In May of 2020, I had just completed my student teaching assignment after moving to Greater Des Moines (DSM) six months prior. As I attended my virtual graduation, obtaining my master’s degree in education, I knew in my core I would never teach again. Like countless others, I found myself doing some serious soul searching when the world shut down. The one thing I’ve been drawn to for as long as I can remember is teaching others to love their natural hair.
It started with friends and family. I fell in love with my natural texture, and I wanted them to have the same feeling. When I became a foster parent, it was clear to me that foster parents of black children needed curl encouragement too. I started teaching one-on-one hair styling lessons and purchasing products for foster families while I was in school.
Simply walking into a store and finding clean products for textured hair was near impossible and completely frustrating. I came to the realization that the most impactful thing I could do is start my own hair care brand. This would allow me to use a portion of sales to donate products to the foster care community.
So with no marketing or entrepreneurial experience, I used some of my savings to hire a cosmetic chemist, a graphic designer and a web designer. After a year of developing the products and the brand, I officially launched The Joy of Curls LLC in May 2021. I wasn’t in business very long before I realized two things: 1) I really loved what I was doing and 2) I needed help immediately. My husband called a friend on my behalf who connected me to the Evelyn K. Davis Center. This connection blessed me more than I could’ve imagined.
One Million Black Women: Black in Business
One of my mentors, Curtis Baugh, reached out to me to let me know about a program Goldman Sachs launched for black women in business. This program, One Million Black Women: Black in Business was created for women, sole proprietors, looking to scale their businesses. It included 12 weeks of business education, in-person learning at Goldman Sachs headquarters in New York, a $2,000 stipend and advisors assigned to assist along the way. I applied, feeling optimistic and anxious at the same time.
Soon after, I was contacted and learned that out of thousands of applicants I was chosen to be in the inaugural cohort for Black in Business. Within two weeks I was in New York! From the moment I walked in the room at Goldman Sachs I was greeted with affirmation, smiles, hospitality and so much love. The 150 of us who were chosen to be in that room (three Iowans!), on the 41st floor overlooking the Hudson River were told that we belonged there. Senior Advisor to President Obama Valerie Jarrett was there to encourage us. Women from the Goldman Sachs 10K Small Business program catered to us (literally) sharing delicious food, gifts and sisterly encouragement. It seems in the blink of an eye I went from feeling overwhelmed about growing my business to having a community of people around me, dedicated to make sure I do just that.
As I prepare for graduation from the Black in Business program, I have to acknowledge how much it has changed me already. I am the textbook example of an introvert, and I gladly look to my extrovert husband to share my hair products and website with strangers. I gained the confidence I needed in New York to truly be the face of the brand and share why I’m so passionate about it. I’m now introducing myself to parents who have children with textured hair, finding opportunities to sell my products in markets throughout the region and make connections with agencies who serve foster families and are looking for resources for children. I can’t help but feel gratitude for how our move to DSM has completely changed the trajectory of our lives.