The beauty business is a beast. It’s filled with competitors and very hard to break into — that is unless you have a niche. Jasmine Lawrence, 25, found her niche by offering natural hair products through her company EDEN BodyWorks, and she’s being doing so since she was a teenager. With the help of a $2,000 loan from her parents, the then-teenager launched her company, EDEN BodyWorks and made over $1 million selling her products online.
Lawrence suffered from a hair relaxer disaster at age 11, and it was then she vowed to find a solution to better hair care for natural hair. She started making products in her own home. Eventually, she came up with a product line that not only is sold at such major retailers as Wal-Mart, Sally Beauty Supply, Walgreens and Krogers but she caught the attention of Oprah Winfrey and appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in 2006. And just this year she was inducted into Forbes’ 2017 Class of 30 Under 30, not for her beauty business but for her industry expertise via the world of gaming. You see in addition to running her own business, the Georgia Tech grad and aspiring roboticist is also a project manager at Microsoft on the Xbox One team.
MadameNoire had an early morning phone call with the busy entrepreneur about her career path. Here’s what she shared with us.
MadameNoire (MN): Why did you decide to go into business for yourself at such a young age?
Jasmine Lawrence (JL): When I was young, about 11 years old, I lost a lot of my hair due to a relaxer and this made me not want to use chemicals in my hair. It was a horrible experience for me because I grew up with a bunch of sisters and I had always been into my looks, doing beauty pageants. I was caught up in all of that. So I started to do research, mixing herbs and spices and natural ingredients that I could use on myself, my sisters, and my cousins. We couldn’t afford all the things that said they were natural, so I was trying to make them for myself. It wasn’t until I was 13 that it turned into a business. Instead of going to adventure camp, I went to business camp and got to spend two great weeks in NYC at NYU. We went through this business problem and I learned so much. We got to come up with an idea as we were given $50 to $100 to turn this idea into a business. This was so exciting for me. They took us to the wholesale district to buy what we needed. I spent the whole weekend putting my idea together. My idea was “Sweat and Style.” I glued glitter and rhinestone to headbands. I wanted to look amazing while working out. I felt really empowered by this whole experience and when I got home I started to share the hair products I had made with other people.
MN: You were ahead of the curve; now natural haircare products are all over the place. How do you compete with the big beauty companies who have now added products for natural Black hair care?
JL: The world has changed over the last 13 years since I started the company. When I started there was a smaller natural hair community, but I have been lucky. Since I started sort of with this movement, I have been able to grow with the community. Unlike the bigger companies, I have developed a close relationship with this community and I am able to address their needs with the products they really want, rather than just throwing products out on the market. Also, we started with the belief that the company wasn’t just here to sell products, we’re here to educate and empower woman about their natural hair. I want to teach you that scalp maintenance is important, to teach people on this natural journey, and show that we are on this journey together. We have also been able to partner with many organizations that empower women on various levels and this has allowed us to give back to the community in non-traditional ways.
MN: You were interviewed by Oprah. How did that happen?
JL: One of the producers on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” somehow got her hands on our product and had me on for a segment called “World’s Smartest Kids.” I was representing America since I was kind of living the American Dream. I was in high school at the time, in 2006. It was like the biggest thing for me ever! And in 2014 I did a follow-up interview on Oprah’s “Where Are They Now.”
MN: You aren’t only running your own successful business, you are in grad school, and are now working at Microsoft. How do you juggle it all?
JL: I have to admit my interests have diverged from beauty. Ever since I was in middle school I wanted to build things, so I started studying construction in high school. But at the same time when I was in high school, this was an amazing growth period for Eden BodyWorks, and this was exactly when I was applying to engineering school. I went to Georgia Tech and spent three years working on robots. I love my work now at Microsoft, and I have a such a close connection to Eden BodyWorks.
MN: Would you ever leave Eden BodyWorks behind?
JL: It would be hard to give up, it has been so much of my life and the lives of our customers. It has shaped my life and it has been pretty cool to have my own business. Though it is a challenge to juggle both Microsoft and Eden BodyWorks, each allows me to develop different skills that have worked well together. But sometimes it is difficult to choose which has priority. For example, when I decided to go back to school, I didn’t know if I should get an MBA or follow a course of study that would help me at Microsoft. Luckily, I found “Human Centered Design & Engineering” (designing solutions to global challenges by tailoring technology to human needs and interests) at the University of Washington. I can this use for both. It has been amazing!