#SWAAYthenarrative

How A Kitchen Experiment And A $500 Investment Became A Multi-Million Dollar Business

5 Min Read
Business

Founder of The Mane Choice, Courtney Adeleye, is no stranger to a bad hair day. As a woman of color, the societal preconceived notion of having straight-laced hair is something she always faced. Rather than following the flat-ironed status quo, Adeleye wanted to embrace her authenticity, which in her case, meant her natural locks. In order to shift the perception of wearing-and rocking-a natural hair style, Adeleye started a YouTube channel and would eventually develop a brand from her kitchen that would go on to grace the shelves of some of the world's biggest retailers.

Before she became a beauty vlogger and industry powerhouse, Adeleye was an undergrad at the University of Michigan studying nursing. While sitting in the science classroom, this future entrepreneur dreamt of having waist-length hair, but found it a difficult pursuit due to her naturally curly strands. Despite setting a goal for herself to achieve the look of her dreams, Adeleye reports that she could not find any product on the market that would make it a reality. And so, she started experimenting; with every ingredient she could think of to restore, grow and maintain a long-haired look. Eventually, Adeleye found a remedy in a handmade conditioner that she whipped up on her own kitchen through hours of research, trial, and error.

It was after discovering a formula that finally worked, that a new journey began, and it started with vlogging. Still relatively uncharted territory in 2010, YouTube gave Adeleye a new platform to share her secret with the world. Using her still unnamed product, which would go on to become her brand's best-selling Green Tea & Carrot Deep Strengthening & Restorative Mask Treatment, she uploaded videos herself transitioning from relaxed hair to natural hair and her journey to achieving waist-length hair. To her surprise, Adeleye struck a nerve. Young women from around the world began following and chiming in, forming a community of over 100,000 hair lovers.

“Sometimes it can be expected to be more straight-laced in corporate or more formal business environments," she says. “Often, women with textured hair feel the need to straighten their hair in such settings because it has been the norm to conform for so long. My brand was inspired by my desire to find the kind of products I wanted to see on the market."

After seeing the white space, first hand, Adeleye, in 2013, decided to go into business for herself using $500 of her own personal savings and kept reinvesting her money. She began by choosing a business name. Next, she purchased the domain, and finally called upon her niece to help create the logo. When she was just beginning, Adeleye's family members helped her bottle her the deep conditioner, attaching the labels by hand. She then uploaded her first handmade conditioner product online. A first sale was then made. One sale became two, then three, and so on. Adeleye was extremely cautious with my spending, and didn't touch the profits for the first year.

“The Mane Choice grew from a home-based hobby into a multi-million dollar business."

Fusing her desire to merge beauty, health, and science, her now ample line of more than 90 hair treatments, styles and even vitamins, are formulated with a medley of essential nutrients, such as biotin and vitamins A, B, C, D, E and more. She has developed a comprehensive array of products, that range from cleansers to conditioners, stylers, moisturizers, treatments, supplements, and accessories, all of which cater to a multi-cultural demographic. Found in over 20,000 retail locations, including Walmart, Target, Sally Beauty Supply and more, her business is now worth multiple millions. Even though the YouTube channel has since ceased to be her main conversation channel, Adeleye now communicates with half a million fans over the social media waves.

Talking about why her business was a success, Adeleye claims, “Aside from having subscribers that believed in me before I even started, I sought to fill the needs of the consumer and wanted to give them exactly what they wanted, all while being tangible and responsive to their needs, says Adeleye.

She adds that her social media audience is an organic one: “My whole team and I are incredibly responsive. Personally, I don't vlog on YouTube much anymore, but I am consistently on Instagram engaging with my social network."

Today, The Mane Choice is shipping worldwide via a dynamic e-commerce platform and is sold in brick-and-mortar stores. The company has successfully developed a comprehensive array of products that can cater to a multi-cultural demographic. Their products range from $9.99 to $25.99. And above all, they have multiple retailers in addition to their products performing well above industry average at all of them.

“My subscribers saw how my hair was thriving and wanted to know which product [the handmade deep conditioner] attributed to my successful hair growth. I offered to share the recipe, and even posted it. Most weren't interested in making it. They wanted me to make it and sell it to them. After so many requests, I realized that there was a demand. That's where it all started."

Although The Mane Choice's top consumer is African-American women, Adeleye reports that women of all ethnicities shop the brand, depending on hair needs rather than ethnicity. For her, a multicultural brand is about its ethos, and not its demographic.

“Being that we are a multicultural brand, we offer nutritional supplements and healthy hair care products for people of all ethnicities, with all hair types and textures."

And it's not just consumers who have celebrated Adeleye's accomplishments. The industry is equally excited about her unique collection, and the spirited founder has received multiple consumer choice awards like 2017 Stevie Silver Winner for Women in Business, 2017 CurlBOX Award and the Fall 2017 Beauty O-Ward by O Magazine.

“There can be the expectation for the CEO of a company, who happens to be black, to conform to a certain standard of beauty and style," says Adeleye. “Fortunately, I never let that shake me."

Looking to the future Adeleye is focused on continuing to work to be the best, the hardest working, and the most knowledgeable. Focusing on her strengths and abilities, she has this advice for young entrepreneurs; “Never become so busy making a life that you forget to live," she says. “Work hard, but learn to enjoy the process, salute your accomplishments, and work harder to improve on your misfortunes rather than dwelling on them."

Adeleye also reminds us that sometimes on the path to greatness we can be our own worst enemies, which can sabotage our dreams. “Doubt from others, not myself, can often try to negatively impact how you view your success and what you're striving towards."

In the next five years she plans to expand into the global market, adding more product, and above all -- continuing to offer the best, hottest, and most differentiated products on the market.

3 Min Read
Health

7 Must-have Tips to Keep You Healthy and Fit for the Unpredictable COVID Future

With a lack of certainty surrounding the future, being and feeling healthy may help bring the security that you need during these unpredictable times.

When it comes to your health, there is a direct relationship between nutrition and physical activity that play an enormous part in physical, mental, and social well-being. As COVID-19 continues to impact almost every aspect of our lives, the uncertainty of the future may seem looming. Sometimes improvisation is necessary, and understanding how to stay healthy and fit can significantly help you manage your well-being during these times.

Tip 1: Communicate with your current wellness providers and set a plan

Gyms, group fitness studios, trainers, and professionals can help you to lay out a plan that will either keep you on track through all of the changes and restrictions or help you to get back on the ball so that all of your health objectives are met.

Most facilities and providers are setting plans to provide for their clients and customers to accommodate the unpredictable future. The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C. An enormous amount is on the table for this coming fall and winter; if your gym closes again, what is your plan? If outdoor exercising is not an option due to the weather, what is your plan? Leaving things to chance will significantly increase your chances of falling off of your regimen and will make consistency a big problem.

The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C.

Tip 2: Stay active for both mental and physical health benefits

The rise of stress and anxiety as a result of the uncertainty around COVID-19 has affected everyone in some way. Staying active by exercising helps alleviate stress by releasing chemicals like serotonin and endorphins in your brain. In turn, these released chemicals can help improve your mood and even reduce risk of depression and cognitive decline. Additionally, physical activity can help boost your immune system and provide long term health benefits.

With the new work-from-home norm, it can be easy to bypass how much time you are spending sedentary. Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity. Struggling to find ways to stay active? Start simple with activities like going for a walk outside, doing a few reps in exchange for extra Netflix time, or even setting an alarm to move during your workday.

Tip 3: Start slow and strong

If you, like many others during the pandemic shift, have taken some time off of your normal fitness routine, don't push yourself to dive in head first, as this may lead to burnout, injury, and soreness. Plan to start at 50 percent of the volume and intensity of prior workouts when you return to the gym. Inactivity eats away at muscle mass, so rather than focusing on cardio, head to the weights or resistance bands and work on rebuilding your strength.

Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity.

Tip 4: If your gym is open, prepare to sanitize

In a study published earlier this year, researchers found drug-resistant bacteria, the flu virus, and other pathogens on about 25 percent of the surfaces they tested in multiple athletic training facilities. Even with heightened gym cleaning procedures in place for many facilities, if you are returning to the gym, ensuring that you disinfect any surfaces before and after using them is key.

When spraying disinfectant, wait a few minutes to kill the germs before wiping down the equipment. Also, don't forget to wash your hands frequently. In an enclosed space where many people are breathing heavier than usual, this can allow for a possible increase in virus droplets, so make sure to wear a mask and practice social distancing. Staying in the know and preparing for new gym policies will make it easy to return to these types of facilities as protocols and mutual respect can be agreed upon.

Tip 5: Have a good routine that extends outside of just your fitness

From work to working out, many routines have faltered during the COVID pandemic. If getting back into the routine seems daunting, investing in a new exercise machine, trainer, or small gadget can help to motivate you. Whether it's a larger investment such as a Peloton, a smaller device such as a Fitbit, or simply a great trainer, something new and fresh is always a great stimulus and motivator.

Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine.

Just because you are working from home with a computer available 24/7 doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your entire day to work. Setting work hours, just as you would in the office, can help you to stay focused and productive.

A good night's sleep is also integral to obtaining and maintaining a healthy and effective routine. Adults need seven or more hours of sleep per night for their best health and wellbeing, so prioritizing your sleep schedule can drastically improve your day and is an important factor to staying healthy. Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine. This can help the rest of your day feel normal while the uncertainty of working from home continues.

Tip 6: Focus on food and nutrition

In addition to having a well-rounded daily routine, eating at scheduled times throughout the day can help decrease poor food choices and unhealthy cravings. Understanding the nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy can help you stay more alert, but they do vary from person to person. If you are unsure of your suggested nutritional intake, check out a nutrition calculator.

If you are someone that prefers smaller meals and more snacks throughout the day, make sure you have plenty of healthy options, like fruits, vegetables and lean proteins available (an apple a day keeps the hospital away). While you may spend most of your time from home, meal prepping and planning can make your day flow easier without having to take a break to make an entire meal in the middle of your work day. Most importantly, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.

Tip 7: Don't forget about your mental health

While focusing on daily habits and routines to improve your physical health is important, it is also a great time to turn inward and check in with yourself. Perhaps your anxiety has increased and it's impacting your work or day-to-day life. Determining the cause and taking proactive steps toward mitigating these occurrences are important.

For example, with the increase in handwashing, this can also be a great time to practice mini meditation sessions by focusing on taking deep breaths. This can reduce anxiety and even lower your blood pressure. Keeping a journal and writing out your daily thoughts or worries can also help manage stress during unpredictable times, too.

While the future of COVI9-19 and our lives may be unpredictable, you can manage your personal uncertainties by focusing on improving the lifestyle factors you can control—from staying active to having a routine and focusing on your mental health—to make sure that you emerge from this pandemic as your same old self or maybe even better.