Two years ago, Black Enterprise spoke with Courtney Adeleye, founder and CEO of The Mane Choice, when she first stepped onto the scene. She shared her story of how she successfully launched her company, mistakes she made along the way, and what set The Mane Choice apart from its competitors. Fast forward to two years later, Adeleye is dominating the black haircare industry and helping other women entrepreneurs who aspire to make their dreams come true through her philanthropic work.
We went down memory lane with Adeleye to help inspire women who are looking to take their talents from their kitchen to major retail stores. We also spoke with her about the ebbs and flows of growing and expanding her business. After all, she now has 50 different products in thousands of locations nationwide. Talk about #Goals!
Take us back! What was your journey like from your kitchen to major retailers?
After a hair color experiment gone wrong, I turned to the YouTube community to share my journey toward healthier hair—which included information regarding my healthy haircare regimen, the success of my hair length goal, and one of my deep conditioner recipes. The recipe really piqued the interest of my audience, given my proven “success!” However, they didn’t want to recreate the recipe—instead, they wanted to buy it from me! Ultimately, I attribute the creation of my brand to the demand from my YouTube subscribers. In fact, I learned a lot about customer service from simply being as responsive as possible to my subscribers. This simple, yet effective method has carried over into my business and continues to be a vital aspect. Through those lessons, the company has grown from an e-commerce site to having a footprint in over 20,000 retail locations.
When did you realize that it was time to expand your business?
I knew when I had to start hiring help to make the products in a space bigger than my kitchen that it became too much to handle alone.
What would you say are some business expansion “musts” for business owners?
I wish I had studied more business owners and learned how they conducted business earlier in life. I learned the value of this simple, yet effective, tool later in life and owe a lot of my success to observing the failures and successes of others. I didn’t have any mentors prior to launching my company, so I decided to take advantage of books, articles, and thought leadership publications. At this stage in my life, I take full advantage of every resource I have available to me, especially free knowledge.
There are so many legal and logistical steps that businesspersons have to take as they expand their business. Can you share how business owners can navigate that process?
As mentioned before, genuine mentorship is key. This strategy can help many business owners avoid hiccups in the process.
You have a very personalized marketing strategy and great customer relations. How did you figure that was something that you wanted to implement and how does that set you apart as a company?
While keeping an ear to the ground regarding growing trends in the industry, have tunnel vision when it comes to building your own brand. Having too many external influences can keep you from standing out as a brand. Word of mouth always has been and still is paramount. However, with social media being such a massive marketing tool, we employ that as much as we can. Most importantly, I continue to listen to my consumer while remaining true to my own brand. This allows me to cater to their desires in an organic way.
Your social media presence is strong. What tips would you give to entrepreneurs and small business owners looking to capitalize on social platforms?
Know your audience. Deliver to your audience. It’s that simple.
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs looking to enter the haircare industry?
My greatest advice would be to make sure your brand is “market ready.” When I launched The Mane Choice, I launched with one product, but I strived to make that product as perfect as possible. I invested in my brand, packaging, logo, and website so that customers had no reason to doubt the credibility of my company. Often, entrepreneurs can feel pressure to launch with what they have, but I truly believe there is virtue and value in patiently waiting on perfection and strategically marketing your product. You must have the mentality that you only get one shot to get it right, and I’d rather be on the winning team. Nevertheless, it is important to mention that my company would be nowhere without faith. Having faith and meeting that faith with hard work is the key ingredients in each of my endeavors. It is the one constant throughout any changes I go through. I can honestly say that my faith has helped me to learn to trust the process and accomplish far greater than I could have ever expected to on my own.