Why This Beauty Entrepreneur Believes Self-Funding Is the Best Way to Launch a Startup

December 14, 2021
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We know how daunting it can be to start a new business, especially if you’re disrupting an industry or creating an entirely new one. When there is no path to follow, the biggest question is, where do I start? There is so much to do, but before you get ahead of yourself, let’s start at the beginning. To kick-start the process, and ease some of those first-time founder nerves, we’re asking successful entrepreneurs to share their stories in our series, From Scratch. But this isn’t your typical day in the life profile. We’re getting into the nitty-gritty details—from writing a business plan (or not) to sourcing manufacturers and how much they pay themselves—we’re not holding back. Below, Jamila Powell, the founder of Naturally Drenched, fills us in on what compelled her to launch a line of products specifically created for textured hair, how she got her business off the ground without a business plan, and why she believes funding a project yourself is the best way to launch a startup.

Can you tell us a bit about your background and what you were doing professionally before launching Naturally Drenched?  

I am an attorney for the federal government. I am also an entrepreneur, mother, and the owner of one of the top texture salons in the country, Maggie Rose Salon. So much of the inspiration behind Naturally Drenched came from the day-to-day experiences I had with our trained stylists and customers within Maggie Rose Salon. I was able to see first-hand what our stylists would do for each unique type of hair texture. They would talk about the different needs of each kind of hair they would work with and about products they wished they had more of. This is when I first started to notice a lack of pre-conditioning treatments for textured hair and a lightbulb of inspiration went off. 

What was the “lightbulb moment” for Naturally Drenched? What inspired you to start your business and pursue this path? 

I think I had two major moments that really pushed me towards the path I’m currently on. First, I recognized how stylists at the Maggie Rose Salon were constantly in search of better products to use on natural and textured hair. And second, the COVID-19 implications on my salon really focused my headspace toward product innovation. I love working with hair, but since I was no longer able to operate my salon, I turned to e-commerce as an alternative. 

Did you write a business plan? If so, was it helpful, and if not, what did you use to guide your business instead and why did you take that approach? 

While I know this is something I should have done, I didn’t write a business plan. I tend to go with the flow and if an idea sticks with me over time, then I know it’s something I have to pursue. Having a vision is key, but understanding a need to pivot from time to time is also a baseline for business expansion is important as well. 

How did you come up with the name Naturally Drenched? What are some of the things you considered during the naming process? 

It actually only took me a singular day to construct the name for the new brand. I really wanted something that sounded luxe but spoke to hydration. I wanted the name to represent how the product would react to naturally curly-girl hair: covered, dripping, a burst of hydration, environmentally-conscious, etc., and Naturally Drenched seemed to do just that. 

Image: Courtesy of Jamila Powell

What were the immediate things you had to take care of to set up the business?

Building social channels and securing the domain name came first. When I decided to move forward with the project, I secured the trademark.

What research did you do for the brand beforehand? Why would you recommend it? 

I conducted first-hand primary research by reviewing what worked and what didn’t within my salon. Further, I did secondary research on oversaturated trends in the hair market and what needed further representation and lacked product attention. 

How did you find and identify the manufacturers that you work with? What was important to you during this process and what are some of the mistakes you made and learned from along the way? 

Initially, I found a few manufacturers through Instagram and then used Google to identify if they were a local company or not. I moved forward with contacting three but only heard back from one. It took time for me to understand the established buy chain because I formulated Naturally Drenched independently, without the help of a manufacturer. However, manufacturers ultimately have established relationships with suppliers and I have learned that they build off of where the formulator secured ingredients and go from there. Additionally, I have seen how ordering new items in bulk can lead to backorders. 

How did you fund your business? What were the challenges and what would you change? Would you recommend that route to other entrepreneurs? 

I am self-funded by choice. I haven’t had a lot of success in partnerships in past ventures, and frankly, I find it easier to carry the weight on my own two shoulders. Personally, I believe if financially possible, funding a project yourself is the best way to launch a startup. Here, individually, you can potentially run out of money, so take into account what it’s going to cost to produce, manufacture, and market the product. If your product is top of the line but has no market share or recognition, it really just doesn’t matter how good it is. 

Do you pay yourself, and if so, how did you know what to pay yourself?

Currently, no, I do not pay myself, and I don’t have plans to do so in the near future. I return all profit from Naturally Drenched right back into the company.

How big is your team now, and what has the hiring process been like? 

I am my team but you can outsource your team. You need to find people you can trust to make a recommendation. My design team and PR team have been great. I have a team member that does my Instagram graphics whom I got from a referral. To be successful while going through the hiring process, focus on recommendations, remain active in listening to podcasts, Zoom calls, and panels, and always vet a potential hire and see the results they’ve been able to produce for other people.

“I am self-funded by choice. I find it easier to carry the weight on my own two shoulders.”

Image: Courtesy of Jamila Powell

Did you hire an accountant? Who helped you with the financial decisions and setup? 

I do have an accountant and bookkeeper. They don’t help me with financial decisions, as that is typically left to both my boyfriend and my mom. It’s important to have an accountant or bookkeeper because you need to look at your numbers weekly to know if you’re losing or gaining money. In the long run, you are saving yourself time when you have to do taxes. Always know where your money is going. 

What has been the biggest learning curve during the process of establishing your business?

Marketing. Trying to figure out what makes people buy your product is a challenge within itself, and understanding how to move past “surface-level” marketing is an additional challenge.

How did you promote your company? How did you get people to know who you are and create buzz? 

PR of course! We also use the product in the salon and I’ve reached out to stylists and influencers. In addition, I secured inclusion in a subscription box in Germany. All of these ideas are a good way to get the word out and the product in peoples’ hands.

You’re an entrepreneur and a mom. How has being a mother changed your priorities and your focus in terms of your career? 

Being a mother makes me work harder. You really want to give everything to your child and it just makes me do more. Also, having a daughter helps me put things into perspective because there becomes a point where I say “enough is enough” and I have to step away from my workload and spend quality time with my child.

Do you think motherhood has made you a better business person? 

Absolutely, yes! Motherhood changes your mindset, your patience, your adaptability, creativity, and basically everything else I forgot to mention. 

Do you have a business coach or mentor, and would you recommend one? 

I don’t have a business coach, but I have “business besties” whom I talk to all the time. All of these women are at different points of their entrepreneurship journey! I recommend having people you can talk to openly who can give you insight on places you’re trying to go, and how to get there.

What is one thing you didn’t do during the setup process that ended up being crucial to the business and would advise others to do asap? 

Have a strong marketing plan! 

What is your number one piece of financial advice for any new business owner and why? 

Make sure you know what you want to spend and add 10% more to that. The worst thing you can do is put all your time and effort into research, formulation, and development, and not have any money to market it.

Featured image: Courtesy of Jamila Powell

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