“Don’t Copy, Don’t Comply” Psychelia Terry On How She Changed Her Biz Focus Midstream And Still Came Out On Top

April 5, 2018  |  

Being an entrepreneur is challenging enough, but taking your company and transitioning it into another–successfully–now that’s a major accomplishment. And it’s one Psychelia (Psyche) Terry achieved.

After founding a top-selling lingerie line called Urban Intimates that was sold in such stores as JC Penney and Macy’s eight years ago, Terry decided to switch her company’s focus from undergarments for plus-size women to beauty. Urban Hydration is now solely a skincare line and can be found in Target, Sally Beauty and at 5,000 other retail stores across the country.

Terry, a mother of two with a third child on the way, revamped her company in June 2017. Initially, Terry started her company in 2009 after entering a business plan competition. She tried for the $50,000 Coors Miller Light business plan competition but lost twice before finally participating in The Workshop at Macy’s, an exclusive vendor retail development program designed for minority and female business owners. The program helped Terry launch her first business and after that there was no stopping her.

Terry told MadameNoire how she changed the focus of her company and still stayed on top.

MadameNoire (MN): Why did you decide to make Urban Hydration solely a beauty line?
Psyche Terry (PT): My first love has always been beauty. I actually started intimates to co-star with my passion for healthier, more helpful beauty.

I’ve loved beauty since I was a little girl, wanting my skin to be just a little bit lighter, and my hair curls to wash out just a little bit straighter, and my curves to be just a little less pronounced. Launching a plus-size lingerie company reignited my fire for truth, honesty, and self-love which opened my appreciation for truly getting behind where my true insecurities were.

Going “All Natural” with Urban Hydration was not just a much-needed move to focus on one business, but a decision to honor who I am–a natural woman made in perfection! I decided that I can be real and share my real story through my love for real ingredients that help me take care of my real and natural self.

MN: Were your customers confused by the change?
PT: My customers, all 1 million of them, were not only sad but they sent me RIP videos and messages. These same women, however, have been so supportive, which drove my business from just 2,000 stores to now more than 6,000 stores. They get the story, they get the realness, they get the love and they share it with us every day. My girls know that we don’t just conceptualize a new idea based on what market tells us. We create our personal needs, wants, and shared desires as women.

MN: How did you make the transition smooth?
PT: We were extremely honest in a few live videos, telling our fans and our friends and family where we were headed and where they could follow us and continue to purchase our products. We didn’t expect them to support as strongly as they did. Our girls helped us realize that they bought from us not because we offered fashion or natural products. They bought from us because of our mission to help and give back and to support our woman-owned and husband-wife run company.

MN: Why the transition?
PT: So many entrepreneurs, especially Black women start great ventures but end them very quickly. In fact, in 2016 Black women were rated as the top category for small business owners who ended their venture the most and the fastest. I know I am a force and I know that I am a winner to so many inspired business owners and women of all nationalities. It was important to me to show myself and others that focus is the key to staying in business and succeeding. We transitioned from two great businesses to one even better business so that we could stay in business.

MN: How did retailers react to the change to beauty?
PT: Retailers were very angry. Our lingerie business is still in the market and still full price. It was a great business that we spent a lot of time perfecting. So yes, retailers were like, “show me the money.” But the truth is ugly, if you are a music distributor or a products retailer, you want to please your customer, and if they are shopping you–you want to keep them coming.

MN: What makes your beauty products different from others in the market?
PT: I think there are two major differences between us. We are products with a purpose–for every one purchase of Urban Hydration, we commit to donating one gallon of water to help transform a community in a developing country. Second, our products are different because of my genuine love for food. I add food-based ingredients to every one of my products. Sugar, ginger, rosemary, lemon, lime, aloe, watermelon, cherries, almonds, you name it. If we find out it has a healthy purpose for helping our skin or hair, you will probably find a product from us built around it. We believe in healthy natural alternatives through food in our hair and skin products.

MN: How and why did you decide to get involved with WATERisLIFE Global Organization?
PT: Water is Life is an amazing organization with an amazing cause that we simply fell in love with. Our name is Urban Hydration and their mission is hydrating in urban developing communities. It was a perfect match. We searched far and wide for a good cause with a great initiative with a great track record with a great board. We found that in WATERisLIFE and we couldn’t be prouder to support them and their mission. It stands with our local, national, and international goals of giving back with every product we sell.

MN: How and why did you start the Psyche Terry Founders Scholarship?
PT: I started Psyche Terry Founders Scholarship as a national initiative to help students that may be “stuck” like I was. I had a term when I was lost, hurt, and transformed from where I saw my future. I know that a little help from a mentor, a financier, and just a friend can take you a long way. It helped me turn my life around in college and complete my undergrad degree in just three short years. Who would have thought that after a miscarriage, strife, rejection, and homelessness I would not only make it but succeed farther than I ever dreamed? I absolutely had to take the opportunity to reach back and hopefully do the same for someone else.

MN: Why was entering the Coors Miller Light business competition important?
PT: Coors Miller Light was the light that helped me and pushed me to be an entrepreneur. My husband and I tried out in that competition so many times in a row and got denied so many times over and over. But their program didn’t just deny us or others that didn’t quite make it that year–their team gave feedback on why and how we could reassess our idea. The last time we tried the competition there was a judge from the panel that took an even extra step and suggested the Workshop at Macy’s. She shared that they were looking for minority business owners that may be able to make an impact on them. She was more than right, my longest stream of lingerie business was indeed through Macy’s–but only after the program developed me into the great business partner I am today.

MN: What advice would you give to other aspiring entrepreneurs?
PT: Be different, be bold, don’t copy, and don’t comply. I think so many people are struggling for the same nut not realizing there are not just other trees out there but a forest of trees out there. I think people have to get specific and realize what makes them different, stay positive about it and get behind it. Had I not had a fall out with myself as an 11-year-old girl trying so hard to mix concoctions to “correct” my hair and skin tone–well, there would be no Urban Hydration making millions each year, selling to thousands of stores. But my difference was that as a kid I used food ingredients and now as an adult I use food ingredients. That’s what makes me different, and that’s what people love about my products. People that are starting new ventures have to know succinctly–why and how they are different and stick to it and live it out.

MN: What are your goals for 2018?
PT: My goals for 2018 are to be a better mom with more focus on my friends, my family and my kids so that I can come to work every day with a clear head, ready to create the next addictive beauty product that my friends, family, and fans can’t live without in their beauty regimen.

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