Black Owned Businesses

International Women’s Month: Advice from black businesses women paving the way

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  • Jade

    March 23 2022

International Women’s Month: Advice from black businesses women paving the way

As we come to the end of International Women’s Month, we just wanted to pay tribute to some of the incredible black women paving the way in the world of businesses. With black women representing 42% of women-owned businesses and 17% of black women in the States are in the process of starting a business, it’s fair to say that there is plenty that we can learn from each other.

We caught up with six female founders in the hair and beauty space to understand exactly what they’ve done to lay the foundations for their business and what advice they have for others trying to do the same.

Persevering and finding your passion

 Lorna Jones, Trichologist & Founder of Caring for Hair

Lorna has many years of experience as a Trichologist and Founded Caring for Hair carries to carry out consultations for hair loss and scalp issues. Having built her business from the ground up and been in operation for so long, Lorna is well versed in what it takes to run a successful business. Even so, the COVID pandemic brought plenty of challenges to those in the hair industry and Lorna was no exception.

When asked about persevering through hard times, Lorna said:

“The pandemic brought the biggest challenges. During that time, I put in place a system of working virtually across a digital platform whilst people were confined to their homes. I digitally upskilled and moved face to face consultations online and started a series of educational webinars to increase awareness of a variety of matters relating to hair and hair loss”.

Learning how to adapt, and quickly, when faced with a lot of change can make or break a business. Around 61% of small business owners had serious financial concerns during the pandemic so to turn a potentially devastating hit into a new stream of online income is a huge achievement.

Lorna also shed light on what others can do to keep going when things get tough:

“It’s important to be passionate about your subject matter. Things may not always be easy, so the passion behind any idea will help to drive you through those particular moments to achieve the success you’re striving for.”

Balancing the demands of work and home

Kay Amoah, Founder of Kiya Cosmetics

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by KIYA Cosmetics

 

Kay Founded Kiya Cosmetics. The business was created to provide a full range of beauty products that specifically cater to families with afro textured hair and darker skin tones, without the use of high levels of harmful chemicals. And with the ambitions of launching Kiya Cosmetics also came the pressures of balancing a business with family life and motherhood.

“The main struggle I’ve faced as a businesswoman is finding a balance between work and home life. I’m a mum of three so it can be pretty difficult to juggle the different roles and switch off from work to be present at home sometimes.”

And Kay isn’t the only one. During the pandemic, 42% of women considered leaving the workforce altogether. This is understandable – plenty of parents realised that working and homeschooling don’t always mix. Acknowledging the challenge is one thing, but finding solutions is another. Thankfully, Kay also shared some advice about creating time and space for yourself:

“When I feel particularly overwhelmed, I like to take a step back from everything and clear my head. Whether that means spending a day out with family or having a lazy day binging Netflix. Afterwards, I find that I can better plan and re-strategise. So, when I go back to issues, they usually don’t feel as overwhelming after a little break and also some prayer.”

Self-belief and keeping your head in the game

Chloé Elliott, Founder of ODYSSEY BOX

Chloé is an award-winning business owner, a mentor, a public speaker and a creator, and an accredited Curl Specialist. She created ODYSSEY BOX as a hair care experience that’s a reflection of the natural hair journey as an odyssey is a long journey involving lots of different and exciting. Chloé curates the best of what luxury, plant-powered and ingredient-conscious curl care products have to offer naturally curly and afro hair.

Even with so many impressive achievements, Chloé admits that she has battled with self-confidence:

“My main struggle is that I don't think big enough. I allow myself to be swayed by the small-minded thoughts of our society instead of really daring to dream bigger.”

It’s fair to say that many of us struggle with self-doubt when society doesn’t make us feel like our bright and bold aspirations are attainable. And while I’m sure that many of us can relate to Chloé’s words, her advice to tackle these moments of self-doubt is even better:

“I believe wholeheartedly that I can achieve the goals I set myself and I recognise that I am already successful. When you remove the obstacles holding you back such as fear, doubt and uncertainty, the only option left is to succeed.”

Claiming and asserting your place in the world can go a long way to making you recognise that you are worthy.

Reflecting on challenges and how far you’ve come

Paula, Founder of Superfood lx

Paula is one of the founders of SuperFoodLx - family-owned, vegan hair wellness specialising in the use of nutrient-rich superfood ingredients. With seven years of experience of running a business behind her, Paula has experienced the ebbs and flows that come with building something from the ground up. One of the challenges that she has faced is the constant change that comes with marketing and making sure that her products are put in front of the right people, especially as a small black-owned business owner:

“Keeping up with the changing methods and demands of advertising has been challenging. However, an unconscious struggle that I didn't realise I was being impacted by was my colour. It was only after the black lives matter movement that I realised that several black-owned businesses were being marginalised.”

With more events like Black Pound Day and business directories like Jammii shining bright during the pandemic (especially after the #blacklivesmatter global protests), we now have more access to black-owned businesses than ever before. But the question is why has it taken so long for people to start recognising the hard work and quality products produced by black businesses? And what can we do to offer each other even more support?

Even with the difficulties, Paula has experienced plenty of success and explains that the support from he loyal customers is a great benchmark for how far she has come:

“Our best successes are our testimonials. When customers send in photos of how their hair has grown, how their skin has changed or even how their stress levels have reduced that is really great to know.”

Secrets to success

Dominique, Founder of Hair Popp

Dominique launched Har Popp in 2018 after recognising that Black haircare brands were experiencing real difficulty in accessing their target market. Hair Popp was created to connect brands to a global consumer base by offering a different kind of e-commerce solution, driven by discovery, and mirroring the best online and offline shopping experiences.

You may have heard the proverb ‘if you want to go fast go alone if you want to go far, go together and Dominique has certainly embraced that as she built Hair Popp by using it as an opportunity to truly serve her community:

“Community is what gets me out of bed every morning. It’s not just about selling things, it’s about bringing people together. Throughout lockdown, I created free tutorials with Hair Popp partners on managing your hair or beard, looking after your children’s hair or what to do when your hair starts thinning as you age.”

And, knowing your audience goes a long way. While many other black hair care platforms focus on the larger brands, Dominique realised that her niche was the smaller brands that deserved the opportunity to reach as many customers as possible, also giving those buying the products access to really high-quality products that were often under the radar:

“Hair Popp started out of frustration. I did a lot of research and social media engagement and came across independent haircare brands that really cared about Black women but didn’t have the budget to compete with American brands. I wanted to put smaller brands together on one platform.”

 

Top advice from each leader

Finally, to wrap this up, here is a top piece of advice for each of the women we’ve interviewed:

“Don’t give up. Business is much, much more than the highlights we see online. I have a LOT of late nights and early starts, but that consistency in the things that people don’t see is what I believe, really builds a solid foundation for a brand to build on.” – Kay, Founder of Kiya Cosmetics

“Get clear on what you want to share with the world. If you have a product-based business, then this will be about the impact that you want to have on others. If you have a service-based business, then YOU are the product! There is a lot of learning to be done on your business journey, but it pays to be prepared before you set off. If you have a good understanding of your mission, it will help you to make decisions that take you bring you that bit closer to achieving your goals”. – Chloé Elliott, Founder of ODYSSEY BOX

“Get honest feedback on your brand from several people from many different demographics (that are not your friends or family) and be responsive to it.” Paula, Founder of Superfood lx

“Find your tribe and go for gold.” Dominique, Co-Founder of Hair Popp

“Take the leap and have fun!” – Sarah, Founder of Wrapped by Sarah