From Waitress To Entrepreneur, Nnenna Stella Has Turned Head Wraps Into A Lucrative Business
While scrolling my Tumblr feed earlier this year, I came across a beautiful image of a woman wearing a head wrap. It was simple, it was stunning and I was pleased find that I could buy one just like it. Founder Nnenna Stella’s The Wrap Life launched on January 15, 2014 and a year and a half later, the Little Rock, AR native has been able to make her business a full-time gig. Prior to launching her business, she was working as a waitress.
She currently works out of her Brooklyn, NY home with a small staff, designing and purchasing new prints, dreaming up additional products (within months of launching, The Wrap Life expanded into jewelry) and finding new ways to reach their target audience. They offer wraps for a variety of tastes, featuring classic, vintage prints and trendy looks, alike.
I was able to chat with her Stella about The Wrap Life, being an entrepreneur, marketing and more.
MadameNoire: What inspired you to start The Wrap Life?
Nnenna Stella: I wanted to wear head wraps and I couldn’t find any online. I Googled for three days and I was so upset. I was like, “Really? Nobody’s selling head wraps?” I imagined that there were other women who wanted to start wearing them, as well, and they couldn’t find fabrics and prints that they liked, so I decided to start.
MN: What were your first steps?
NS: I wanted everything to be super legit. So I went through the process of forming an entity, an LLC and all of that stuff. A lot of it was really just getting in the right mental state. When I started the company, I’d just finished a 30-day meditative, journaling thing, so I was really open to the idea of starting something and thinking that I could be good at it.
Part of it was really doing a lot of daydreaming — envisioning what I wanted it to be, envisioning the kind of customers we would have. Pretty much the dream formation stage.
MN: Congratulations on making The Wrap Life Your full-time job!
NS: Thank you! I’m amazed, too. The first month that it happened, I was sort of terrified because I’ve worked for other people all my life and then when you get the opportunity to work for yourself, it’s a little scary because you’re responsible for everything, but it’s also really liberating once you pass the fear of it.
MN: In what kinds of restaurants were you a waitress previously?
NS: It was an American-style restaurant in the West Village of New York. The cool thing about waiting tables is that you learn how to be efficient. You ask yourself, “How can I do this better? How can I do this faster?” I’m really grateful for the experience of waiting tables and being in the service industry because it helped me with my business.
MN: How do you market to your audience and where does most of that audience live online? I would think Tumblr would be a big audience for you.
NS: Tumblr is a really great place but most of our engagement happens on Instagram. For the marketing, to be honest, I just try to be transparent. It’s one thing that I think small companies are much better at than larger companies because there are so many people in between the product and the people who are behind the scenes.
I try to talk about things that I really do. I try to be a real as possible. I run my Instagram profile. I don’t speak about myself in the third person. It’s very much me saying “This is my life. This is how we live.” The Wrap Life is about a lifestyle, so I want to show them my lifestyle and be as honest as possible.
MN: When did you expand to include jewelry?
NS: I probably did that like last summer, about six to eight months after we started. I have to always do something new, or I will get really bored and I will get depressed. I have to stay busy to know that I am doing something, so it’s always like “What can we do now?” So, we just released tops that are really fun and cool and we’re working on some other projects that I’m really excited about.
MN: When I saw your booth at Broccoli City Festival [in D.C.], I noticed that you were giving hands-on tutorials to new customers. Is that something you always do? How do people respond to them?
NS: I recognize that people think tying the wraps is our biggest barrier, so we try to do tutorials, especially if we have a pop-up shop or if we’re at a festival. I’m all down for showing them how easy it is to wrap because it’s really, really easy. I think a lot of people are intimidated because a finished head wrap looks really complicated with all the folds and the ties, but when I show them how to do it, they’re like, “Oh, it’s super easy!”
So, that’s something we’re going to explore more, with doing live demonstrations and things like that. I feel like once they get it down, it’s kind of addictive. I wear head wraps about 90 percent of the time and my hair has grown so much because I don’t do anything with it. I just twist it up and put a head wrap on and I think that’s a cool thing to let people know, as well.
MN: What is your work day like?
NS: I do most of my work from home, so it’s pretty fluid and flexible. Some days, I wake up at 5:30, go for a run, come back, go to work. Some days, I wake up at 8. Sometimes I feel guilty because “I should wake up at 5:30 every morning. I should do this. I should do that.” But then, I have to remind myself that I created this company because I wanted freedom to build by day the way I want it to be. So, I really try to enjoy that and be grateful that I don’t have to get on the train and go to work. It’s like, me having my own life. So, I really try to be flexible with that.
MN: What’s your next goal?
NS: To increase our audience. I think that when people know about us, they’ll grow to love us and like our product and then, once we break down the barrier of learning how to wrap, I think we’re going to do really amazing things.