia Hilliard and her father looked into how they could get the business started, and by the end of that month they had their first flavor out and ready to be sold.
Hilliard accredits her parents with her ability to juggle being the CEO of Trapstix and a college student at the same time. “I’m super grateful for my parents and when I do these interviews I always do mention them for that reason because I know when other people [look], especially when you look at my tik tok, it does look like I’m doing it solely by myself so that’s been the way I’ve been able to juggle it.” Hilliard said. While Hilliard handles the majority of the business, her mother Ericka Hillard handles operations and her father handles the finances.
“My parents help me tremendously,” Hilliard said, “They’ve always been a support system– prior to me being a business owner I was an athlete and they supported me in that and so it’s always kind of been our dynamic to support each other.”
Notwithstanding the parental support, Hilliard’s mother always knew that her daughter was a leader, “ I saw it mostly when she was playing basketball. That’s when I first saw the leadership skill come out in Aysia and then I think that just transferred very well over to being an entrepreneur,” she said.
Hilliard is not the only one in her family with the experience of owning a business, she comes from a family lineage of business owners. Her mother owned an event planning business for five years and her father has owned many businesses, currently operating her grandmother’s business Mama Doonks Gullah.
“When I think of TrapStix, I actually don’t think about the flavors and all of that, I actually think about the fact that it has been a vehicle for Aysia to really express who she is. Not just with the creative names and all of that, just expressing herself in ways in kind of being a strong woman that I don’t think she even recognizes that she is, until she had this business,” Ericka Hilliard said when asked what TrapStix means to her.
Brock Lewis, 21 year old senior chemical engineering major at Howard University from Houston, Texas spoke on his perspective of TrapStix.
“I love the name TrapStix because it’s a very thoughtful name, and I feel that the ‘trap’ in TrapStix allows us as black people to have a lip balm brand that we can call home since most cosmetic companies are not owned by our people,” Lewis said.
Lewis has been a close friend of Hilliard since their freshman year and has been able to see the growth of TrapStix throughout the years. Lewis bought the TrapStix bundle for his sister on her birthday two years ago and “she was obsessed with it,” he said, “wearing a different flavored lip balm daily.”
Hilliard is unsure about how she might want to expand her brand. Her main priority right now is to graduate from Howard.
Copy edited by Alana Matthew