It was summer 2008 and I was sitting in church when my eyes zoomed in on this head full of gorgeous, fluffy, curly hair. Oh my goodness I couldn’t take my eyes off of it and all I wanted to do was touch it. So every Sunday I found myself stalking these blissful curls. However after several Sunday's I finally decided to introduce myself to the young lady with the curls. I candidly expressed how I LOVED her hair and was curious how she achieve the style? The young lady smiled and began to tell me about her experience with relaxers and how her hair fell out and she had no choice but to stop using chemicals and “go natural” so to speak. She transitioned when “GOING NATURAL” was by far not popular.
The beautiful head of hair I saw before me was all natural and all so amazingly shiny, curly and healthy. I was so intrigued that I pondered over the idea for several days. I went on an internet high, researching YouTube and Google to find all I could about natural hair. After doing my homework and learning how chemicals affect the body overall, I decided to give this journey a try.
The timing couldn’t have been more serendipitous. Out of sheer randomness a few of my friends had become interested in the venture as well. Shortly after, we decided to meet with one another monthly to discuss our journeys, routines and processes we used. The group was comprised of six women and we met through work, school and church.
It wasn't long after deciding to embark on this project, an old flame was stirred up and this new endeavor had become a passion. However, hair has always been an interesting talent of mine. I learned at a very young age my hair type was a challenge, so I had no choice but to learn how to maintain it myself. A few years before this undertaking I was the kitchen beautician to my family and friends.
Everyday I looked for oils, products, books or stories of inspiration pertaining to natural hair. The material I found was so interesting and fun, I never grew tired of reading or talking about natural hair care. I started mixing products at home and testing my creations on my husband and myself. It was rough because some days my hair looked like, "who did it and what for?" Can we say experiment gone wrong? Still, I kept at it.
Finally after several months I had a few concoctions that actually worked and women took notice. I started being stopped in stores, parking lots, restrooms, and it was the same question every time. “What products do you use?" The fact that I made them didn't seem to bother them whatsoever. After a while I began to entertain the idea of selling my products, but I wasn’t sure where to begin. I had two degrees and neither had anything thing to do with chemistry, business or cosmetology. Sounds like I should have quit right then and there. What on earth was I thinking and how was this going to happen? All the little voices said no, but there was a tug in me that said, it's possible. I mean I'm pretty creative, artsy and a mad scientist at heart, so why not.
Funny thing is while doing all of this, I ran into an old friend from high school at the mall. After we caught up she mention, hosting a Holistic Workshop that would include talks about healthy food choices, natural hair, and exercise. She asked if I was interested in being a part of the panel. I told her sure, why not.
July 9th came, and we had a crowd of about 60 women and men. I was so nervous; I remember thinking OMG, I have never done this before. I mean, talking to one or two people here and there was easy, but this was different. As I gazed into the crowd I literally wanted to pass out. The event started and-one by-one each panelist presented. Then it was my turn. I stood up, took a deep breath and began telling the crowd about natural hair and my approach to transitioning from chemical treated hair. In the beginning I struggled a bit (nerves), but I did it. A local beautician even complemented points I made during her presentation.
Afterwards I went to my booth to answer questions and sell the handmade hair oil (Nakia Amour Pre-Conditioning Hair Oil) I prepared for the event. To my surprise, I completely sold out. I even had one lady purchase six of them at once. Excited and overjoyed at the crowd reception and the profit, I began fine tuning my craft. About a month later I solicited a contract with The Green Corner Store. Nervous once again but yet excited, I waltzed into the store with my hair oil and shampoo mixture decorated in tissue paper and cellophane plastic bags. I kindly asked the clerk if I could speak to the manager and almost choked when she said she was the manager.
I quickly composed myself and began to explain my products and their uses. The manger was very kind and asked if I had other products. I told her they were in “development” knowing I had not achieved a conditioner or curl enhancing gel mixture I could sale, just yet. Before I knew it, she agreed to sell my products; however there was a "but". She asked me not to use cellophane plastic or the unmarked bottles because the store was an eco-friendly store. Duh!
I was so embarrassed. It never dawn on me that my choice of presentation was all wrong. As if the store being named “The GREEN Corner Store", wasn’t a huge indicator. When I left, I had to chuckle to myself. What was I thinking, going to the GREEN store with all these non-recyclable, possibly toxic containers and frilly unnecessary decoration? Oh my can we say grace and mercy was abound.
The second occurrence of favor happened one day while shopping at a local retailer in town. I was on my way to Drug Emporium to make a purchase. However I began to wonder if I was really supposed to step out on this journey? I mean I knew people loved and supported the products. They were buying them, but I wasn’t sure if I was qualified to start a business. I thought maybe I did something wrong or jumped the gun. So before I got out my truck, I prayed and asked God to give me a clear sign of whether or not He told me to do this. After praying about the situation I went into the store.
I selected my items and stood in line. Then this older gentleman standing with the cashier asked, "Are you getting ready for the storms?" (We had a recent series of storms the prior week.) I answered, “No, sir. I make natural hair care products," as the clerk checked me out. He then said we needed to talk; I was thinking, "about what?" Come to find out this man was the buyer for this particular location, and he was interested in carrying my hair care line. I scheduled a meeting with him and following the meeting he agreed to carry my full line of products. He simply said, he thought I had a good idea and wanted to help me out. Not only did God answer, but He answered clearly and quickly. I had shopped in this store for years and not once ever met or seen this man prior to that day.
My last but not least, moment of favor started January 4, 2011 when I decided to research more retailers and find other opportunities to sell my product. I was on the computer all day it seemed, and as I brought my search to an end I decided to submit one last email to a retailer. This store immediately sent a response and wanted to meet. I was caught off guard and at the time just inquiring about the process. I didn't want to meet, I wasn't ready. I mean I was still printing my own labels on a ink jet printer for goodness sake.
However I agreed to the meeting and all was well. The coordinator fell in love with my products and literally walked me through every phase of the process for an entire year. It wasn't until December 17, 2011 that one of largest "GREEN" retailers approved my product line for shelf space. Whole Foods, approved Nakia Amour Hair Care products for sell in their stores.
Today I'm proud to say that I'm one step closer to living a dream of a lifetime. Within a 1.5 year I developed a natural hair care line from scratch. I'm not a chemist and my science background is founded upon what I what I learned in high school and CSI. I don't work in this particular field, I just had a passion for it. Although the process hasn't been easy, I’m sticking with it and will keep pushing in spite of the obstacles.
I have a laundry list of things to do and things I don't know how to do, but I hope you know, it is God who began this work in me and provided the tools, people and resources needed to get me where I am today.
I just wanted to share a tiny glimpse of my story to encourage someone to activate their faith and make a move. I’m as regular as they come. I don’t come from a lineage of affluence nor do I know anyone cut from it. In fact I started this business in my mid 30's with one-hundred dollars, during a recession, a family, and working both a full-time and part-time job. I took a leap of faith and I’m the first in my family to make an attempt of this magnitude.
So what keeps me going? The vision and the thought of knowing I spoke this into my life and God has led every step of the way. I can’t wait to see what happens next. I imagine it's going to be life changing.
To be continued...
Nakia Amour Smith-Dedner