We love a good trailblazer story, especially when it features a woman, a woman of color, or someone that mainstream media typically ignores. When it comes to beauty entrepreneur Gwen Jimmere, her inspiring journey to becoming a trailblazer is so much more dynamic than what even a headline can contain.
Gwen Jimmere is a gifted visionary on an unrelenting mission to challenge the narrative that “the struggle is real” when it comes to natural hair. As CEO of Naturalicious, she leads a 7-figure empire that creates high-performing, time-saving haircare products that have collectively saved over 70,000 women more than 1.2 million minutes on washday.
She’s cemented her place in history as the first African-American woman to hold a patent for natural haircare products, which can be found around the world in over 1200 retail stores, including ULTA, Whole Foods, and Sally Beauty. Named, “the world’s leading authority on textured hair care”, she was named one of the 100 Most Influential African Americans in the U.S. along with the likes of Beyonce, Serena Williams, and LeBron James; as well as a Top 10 Business Woman in the U.S., a Crain’s 40 Under 40.
But as we learned from speaking with her in this interview, her story starts in a place many of us have found ourselves or are familiar with – financial and family struggles, and at a crossroads in her life. We’re at a point in the world today where uncertainty is something we are all faced with in the time of COVID-19. Which is why we need uplifting and empowering stories like Gwen’s more than ever. Read on to see how, when faced with some major barriers and setbacks, she chose to rise up and forge her own path forward.
Tell us how the idea for Naturalicious came about?
I started making hair products in my kitchen when I discovered how damaging chemical relaxers are to our bodies. When people started asking me what I using, I knew I was onto something. But it wasn’t until I was laid off from my corporate job while simultaneously going through a grueling divorce as a new mom that I was forced to make quick decisions to generate an income. I turned my hobby into a business and launched Naturalicious.
When did you learn you were the first African-American woman to hold a patent for natural hair products, and what did this mean to you personally?
For me personally it’s a honor to have a little place in history. No one can ever take that away from me! But it’s even more humbling to be a source of inspiration and motivation to women, especially black women. Being an entrepreneur and starting a business is no small feat, it’s hard work, but if I can do it, than so can any woman out there.
Your entrepreneur journey started at a tumultuous time in your life, both personally and professionally. Can you talk to us about this?
Oh yes it did! I touched on it above – I was working a corporate job, already feeling stifled and undervalued, when I was laid off. That may have been a blessing in disguise, but it couldn’t have happened at a harder time for me personally. I was a new mother to a one-year-old son and going through a terrible divorce from his father. The divorce left me with $32 in the bank and no income. As a mom, I had to think fast – what could I do to generate income? I had to feed my son. My hobby was already a [small] side hustle, so that’s when I started Naturalicious as a real company.
Some of the most inspiring entrepreneurial stories are those like yours, where the setbacks and difficulties become the motivation for the next step. What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs who feel stuck or are in the middle of difficulties right now?
Waiting is not a wealth strategy. There’s no “right time” to do anything, and all waiting does is delay everything you want. It delays your purpose, it delays your prosperity, it delays your joy. There’s no foolproof manual for starting or running a business, so it’s impossible to ever be fully prepared. You’ve just got to take the proverbial jump off the cliff and build your parachute along the way. All the excitement is on the other side of your fears.
Naturalicious is now sold all over the world and you have 13 employees working out of your Detroit HQ. What are some of the most popular products among your customers?
The Hello Gorgeous hair care kit is the most sought after. It’s a 3 product system that reduces wash day to mere minutes (compared to the many hours most people spend on their hair) and eliminates the junk and unnecessary products by using high quality, all-natural ingredients. To date, we’ve saved over 70,000 customers more than 1.2 million minutes on wash day. Not to mention the countless amount of money saved from products that don’t deliver.
Right now your company is helping out those affected by COVID-19. Can you tell us more about the deluxe travel kits?
The Deluxe Travel Kit consist of all our on-the-go necessities, so you can keep curls luscious and hair healthy wherever you are. We knew we wanted to give back in some way and because our frontline workers are working grueling hours, self care is probably something they aren’t considering much these days. The travel kit is convenient for their bag and perfect for a quick hair care session. I truly believe that how we feel about our hair is a reflection of how we feel about ourselves. So by sending travel kits to our heroes, it’s a little way to say thank you and help the dedicated workers feel and look their best while they’re literally saving the world.
We’re big believers in the saying “You can’t be what you can’t see”. What kind of legacy do you hope to create for young African-American women, as well as your own son?
We strive to inspire confidence in our customers and community. We believe that confidence is the foundation for personal wellness and a thriving, vibrant life. I hope my and Naturalicious’ legacy is one that promotes self-esteem, self care, connectedness and self love. And my son, wow. I strive to lead by example and immerse him daily in what I do. He already has a knack for entrepreneurship, so I can tell that my actions are inspiring him. I’m proud that he is listening and watching and taking it all in, so one day he can apply what he’s learned and be everything he wants to be.
Finally, what makes you a powerful woman?
I’m powerful because I understand my worth, my value and because of that, I am in control of my destiny. Because of that, I’m bringing others along for the ride. Success is great, but it’s even better when you pull others up with you. We have created opportunities for some of our best customers to have income-generating opportunities with us. Let’s spread the wealth! There’s enough to go around. I aspire to be the candle that lights the others so we can all shine together.
Learn more about Gwen and Naturalicious by visiting her website.