All Articles Tagged "business"
Are you currently dreaming of ways to quit your job to pursue your dreams of being an entrepreneur? Or are you currently managing a side hustle and looking for ways to transition into working on it full-time? As any entrepreneur will tell you, running a business is no easy feat and knowing the right time to take the leap is crucial.
We chatted with Nubian Hair Oasis founder Donnet Bruce about what it’s like running a hair company while still maintaining a full-time job. She shared with us her inspiration for launching a side hustle, daily challenges she faces, how she manages the two responsibilities, and her plans for eventually becoming a full-time entrepreneur. Check out the interview below!
MadameNoire (MN): What inspired you to launch Nubian Hair Oasis?
Donnet Bruce (DB): It was an idea I had for several years. I was disappointed from going to local beauty stores here in Miami, Florida. The customer service wasn’t the best. I felt as if the individuals, typically men, behind the counter were just trying to sell something instead of providing customizable options that were good for my texture of hair. I read an article in Essence about the beauty and hair industry and how much Black women spend on their hair. I wanted to start an online store where I was able to provide a really good customer service experience for women.
I’m a woman. I love wearing extensions and wigs. I wanted to provide and source for quality products for women with textured and transitioning hair. I also wanted Nubian Hair Oasis to be a place where women left empowered, inspired, and encouraged.
MN: You also have a full-time job as a Digital Marketing Manager. How does Nubian Hair Oasis fit into your life?
DB: I’m what they call a multi-passionate entrepreneur. Prior to me getting into this corporate job over a year ago, I was freelancing. My background is in integrated marketing; I have a Masters in that. I’ve worked with different brands developing marketing strategies, public relations campaigns, social media campaigns, etc. Now, I’m working as a digital marketing manager for a major automotive group in the Southeast. That is my 9-5. On nights and weekends, I work at building and operating Nubian Hair Oasis.
I am the main person working on the company. I have an associate who is a really good friend of mine that helps out with social media. I’m working to change that. There are so many different facets and divisions within Nubian Hair Oasis. There are so many ideas I have to take the company to the next level. I will be looking for talent to help.
MN: What are some of the challenges you face while growing your company?
DB: I’m not going to sugarcoat it. It’s very challenging and exhausting. One thing that helps me is remaining in a positive state of mind. For example, when I wake up in the morning, I wake up with positive thoughts. I talk to God. I visualize myself in a year or two or what I will be doing in my life after the corporate world. I’ve gotten so used to that, as soon I wake up in the morning, my mind clicks. Everything that is happening right now is for a reason. Any job that I have or take helps me.
Yes, I could be operating Nubian Hair Oasis full-time; however, this is where I am right now. I do what I have to do during the day for my company and it really helps me get through the day. I know that everything that I am doing is setting me up for the next big thing in my life. Staying focused helps with those challenges and beating the exhaustion. Another challenge was having the time to take on and do everything. There are major roller coaster days.
Trying to find an honest manufacturer and supplier was a challenge. In the beginning, I took the time to vet several suppliers and manufacturers. I spent quite a bit of money ordering samples and taking the word of a manufacturer that said their hair was good quality and human hair. I’m all about quality. The fact that I would spend a lot of money to get the hair and have to send it back to the supplier – that was a project within itself. I took the time to pause on promotion and find the perfect supplier and build better business relationships overseas.
My goal is to travel overseas. I want to spend some time with my makers. I am always looking for ways to improve product. I want to spend time with my manufacturers and make sure what they are producing is Nubian Hair Approved.
MN: How do you manage juggling a full-time job and being an entrepreneur?
DB: I wake up earlier, especially if I have urgent to-dos and tasks. It’s more quiet and serene at that time versus leaving the 9-5, hustling through traffic, getting home, having to make dinner, and trying to get back into that hustling mode.
On weekends, you can find me at a coffee shop or somewhere in Miami – headphones in, working on inventory, a new collection, or answering customer emails. Also on Saturday, I fulfill orders.
I put everything in my calendar. I even put my 9-5 schedule. I designate days when I work for Nubian Hair Oasis. I use the Passion Planner – which is a calendar and journal in one. It’s filled with good quotes and milestone evaluations.
MN: What’s been the hardest part about keeping Nubian Hair Oasis in business while still having a 9-5 job?
DB: Finances. I’m funding my business on my own. I pay for marketing, shoots, inventory, etc. I don’t have any major complaints because it’s something that I wanted to do.
MN: Do people at your job know that you have your own company?
DB: I believe in operating with integrity. I don’t want my bosses to think that I am on the job trying to sell and promote. Once I leave, that’s when I turn into Nubian Hair Mode. I have let a couple coworkers know that I operate and run Nubian Hair Oasis, but you don’t want your boss or employer to feel like there is something else taking you away from doing the job or that you are heavily promoting your company too much on their time. There are some companies that encourage their employees to share their side hustle. I’ve worked for one before. If you’re in a setting where you know it’s not encouraged, keep it private.
MN: What plans are you putting in place so that you can run Nubian Hair Oasis full-time?
DB: Save. You should always have your exit strategy account going. As you get paid, continue saving. You’ll know for a fact that if you decide to resign, you have cushion.
Set a goal. If there’s a date that you want to leave, set it and post it by your bed or night stand. Do everything you have to do to prior to that date. That includes getting more sales, gaining more customers, marketing and promoting more.
Always meet and network with people. I just spoke at the New Orleans Hair Expo for Essence Festival. I met so many women there and got sales. Continue getting the word out about your business. Use social media. That will help make it a little bit easier when you decide to leave your job.
MN: What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve received?
DB: Just the other day I was talking to a friend who is heavy in the tech scene, has opened businesses and runs a few companies. She told me I cannot do it on my own. You need a team of ninjas/superstar people who are going to help you take your company to the next level. As I grow I delegate, and if I’m not strong in a certain area I make sure I outsource those tasks instead of spending a slew of hours on something and the end result may not even be to my liking or match the brand.
Give tasks to someone who can knock them out. Pay them and keep it moving. Learn the art of building a team. I believe in my vision and mission to take Nubian Hair Oasis to the next level. As a CEO and creative director, I oversee so many different areas. I oversee branding, marketing, PR, operations, inventory…having a strong solid team will help.
MN: How do you respond to those who think you aren’t qualified to run a hair company?
DB: My background is in integrated marketing, experiential marketing, branding, and social media. There may be questions that arise. People [may think], “Donnet is not a hairstylist. What does she know? Why should I trust her?” It goes back to why I wanted to do this. I love hair, styling, and makeup. I know quality. I really care about making sure women go out into the world with something that they are happy with and looks good. I love protective styling and rocking extensions, especially being a natural now. Eventually, I do want to open up a storefront. We need that in South Florida — a Black-owned beauty supply store.
When I have my customers send me emails praising the fact that they loved the hair during vacation and went on a romantic getaway, and everyone is complimenting them on their looks, that makes me feel good. It makes me think about why I even started in the first place. Everything that you do in life sets you up for the next chapter. I probably didn’t even realize how branding and marketing would help me. It helped me establish the logo, feel, and colors — everything about Nubian Hair Oasis.
[Not feeling qualified] was one of the reasons I put [starting a business] off for so long. It’s a personal thing – one of those things where you are talking yourself out of something. You’re your worst critic or enemy. Year after year, the idea would come to me. I’d always push it off and say, “Naw, I went to school for this. This is the path I should be on. What are you talking about?” Even talking to friends, I was like,“No, I can’t do that. That’s not what I went to school for. I ain’t no hair stylist.” It’s a testament to doing what’s in your heart. Do what you want to do and love to do.
According to the 2015 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, African American women are the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs in the United States, with firms growing 322% since 1997. As of 2015, firms owned by African American women number an estimated 1.3 million firms, employing 297,500 workers with an estimated $52.6 billion in revenue.
Meet Dr. Denyse Ray, CEO and founder of Lady Ease Wear (which includes the lines Salon Ease, Cross Culture, and Mi Nudes). Dr. Ray is also the first African American woman to own an apparel manufacturing company in the state of Hawaii. Since manufacturing is known to be a male-dominated industry, Dr. Ray’s success is particularly noteworthy. That’s why we chatted with her about the journey of being a Black female business owner in a state whose Black population is only 2.3 percent, business challenges (and successes), what’s it like being able to design clothing for the Obamas, and how she hopes to impact the larger business community.
MadameNoire (MN): How did you get interested in manufacturing fashion apparel?
Dr. Denyse Ray (DR): My background is as a Psychological Tramua Specialist. I was a clinical first responder to every major disaster on US soil. I remember standing there in the aftermath of 9/11 and there was a lot of particulate matter in the air and nothing to cover my face. As a clinician, I was there for the emotional component, but that day I realized there was an untapped market. That untapped market was women. We weren’t going to go into the home depots and buy those ugly white masks to cover our face.
Over a few years, I designed and developed washable reusable face masks. They launched in 2008. Those masks started the manufacturing component. I was adamant about keeping my products in the USA, but it was difficult for me to find someone to manufacture my product.
Ultimately, I started my own manufacturing company. It was supposed to be for my products alone, but [I later] expanded from 4,000 square feet to 7,800 square feet in order to accommodate other designers and people wanted items sewn here in the US.
It was brutal for many years to learn the components of manufacturing. I wouldn’t find out until much later that I would be the first African-American women to own a manufacturing company in the state of Hawaii. My tagline is, “Lady Ease, Putting The W-O in manufacturing.” It’s a very male-dominated industry. The fact that people fail to look at manufacturing [is interesting], specifically apparel, as it as a multi-trillion dollar industry.
I wanted the State of Hawaii to not only rely on tourism as its only resource for generating revenue. It’s been a pretty difficult climb. Today in 2015, we are about to launch a job training program teaching native Hawaiians- women, recent releasees from prison, those considered low-income, and single parents- how to sew and start up their own manufacturing business. I am pretty proud of that.
MN: What made you choose Hawaii as your business location?
DR: I’ve been here for many years. My husband got a job and I came along with him. I said that I was never going back to the mainland. We stayed and I immersed myself in the community. They adopted me and gave me a Hawaiian name. I am currently writing a book “Mirroring Images: The Traumatic Journey of Native Hawaiians.” I am writing it because the Native Hawaiian community is very much parallel to the African-American community, most specifically as it relates to the traumatic journey we had. I want to use the journey and accomplishments of the African-American community as examples to help the Hawaiian community reclaim their identity and move forward.
MN: What is it like being a Black woman in business in Hawaii?
DR: Hawaii is a difficult state for small business period. It doesn’t matter what race or gender. It’s not as difficult as it would be somewhere else where there are alot of people doing the same thing and fighting for the same small pool of resources. That’s what makes Hawaii very appealing for a minority group. There is only one of us doing one thing.
Shipping is difficult because it’s so far from everywhere else. With each challenge comes a responsibility to determine how to overcome, preserve, and make an example so that those who we work with and for will not be deterred.
MN: How did you get the opportunity to design for Barack Obama?
DR: I am very good friends with his sister. I was able to get access and custom-make shirts for him based on his direct measurements as a result of the relationship. There are many policies that exist when it comes to gift-giving the president and his family. Most of those shirts will end up in his library and museum because he will be unable to keep them past wearing them through his term.
That is my proudest moment at this point. To be able to end up in history at the first African American female manufacturing company to produce garments for the first African American president in his home state [is amazing.”] I’ve also made items for Mrs. Obama and their children. They both have items from each of my lines but I only make each in a limited edition. His shirts, designed from our Aloha pattern, were made from one fabric and were ever repeated.
[As far as tailoring and design goes], the president only has a small group of people that he works with. It tripled my pride that I am in such a small group of identified people who have made a contribution to his eight years in office.
MN: Did the opportunity to create clothing for Barack Obama impact your business?
DR: It wasn’t something that we could publicize. My employees were loyal. Their pride showed through the craftsmanship. I am not certain what it will do business wise now that people are becoming aware.
MN: How profitable has your business been?
DR: Initially, we thought we wouldn’t eat again! We cashed in our savings and retirement and invested that money into the factory. We invested in human capital. Being that we are in Hawaii and have to ship everything here by the ton…for a few years it was quite a struggle. We would sometimes look at each other and wonder whether going back into practice was the best route for me.
The type of returns we are seeing now are making my husband and my investment well worth it. We persevered with the belief that we were doing the work of the community and our life purpose. Now, we are in a position to have job training programs.
MN: What’s the greatest business lesson you’ve learned over the years?
DR: It cost me 1.2 million of our dollars to find out that we should not have ever opened the doors to a manufacturing company until we trained the people. There is a distinct difference between being a seamstress and/or tailor. They are only working with a design for one person at a time. In manufacturing, there is a time when you are pushing out 10,000 units for one garment. There is a deadline when those 10,000 need to be in the stores.
For the first few years, it was brutal. We would not make deadlines. I’d return money. Those were during the times when we thought we were doing everything incorrectly. What we found as we went along is that we were training the next generation of manufacturers. Training is critical.
MN: What are you most proud about in regards to your business?
DR: If we go back to the washable, reusable face masks, there are about 7-8 videos on YouTube and one of those stories is about a girl with an autoimmune disease. They attribute me giving her that donation of masks and her wearing them to helping to save her life. I’ve donated these masks all around the world. Having the product is not just about making money. If I have something that my neighbor needs and cannot have access to…it is my responsibility to provide that. It has everything to do with the benevolence that exists in my heart to share with the people the knowledge, gifts, and products that I have that can help them.
Even with the fabrics that I buy from around the world, the person that sells to me is now able to select an organization that they would like some of the proceeds from the sales of the garment to be donated to. Those are the types of things that make me the proudest about this journey.
MN: You didn’t plan on going international until 2017, but now plan on expanding sales to Senegal, Zambia, and the Ivory Coast in 2015. Why this choice?
DR: Everywhere we go, women are fashionable. Women are the nucleus of revenue. If we’re smart, we won’t just stay in the Americas. We’ll reach out and become global connections to everybody. Why not sell to women everywhere in the world? They are our customer!
MN: Why is it so important for Black women to support one another?
DR: Black women have finally reached the point in our lives where we understand each other and are supportive. We are right where we belong. We are a powerful group of women and are finally acknowledging that. We look around and acknowledge that every other culture and race attempts to emulate us. We are acknowledging the fact that all of these falsehoods that have been stated about Black woman have been because other cultures have created the hate climate. Now we are applauding our haters. We are so grateful for each time you try to hate on us because we look in the mirror and say, “You just trying to be me.” It’s time, girl! We need to get in front of the people. We need to be allowed to tell our stories so that the hunter is not telling the story for us.
Are you a woman who's about her business or know someone who is? We want to hear from you!
MadameNoire is providing two women a chance to win a makeover by African Pride for sharing their story of their journey to becoming a boss with us. To get your name in the running, upload a video of yourself or a family or friend you want to nominate to Facebook or Instagram explaining how this person is a boss why they should be picked for the makeover and be sure to use #BeTheBossMN hashtag. Then send an email firstname.lastname@example.org with the following:
- subject headline: #BeTheBossMN Contest Entry
- Link to your video on FB/Instagram
- headshot of the person nominated
- Full name
- A short paragraph explaining why the nominee should win the makeover
When uploading your videos to Instagram and Facebook, please make sure the privacy settings are public or we will not be able to see your entry.
Check out the video above for more details and good luck!
The owner and chief cook of Marcy’s Diner, located in Maine, Darla Neugebauer received backlash via social media for yelling at a toddler for crying incessantly during a recent visit. Neugebauer wrote on Facebook that the girl had been crying for over 40 minutes, when she slammed her hands down on the counter and told the young child, “This has got to stop!”
The Associated Press reports, Neugebauer observed the parents of the 21-month-old child during their visit. They ordered three pancakes for their daughter but didn’t feed her when the food arrived. Neugebauer said of her behavior, “Life’s full of choices and you’ve got to live with all of them, I chose to yell at a kid, it made her shut up, which made me happy, it made my staff happy, it made the 75 other people dining here happy, and they left. They may never come back, other people may not come in. Their loss really.”
The child’s mother, Tara Carson, wrote on Facebook that people should understand crying is normal for children to do, especially if they waited a long time for food. Carson added that she turned to her daughter after Neugebauer yelled at her and said she is not raising her child to become someone like the owner of the diner: “I felt helpless as a mom that, you know, I couldn’t do anything to help her, because I can’t explain why there’s crazy people in this world that behave like that.”
Although tons of people have added their two cents on the Marcy’s Diner Facebook page, Neugebauer seems #unbothered. In many of the diner’s Facebook posts, Neugebauer notes she gets “sh*t done” and her supporters have left encouraging messages, noting they will continue to support her business.
Should business owners ask families with crying children to be quiet?
Getting fired can feel like the worst thing in the world. But it doesn’t have to. See getting fired as an opportunity and it could be just what you need to jump-start your career.
As anyone involved in the music industry knows, public relations is an ever-important part of launching (and maintaining) one’s career. How you handle your relationship with your target market could either help or hurt, so having someone on your team whose job it is to manage and leverage those relationships is crucial.
Meet Sasha Brookner founder of boutique public relations firm Helio PR. Over the past 16 years, Brookner has worked with artists such Ceelo, N’Dambi, Katt Williams, Goapele, Ledisi, and Lira. We chatted with Sasha about her background, what it’s like being a publicist, and how she believes the branding and publicity paradigms are changing for emerging and established artists.
Check out the interview below!
MadameNoire (MN): What inspired you to be come an entrepreneur and launch your own PR firm?
Sasha Brookner (SB): When I was growing up, my mother and grandfather both had their own businesses. I was able to see the freedom they had as business owners. That was always in the back of my mind.
I went to UCLA and majored in history. During my last year, I didn’t have enough credits to graduate on time, so I decided to do some internships in publishing, A&R, promotion, and the last one was publicity. It was cool because I was working directly with writers to develop stories. I didn’t have to deal directly with the politics of music executives and labels. That was the beginning where I figured out I could do this.
As soon as I graduated, I got a job at Red Ant, a subsidiary of BMG, as an assistant publicist. When Red Ant went under, an associate called me up and wanted me to come over to The Courtney Barnes Group. I worked there for a couple of years and branched out and started my own company.
MN: What were some challenges you faced early on?
SB: When you start your own business, you have to be the rainmaker. At the time, I had saved up enough money so that I really wasn’t stressing it that much. Public relations is great because there wasn’t a lot of overhead. I started working at home. There weren’t a lot of hurdles because I was already seasoned as a publicist. Everyone told me that if I really did a good job and focused on whatever I was doing, things would spread word of mouth.
Another challenge was that I had to be very creative because I was working with independent grassroots artists who didn’t have radio, marketing, or worldwide tours. We were up against corporate firms who are already established and working with major label artists. In the beginning, you had to be much more creative with pitching.
MN: Who was your first client?
SB: N’Dambi. She had such an interesting story. Before we knew it, we got her in L’Uomo Vogue and Vogue Hommes. She was getting so much press even Erykah Badu (who she sang background for) was like “Wait, who’s doing your press?” This was before the female neo-soul thing took off. Now, it would be almost impossible to get a background singer selling CDs out the trunk of her car into these outlets.
We get 85 percent of our clients through referral. That started with N’Dambi. Then, Ledisi and Goapele were calling me. I saw artists that were falling short in marketing. That was our niche in the beginning. We expanded to painters, graphic designers, actors, and spoken word artists.
MN: What is it like to work with mainstream celebrity clients versus more grassroots artists?
SB: It’s easier. We started working with Katt Williams during the end of his Wildin’ Out season on MTV. He was taking off with Pimp Chronicles. When you’re working with someone who everyone wants to interview, it’s more work, but it’s not as challenging. It’s not like you have to pitch. Then again, there are problems such as personalities and missing photo shoots. When there’s a lot of money involved, there are a lot of issues and then you have to do crisis management.
Grassroots artists are my favorite and more satisfying. You’re taking people who normally wouldn’t get this type of exposure who are seasoned in their craft and helping them get to a plateau that they probably would not have.
With bigger artists you don’t want to over-saturate the market because you are getting so many requests. With independent artists, you want to do as much as you can that is quality press.
MN: How has the PR world changed over the years?
SB: The biggest shift has been the digital world. When we first started off, it was just magazines and television. Magazines worked four-to-five months in advance. Now, you can do a story and 24 hours later the story is up on an online site. The pieces are much more topical and newsworthy.
When I started off with music artists, they were just in musical publications talking about music. Now, the majority of my clients are all using fashion (and other creative avenues) as outlets to promote whatever projects they have.
MN: Why has celebrity branding become so prominent in our culture?
SB: The word “branding” has become a buzz word. I like my clients to be more fluid. I like to go and let it happen organically as opposed to typecasting someone, putting them in a box, and then selling that to the media.
However, I understand the importance of creating an identity that is recognizable to the people and the fans. Some people skip over the “Why are you important? What void do you fill?” You definitely have to live your brand, master your craft, and be known for something.
If it doesn’t match your personal brand, you shouldn’t do it. There are people like Taylor Swift who turn down movie scripts all the time that don’t reflect who she is. Or, someone like Immortal Technique, a rapper, who turns down corporate endorsement deals.
Reinvent yourself. Beyonce is the paragon of this. Do it so that it is an evolution and not a marketing scheme.
MN: How would you advise the everyday woman trying to build her brand?
SB: Interacting on social media is important. You have to figure out a way to mix the professional and personal. I’m really big on presentation. Find a good photographer and good writer for your bio.
That’s really important and is the first thing that you should do. When you’re dealing with media, they are top-notch English majors that went to journalism school and know their stuff. You can’t just hit them with something that is wack.
Network. I’m on Facebook all the time. I realized that all these people (like editors at Vogue) who may not have gotten back to me before were following my political tirades on Facebook. They loved my radical ideas and were like, “If you need anything, just shoot me over an email.” I realized that I was creating more relationships when I wasn’t even trying to.
Go to the sites that you want to be on and look for the Contact or About Us in the masthead. You can reach out to editors just to establish a relationship.
MN: What has allowed you to get so far in your career?
SB: Picking clients wisely is important. I won’t take on a client if I don’t think I can get them any press. I don’t care how much they’re paying. The industry is so small. People talk. We get 85 to 90 percent of our clients via word-of-mouth. I don’t want anyone unhappy. We’re very selective, however, yes, you do have some pay-your-bill clients.
Be proactive. Meet people. I always tell people, “Be careful. You could meet a guy at a party. He could have on ripped jeans and Birkenstocks and you pay him no attention. He could be the brother of the CEO of Coca Cola. You never know who somebody is.”
Be organized and get back to people. There are a lot of publicists I know who don’t. Even if I get back to say that an artist isn’t available or we can’t do it at this time, I make a point of trying to get back to people. I know publicists who worked at major labels and ignored everyone. Then, they branched off and started their own PR firms and those same editors won’t deal with them.
MN: Where do you see Helio PR going in the next few years?
SB: People have been asking me that for years, but it’s really just been consistently what I’m doing such as finding new acts that are dope. I don’t see myself being in a high-rise or corporate entity.
Although I only have four to six clients at a time, they are clients we are really invested into. What I do sustains my lifestyle. I get a lot of freedom. I get massages. I sleep eight to nine hours. What I do affords me the ability to live my life and do what I want to do.
Recently, I had the pleasure of taking my daughter to a brunch with a group of young, Black female actors in Harlem. What an experience it was. The interesting fact most all of these young ladies were “working actors.” Some, like Eden Duncan-Smith, had been in movies like “Annie” and others had been in Broadway plays. My friend deduced that all were divas. My daughter has enjoyed many things, but I’ve found that her desire to act is her only true passion to date. So, I told her…”lets go to work!”
When I came up, I always “worked” even as as kid. My dad offered me my first job and subsequently was the first person to fire me too. He was an industrial arts teacher that was a builder on the side. He would build onto existing houses and my brother and I were his helpers. Even though that was not my passion, it taught my a lesson that would thread through my life: you gotta hustle. It also thought me the importance of setting work ethic early on. Last, but definitely not least, it taught me that business-for-self was the way to go.
At the “Keep The Drama On The Stage” brunch, young ladies 18 and under celebrate their ability to work together in the business and not fight each other as they rise to the top. It seemed to be working. The girls were taking selfies, eating, and being openly mentored by other women. Olamide Faison, an extremely talented musician, even serenaded the girls. It was all great fun.
I had another agenda that lurked underneath the obvious.
I want my daughter to get to working now. It took me a long time to get myself going in life, but when I did, I went to work. I openly admit, I was not the best student. In college though, you couldn’t find a person “worked” harder than I did in college. I did the the Black student paper, the regular paper, was a DJ at the school’s radio station, helped book artists on campus, programmed events through several organizations, and even had a few hobbies. And then I had a jobs that paid me like stacking books at the library or being a camp counselor for kids. One thing is for certain, I went to work. In this day and age, we have to instill these values in our kids – that they must learn the value of hard work.
For me, I also want to teach my daughter the value of entrepreneurship and doing for self.
Over the past few years, I have taken my daughter with me to “work.” This means she attends some of my speaking engagements or is present when I have having meetings. She seems me working all the time. An odd thing happened when it came to the actual “Take Your Child To Work Day” last week. We really didn’t have anything to “do.” I could have taken her to my office, but I typically don’t go to the office my parenting days. Thanks to the internet, AllHipHop.com allows me to come and go as I please for the most part. I totally flipped the script on her. I put her to work.
She started to write her first script and I helped her lay down the foundation. I drew a clear line between this effort and the other mini-movies she’s done with her cousin and friends. After the script is done, we’re going to shoot this summer. I also let her sit in on my meetings and we talked extensively about business. This is important stuff. All the actresses at the KTDOTS brunch are little businesses within themselves. They may have parents that guide that business, but ultimately the guardians are only a part of the echo system around the business. We have to teach them business and their value in it.
Most of our kids are smarter than we were, but the world they are growing up in will be harder if we parent don’t do our job well. They need to start working now so they can get a head start on good habits, work ethic and maybe…just maybe…they will strike gold on the way to adulthood. I know the young ladies at brunch are betting on it.
Special shout out to clothing store RUUM clothing store in Tribeca and TweenGirlStyle.com
Haitian-American business owner Yve-Car Momperousse started her international business, Kreyol Essence, after a visit to the hair salon that didn’t turn out quite as planned. As a woman with natural hair, Yve-Car understands the importance of hair care and ensuring that your tresses are strong and healthy. As a woman of Haitian descent, she understands the importance of hard work and making a social impact. Thus, Kreyol Essence was established. This line of eco-luxury beauty and personal care products is made exclusively in Haiti using organic and natural ingredients and provides many women and men in Haiti with employment and financial security.
Yve- Car spoke with MadameNoire about the impact that owning an international business has had on her and Haiti.
MadameNoire: What inspired you to create Kreyol Essence?
Yve-Car Momperousse: One is I had what I call a “hair catastrophe.” I was going to an event and wanted to look my best and I went to go get my hair straightened. You know, using the old hot comb, and the hairdresser did a great job. My hair looked wonderful, but two days later when I went to wash out the press, my hair came out with it. And you can imagine that that was quite an experience to see your hair falling out in clumps.
So after crying, I pulled myself together and like any good millennial I went online to try to understand what caused my hair to fall out. It was then that I learned about heat damage and when I was thinking about what I could use to regrow my hair, it dawned on me that there was an oil that my mom used to use which essentially solved every issue in the house. It was put in our hair, it was put on our skin if it was dry; it was like our Robitussin. And I couldn’t think of what it was called and I called her up and she said, “Oh it’s Lwil Maskriti” which translates to Haitian Black Castor Oil.
I went to the store thinking, “Ok, I live in Philadelphia… There are plenty of Africans and Caribbean folks there. I should be able to find the product.” What I found was castor oil from China, India, and other places. They were all refined. They had hexane, bleach, and other additives. So, I jokingly said to my mom, “This is crazy. Can I get some of your stash from Haiti? How wonderful would it be if women could have access it?” And she said “That’s a good idea.” When we started thinking about what the social benefits to the country would be as a result of making a business out of this, that’s what really inspired me to start Kreyol Essence.
MN: What was the process like of starting your own international business?
YM: There is never a dull moment. When we first started off, it didn’t even dawn on me that what I was actually building was an international business. And coming to Haiti and making sure that I understood the process of actually creating the oil. Which means that I had to be willing to go up and down mountains. I had to be willing to sit there with the local women and understand how to make the oil, how long to grill it, all the details/cultural nuances. When doing business in the country, there was definitely a learning curve around it.
And then, also understanding how to translate that into marketing and operation in the States. So I have two lawyers, two accountants, and pretty much two of everything. I have learned a lot along the way, but it certainly was a challenge that I am happy to say that we’ve been victorious in learning.
MN: Can you speak on some of the obstacles and rewards you’ve had while working with Haiti?
YM: One obstacle, the first one I remember, I was going into a meeting with a possible supplier, and the American way of thinking is the more you buy, the lower the price. Right? Pretty much how people think in business. So, I’m sitting here going into a negotiation with that mindset. The supplier is telling me the more I buy, the price goes up. I couldn’t even comprehend that that was what he was saying to me. I’m responding in one way, he’s responding in another, and my cousin, who is a local, says to me “Stop talking.” And he proceeds to sort of mediate and I watch how he’s negotiating with the supplier, but essentially, this is a cultural norm where this is a belief in the U.S. and certain international parts. Even though I am Haitian-American and I’m speaking the language and all that, but not understanding the cultural norms was big.
On the rewarding end, I have to say that the most rewarding part is working and hiring women in the business. There are a lot of hair, skin, and body companies, but in addition to having a great product, the social side of our company, we’re very intentional with what we do. I specifically focused on hiring women in Haiti because even though 40 percent of women are the head of household in Haiti, most women are abused emotionally and physically. I remember one woman telling us when we first hired her how, for one, she was able to make sure that she could go and buy water, something that simple, for her and her family. And how she didn’t have to worry about fighting men or others for the public water, but she actually could afford to just get water. And how much pride she felt that she could do things for her kids herself that at times her lazy behind husband may not be able to do. The fact that she had an income commanded a certain respect in the house.
MN: Are there certain procedures/regulations you must follow while working with Haiti?
YM: There are a number of procedures that we must follow because we are an agribusiness. Again, I always say the back-end of the company, it’s not just beauty products, [and] we are vertically integrated. We grow everything from A to Z. When you’re bringing an agricultural product into the United States or into Europe, you have to get your product tested. You have to make sure that what you’re planting is not going to have an adverse effect on the environment. Registering a business in Haiti is not for the faint of heart. It’s a process that takes four to six months whereas in the States, it takes two weeks. And the cost is double here. I would say that things are a little bit easier now than when I started a few years ago, but we had to go through the hurdles when we first started.
MN: Can you discuss the social impact that Kreyol Essence has had in its communities?
YM: In Haiti, one of the impacts is environmental. Haiti only has one percent of its tree covered lash. What that means is that you’ll hear a lot of people dying of mudslides. You will hear that farmers are not able to cultivate crop which they need in order to eat and live and to help provide material in the country. By us planting castor beans in Haiti, we’re helping with some of those environmental issues like soil erosion, deforestation, and greenhouse gas emissions and all of the things that we talk about in the States when it comes to global warming.
Another impact is the economic development. We are slated to create 400 jobs in the next two years right here in Haiti. Most of those who work for us, not only will they have employment, but when we think about the farmers that we will employ, they will make three to five times more than what they’ve made in the past because of our structure.
…And then lastly, economic development from the standpoint of exporting. Part of how a country runs and is able to have money in their system is based on their GDP (gross domestic product). Part of that comes from exporting. Haiti does not have a large export business, so by us exporting our product that’s huge. It also adds to country branding because unfortunately, when people think of Haiti, they think about the earthquakes, they think about poverty, they think about all of the negative. I think when you see our marketing and you see our products, people are surprised and they say, “I didn’t know that this type of richness and beauty exist in Haiti.” We have to start changing the images that are portrayed for the country so that people can come visit and enjoy and see what we have to offer.
MN: What makes your products unique from other brands?
YM: In addition to the ingredients, it’s our formulation. The fact that we really stay true to being as natural and organic as possible, and the formulation, comes from ingredients that are unique.
I think we are one of the few that actually infuse so much castor oil into our whole line. Oftentimes with these different beauty products, if they put a half a milliliter of something, they throw it on to the label and create a whole marketing piece out of it. We are actually using the maximum amount of shea butter, castor oil, aloe vera, and all of the other ingredients. When it comes to our products, which is associated with a particular type of woman. It’s a woman who not only wants to look and feel great, but a woman who also does care about the world that she lives in. The fact that we really work hard to have a social impact and connect that to beauty, I think tends to resonate and appeal to our customers.
Learn more and shop Kreyol Essence at www.kreyolessence.com.
Are you in love with your job? Chances are your boss can tell. But what if we all invested in our jobs the way we invest in our relationships. Career crushing might be just the key to getting your career to love you back.
According to Amanda Miller Littlejohn, a Washington,DC – based personal branding coach and creator of The Branding Box, a personal brand home study system designed to help individuals clarify their message, position their expertise and increase their visibility, “This is a great time to be a Black woman.”
“Women are embracing their natural hair, getting into shape and shedding generations-long bad eating habits. It’s like a renewal. We are embracing digital tools, starting websites, and expressing ourselves,” says Littlejohn. However, are you ensuring that the brand called YOU is clearly defined? Can it be leveraged to bring you new opportunities?
We spoke with Littlejohn about some of the personal branding mistakes she’s seen individuals make over the years. Check out the blunders she identified as well as her tips on how you can turn these mistakes into successes and starting building your personal brand today.
1. Having an “Employee Mentality”
Amanda Miller Littlejohn (AML): Many are comfortable marketing and promoting the company or person they work for, but have hesitation when it comes to promoting themselves. They think of self-promotion as braggy, obnoxious or self-serving, when in fact they would do the same thing, if not more for their employer, especially, if they are in a marketing role. People who go out and decide to do their own thing and start their own business can still suffer from that mentality when they don’t want to step out of the shadows. They might want to promote the work of something bigger, instead of promoting their own brand. They sometimes forget that they are the bigger brand.
To fix this, embrace the spotlight. Speak up when people ask you questions. Step out when you are invited to speak. Look for opportunities to share what you know. At the end of the day, your brand may be all that you have in the next fifteen years.
2. Waiting Until The Last Minute To Build Your Brand
AML: Many times individuals may wait until they are ready to switch jobs or get new clients to start building a brand. A lot of people come to me in that situation. They need to start building a brand immediately because they need an opportunity. That’s a backwards way to go about doing it. Building your brand steadily is more authentic. Opportunities will come to you.
College is a good time to start building your brand. Work on your Linkedin profile (and build your experience) during your undergraduate years. Collect recommendations from advisors and professors. Build the social proof that you need to create credibility around who you are. Although most people won’t be able to look at your college transcript, they can look at your Linkedin profile and see if you are highly recommended, dependable, punctual, etc. Nowadays, everyone is previewing Linkedin profiles before they hire you. That’s a really easy place to put positive information about yourself.
3. Not Being Proactive
AML: It’s a great thing to get opportunities that come your way. A better thing is to go after opportunities. The best thing to do is to create opportunities. For example, an example of me waiting for an opportunity would me waiting for you (the reporter) to reach out to me to schedule an interview. Me being proactive (or going after the opportunity) is me calling you up and [pitching] my expertise directly, and saying, “ I know you write for MadameNoire, would you like to interview me?” Me making an opportunity would be realizing that you may not be interested in me at the current time, but [deciding] to create a blog and write something that is reflective and fills a need for the audience I am trying to attract.
People have to be more proactive now because the barrier to entry to create have fallen drastically in the last 15 years. When I was in high school, if you wanted a magazine, website, or newsletter, you had to go to people to make that happen for you. Now, anything you want to do is within reach. If you want a TV show, you can create a YouTube channel. If you want to write a book, you can type it up and submit it to Create Space. This is a response to the technological advances we are experiencing. There are no excuses for the person that has something to say and wants to create a platform.
4. Using social media only to “be social”
AML: A lot of people use social media for recreation and as a way to keep in touch, but don’t use it as away to make it work for them. I love seeing funny things on Instagram, but are you also putting out your expertise and services? Are you making it for you? I use Instagram to create more awareness around my brand, what I’m doing, what I offer, and what I can do for a new client. I am building an audience. If your social is just fun and games, it’s like you are working for it. It’s not working for you. I don’t think people think strategically. Everyone doesn’t have to use social to create new clients or new business opportunities, but you should be thinking about how social can help you get the things that you want. How can you use it to connect with people across the country or around the world? Use it to create for more credibility for yourself. Your biggest fan might become your biggest customer.”
5. You don’t invest in your brand
AML: In the next 15 years, people who have taken the time to make sure people know who they are and what they can do are going to have a much bigger advantage over those who haven’t. The work world is getting leaner and more efficient. Companies are getting smaller because we have all these tools. In the workplace, questions that test your proficiency with WordPress, digital photography, page layout, video or sound editing will be commonplace. It’s because tools are universally available, inexpensive, or even free. If you don’t know how to use them, you will be behind the times. It may get more cutthroat as far as where opportunities go. For people who are creating opportunities and building their brand, they will have a big advantage over others who are waiting for things to come to them. Investing takes time, thought, and sometimes money. Don’t be afraid to take courses and fill in some skill gaps. These are investments that appreciate. Once you have knowledge and understand how to position and promote yourself, your career always benefits. We invest a lot in how we look, but how are much are we investing in how we “look” in the perceptions of the marketplace? How much are you investing in your reputation and how you come across to other people?