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Taliah Waajid said when she initially presented natural hair care business cards in Atlanta, people would react like she was “giving them poison.”

That was in 1991.

Undeterred, Waajid, would eventually not only win over enough customers to open salons across Georgia, she would also establish her own natural hair product line and present “The World Natural Health & Beauty Expo” which will debut in New York City on July 19.

The Expo, which has been an Atlanta staple for 17 years, has served as an educational platform for Waajid to teach others about the benefits of natural hair. With 40,000 stylists and consumers attending the most recent Atlanta show, Waajid hopes for a similar turn out at this weekend’s show at the Times Square Marriott Marquis.

The two-day event will not only provide specific information and exposure on the advances for natural hair care, beauty tips, and the impact of healthy living overall, attendees will also have the opportunity to attend free seminars and interact with exhibitors and hairstylists to sample, review and purchase products and services. While she has never before presented the Expo in The Big Apple, Waajid has high hopes that her message that “natural is better” can now take fire and spread throughout New York and beyond.

“When we did the first show I think we had about 25 vendors and maybe 150 people came and every year it became larger and larger. We now have thousands of people walking through our doors and feature over 200 vendors. The transition for natural hair has really come full circle for me,” Waajid said. “I was always impressed by the Bronner Brothers Show. I thought it was so great how everyone – professionals and consumers – came together through hair and I thought we could do something like this for natural hair and that was how we started and now it has just really taken off.”

While Waajid now enjoys success, selling her Black Earth Products line in stores like Walmart, Target and even internationally,  the entrepreneur said it really was a struggle to convince retailers that consumers would buy natural hair care products. They were unsure whether customers even wanted to have a choice in the natural category.

“There were really no products on the shelves to help those that wanted to wear their hair natural. So I started talking to retailers about the need and importance for consumers to have these options,” Waajid said. “I was one of the first brands that was in the beauty supply setting for natural hair and my main goal was just to educate enough people to maintain and ensure that this category stayed strong.”

And stayed strong it has. As MadameNoire reported this past November, relaxer sales continue to take a nosedive. According to Mintel, a consumer trends firm, relaxer kit corporations revenue has suffered a 15 percent decrease since 2011. For natural hair-care specialists like Waajid, this furthers her resolve to continue to train others through her Taliah Waajid Seminars and shows like the upcoming Expo.

“Education is the reason why we do the Expo. It shows people that now that you have made the decision to go natural, you can learn the products and make the best decision for yourself on what your hair needs and different styling techniques,” she said. “Over the last 17 years with the Expo, I have seen a transition with my career. I went from knocking on doors trying to teach people about natural hair, to now every time I turn around there is natural hair everywhere. I like to think I had a big part in that.”

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