Hair-preneur: Alena Smith of Hair Body N’ Soul
Alena Smith, Owner of HairBodyNSoul.com, creates hand-made and all-natural hair care and body products. She started her company online and has been featured in popular beauty subscription boxes such as We Are Onyx and KolorConscious. Her journey is truly an inspiration for aspiring entrepreneurs who want to enter the cosmetic industry. Thanks Alena for sharing your story with us!
The growth of the natural hair community and healthy hair enthusiasts in general has sparked many women of color to become entrepreneurs and create their own hair product lines. You on the other hand have decided to not only create hair products, but also products for the body and hair accessories. What made you start Hair Body N’ Soul and what sets it apart from the plethora of other product lines on the market?
In October 2013, I started making homemade products inspired by Natural Hair Vlogger Naptural85. I did this because I was not seeing the results I wanted with over-the-counter products. I shared them with my Mother whom returned natural only a month after I had. In November, just before Thanksgiving I had a dream that I was standing at a booth selling an all natural hair care product called Hair Body N’ Soul. When I woke up, I Googled the company and could not find it. I even searched all natural hair care and did not find much. I slowly realized that this was my brand and I got to work at it.
In the beginning, I was unaware of the many brands that were available to the natural hair community. The one major thing that sets us apart from other brands is that we do not use preservatives in any of our products nor do we use chemicals. I personally test all of the products before releasing them to the public along with my product testing team. When I started in October 2013, I was just making a few things for my Mom and I. Since then, I have been researching and creating my own recipes. Hair Body N’ Soul is more than just a brand, it is a way of life! It is all about self-love and choosing healthier products for your hair and skin.
Being featured in subscription boxes such as Cocotique, WeAreOnyx, and KolorConscious is a huge deal for any brand, especially upcoming brands like Hair Body N’ Soul. How did you feel when that happened and what impact has it made on your company?
It is kind of crazy actually. Our first 99 cent sale in 2014 revealed the many people that we did not know were aware of our company. One of our customers was Kendrya Cook who is the Founder of a monthly beauty subscription service called Kolour Conscious. She contacted me in December of that year and asked if we would participate in her launch box. I swore it was a joke. I had heard of subscription boxes but had no idea of how they worked. In January and February of 2015 Hair Body N’ Soul was featured in the KolorConscious Box. The experience was so amazing that I decided to look into other beauty subscription services. I discovered fifteen of these companies and emailed them all to share my story. We Are Onyx reached back first and then Cocotique. I was just in awe that they wanted us in their boxes! It was a lot of work but extremely worth it. We have built an amazing relationship with both companies and they have helped our consumer base grow!
I love that you were only 22 years old when you decided to start Hair Body N’ Soul. What have you learned about the cosmetic industry that has helped you the most? What advice can you give to budding entrepreneurs interested in that field?
I was pretty young for an entrepreneur. However, I have learned so much about the cosmetic industry. Learning the legalities of the industry has helped me the most. A few things that I did not understand included knowing how to properly label products and the information that I had to provide on them. It was an important lesson for me and has helped with the presentation of Hair Body N’ Soul products. This is an industry that is constantly growing; therefore, there is always more to learn. I would advise entrepreneurs to do research and seek advice from in this field. Never stop being inquisitive. In the beginning, there were many people who did not offer answers to my questions. However, that did not stop me. I kept asking others along with doing my own research until I got the answers. I also advise testing your products and not releasing any that does not work or that is harmful. I learned these lesson years before entering the field. When I worked in cosmetic sales and the brand that I was working for changed their products without testing them.
Hair Body N’ Soul has grown so much in the two years that it has been established. What plans do you have in growing your brand even more?
My plans change as the business grows. However, I believe our next big step will be participating in events. We will be a part of the 2016 New Orleans Natural Hair Expo and also working on hosting our own events. We know that this will give our brand more exposure and give us the chance to interact with our customers face to face. I hope to have a storefront in the near future but we are playing it by ear. We are constantly met with new goals and ideas which can sometimes change our plans. But we are always open to the change.
Now, I cannot end this interview without asking about your hair journey! When did you decide to return to natural hair and why did you do it?
I wanted to return to natural since my sophomore year of high school which was 2006-2007. The people that I told were either close to me or I relied on them for hair consultations. Many people told me not to do it. They thought it would be difficult due to my hair’s thickness and that I would not know how to care for it in its natural state. Regardless of their comments and disapproval, I still had that desire. However, I did not act on it until 2012 when I attempted transitioning. Subsequently, it failed due to my lack of knowledge of my own hair. On September 2, 2013 I finally big chopped and became an instant product junkie.
The big chop was 100% for me. Cutting my hair was like releasing who I really was. I did not really start loving myself until I made that change. I did not realize that I was lost or how much I had let others influence my life until after my big chop. That was like a rebirth for me — the start of living and loving myself. It is still a journey, but I do not think I would have started if not for the big chop.
I can only imagine how cool it is to have your own product line at your disposal. What is your hair regimen and the Hair Body N’ Soul hair products that you are currently using?
I love it!!! However, there are times that a product becomes sold out before I snag it. I do not have an exact hair regimen as it changes often. Generally, it goes something like this:
Pre-Poo: Hair Body N’ Soul’s Creamy Mocha Pre-Poo
Condition: My own mixture (I am working on something for the product line.)
Oil: Hair Body N’ Soul’s Stimulating Elixir
Sealant: Hair Body N’ Soul’s Trinity Butta or Shea Essence
I am a wash n’ go queen, but every now and then I will do a twist-out using our White Chocolate Leche. Thanks to my Mother, I will sometimes use the Hair Body N’ Soul’s Original Shea Hair Cream on my scalp if it is in need of a little love.
Last, but not least. Being the sole owner and operator of any business can become overwhelming at times. How do you keep the balance between running your company and still having a social life?
Luckily for me I had met my love Andre about 4 years before the business was established. He has been very supportive of my natural hair journey and the business. Although this has been mostly my vision, he has had a lot of influence in it as well. Everyone can thank him for the 99 cent sale. When running a business it can be very difficult to have a social life. I have missed family events, outings with friends and much more. However, in the end it is worth it. On the flip side, I have met a lot of amazing women and men. Some of them are either building their business or are established in their business. Many of them are helping me to build my dream. Although I have missed a lot, I have also gained a lot and I would not change it for the world.