Before Haitian-born entrepreneur Nickie Nougaisse was excelling in the business of hair, she was just trying to figure out her own mane.
Like many Black women, she gave up relaxing her hair due to the damage it was doing to her strands and decided to go natural. With hair that she considers a coarse, dry 4C, she struggled to bring moisture to it with the products she tried on the market. She decided to make her own.
With the right natural ingredients, she made some products at home that not only helped her hair flourish (to what you see above), but her locks also attracted the attention of others looking to grow healthy hair. Demand grew, and Nougaisse’s Curls Dynasty was born in 2014.
The emerging brand, which started in the kitchen, is now being sold in Target stores and a number of beauty supplies around the country. It wasn’t an easy journey, but it’s certainly been a fruitful one.
Nougaisse, who also goes by Nickie Nou, shares how her personal struggle with her hair turned into the creation of her natural brand, the key ingredients to successfully moisturizing dry 4C hair, the obstacles she faced and eventually overcame while trying to launch her business, and how Curls Dynasty being sold in Target is a full-circle moment for her.
MadameNoire: Tell me about your own hair journey first and foremost. Once you started wearing your natural hair, how did your experiences trying to nourish your 4C strands play a part in you eventually creating Curls Dynasty?
Nickie Nou: A few years ago I got seriously mad at my hair, the chemicals I was applying to it and how much my routine and my life revolved around that cycle at the time. I was getting my hair relaxed every six to eight weeks since I was a teen and over the years this took such a toll on my hair’s health. I endured breakage, burns, scabs and peeling for years for the sake of having straight, manageable hair until I realized just how much this process affected my self-confidence and overall health. After one last horrible touch-up, I had enough and decided to grow out my natural hair and let go of the chemicals. This in itself was an entire quest as I was a stranger to my own natural hair. I quickly learned that dryness is my biggest enemy; it made everything from detangling to styling a nightmare. I learned that my natural hair loved natural ingredients like botanicals and fruits, and that moisture retention was key to rocking the flawless curls I craved.
Through this journey of learning about my own crown, I also found out that I was not alone. There were plenty of people like me looking to embrace their curls, looking for solutions on how to grow healthy, beautiful hair. I had been mixing ingredients in my kitchen and developed products that did so well on my hair that soon enough people started asking what I was using and were willing to pay me to make them their own batches. In winning my personal battle against chemicals and chronic dryness, I was also able to help other women with coarse, kinky hair like me to experience the same hair freedom I was enjoying. From the kitchen to the garage to now big box retailers like Target and beyond, Curls Dynasty became a staple brand, growing and reaching folks worldwide.
Based on the ingredients in your products, what would you say is the key to hydrating hair that is very coarse in texture or very dry? What are other lines missing in their hair milks, creams and oils?
When it comes to hydrating very coarse, dry textures like mine and keeping that moisture longer, ingredients, method and consistency are all key. Dry textures crave the natural stuff and that needs to make up a great portion of the formula, not just be in there in tiny percentages for marketing weight. We get the best results with botanicals like aloe vera, natural butters and clean premium oils. They don’t need to be far-fetched exotic stuff that just sounds pretty. They just need to be as wholesome as possible because our strands recognize the fakes and those products end up in the back of the cabinet.
What was the journey like to launch your brand? I know you experienced some adversity on your way to success.
Adversity was and is plentiful [laughs]. I have learned that being a businesswoman equates to being a problem solver.
The journey to really launch once I knew I was on to something was painfully slow. I don’t come from an immediate environment where I had anyone in business to look up to or learn from. As a matter of fact, many elders discouraged me from going into business. Once the brand started making an impact, I dealt with quite a bit of opinions. Having always been an obedient and responsible member of my strict Haitian Christian community, this created some chaos within me until I reconciled with myself who I was called to be, my purpose and what I wanted out of life.
Then of course there was the financial component because I don’t come from money. There’s nothing like having a vision and to be burning with passion for something that you’re ready to execute but not have the means to do it. It can be frustrating, and this is where a lot of young businesses fail. It’s where a lot of dreams die. Funding can be an ongoing challenge for brands at any stage whenever growth is occurring. Through online research, courses, webinars, and studying the habits of other successful people, I was able to slowly but surely build and scale my brand.
Knowing where you’ve come from, how does it feel to see your line in places like Target?
I’ll never get used to this and I think that’s a good thing. As a little girl growing up in Haiti, although I knew I was meant for greatness, I never could have imagined this and everything else that is to come. I was homeless part of my teenage years and my first stable job was as a Target sales associate. That job helped me pay for my first apartment and college tuition. Now Target is my first national retail partner! Full circle. Seeing my line at Target is indescribable; it is a testimony and inspiration for many like me from humble backgrounds to know that we are capable if we dare to dream and persevere. It’s everything.