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.
WRITTEN BYAlexandra Lakhman