Jamelia Donaldson is one of the most dynamic and inspiring beauty entrepreneurs to have emerged on the scene in recent years. The creator of the monthly hair subscription box TreasureTress, the affordable service for naturalistas which enables them to try some of the most sought after brands as well as some undiscovered gems, we caught up with Jamelia to find out more about her entrepreneurial journey and future plans for her brand.
What inspired you to create TreasureTress?
I launched TreasureTress because I was bored of the typical hair shop experience for Black women I found it uninspiring, and substandard compared to mainstream beauty shopping experiences. There is a huge difference between mainstream stores like SpaceNK and shops which cater specifically to women with kinky curly hair and dark skin – and it shouldn’t be this way. I wanted finding new products to be fun again, and I also wanted to share information I had learned over the years with women who looked like me. November 2015 – literally in my bedroom is when TreasureTress went live – we launched via a few posts on Instagram and have continued to grow organically from there. And when I say ‘we’ I mean me, my laptop and my phone!
How did your entrepreneurial journey begin?
My hair journey began at University when I had become fed up with the state of my hair. It was brittle, damaged and stagnant. I was curious to find out how I could improve its health which led me on an adventure – I spent hours watching YouTube and blogs like ‘Keep It Simple Sista’ ; and was pleasantly surprised to discover so many beautiful black women with healthy and flourishing hair. This was the natural hair community in its very early phases and I couldn’t wait to spread the gospel that black hair does grow and can be extremely healthy. Whilst my interest in natural hair care spiked while I was at University, it was not until I was on my placement year in New York when I discovered just how popular, efficient and innovative subscription boxes were. They were everywhere in the US for EVERYTHING yet in the UK we had some catching up to do. I spent my time in NY attending events, networking and trying TONS of products, before returning to the UK and beginning my career in finance. Whilst at my job, although I loved the people I was working with and was honoured to be working with the most intelligent people I had come across, something within me would not allow me to ignore the idea I had for TreasureTress. 2.5 years into my graduate position, I decided to take a leap of faith (after months of planning, sowing seeds and saving) and work on TreasureTress full time, rather than just evenings and weekends.
Did you always have a clear vision of what you wanted to do?
I had always had an interest in hair; I wanted to be a hairdresser growing up, however coming from a family of educators I was encouraged to re-think this and consider law. The fact that I have been able to marry my love for business and beauty makes me extremely happy and I am very grateful! I always knew that I was not willing to compromise on living life on my terms, doing what I love, with who I love, for a greater purpose. That was my vision.
Did you face any challenges when you began your own business? What lessons have you learned along your journey?
Of course. Social Media will paint the picture that starting a business is easy and entrepreneurship is all fun and glamour. The reality is, it is very lonely, very tough and takes a ton of courage. Early challenges I faced was of course lack of experience and knowledge. I had never run a subscription based business before – so I was learning as I was going along. My subscribers were educating me. Whatever they asked for – or were unsatisfied by, it was up to me, and me alone to fill this void and create a solution. I did not have any contacts to begin with. I knew and had tried and tested every product on the market, but I had no links to any brands so I had to establish those relationships from scratch.The main lesson I’ve learnt is to remain a student. What I don’t know, is my responsibility to find out. Simply ‘not knowing’ a lot of the time isn’t good enough as there is a wealth of knowledge available thanks to the internet, ebooks and podcasts. I have also learnt how important making a decision and sticking with it is. At any moment we can change the course of our lives through a simple decision – that is powerful.
How would you describe your typical customer?
We have a few customer profiles – one being the natural hair enthusiast who knows every product on the market, who owns the product, what others think of the product and can’t wait for us to feature it so that they can try it out effortlessly. On the other end of spectrum there is the new natural who has no idea what to use, and what to do with her hair. I love educating so have a soft spot for women who fall into this category.
What advice would you give to a budding indie black beauty business owner on how to create a thriving brand with limited resources?
Use what you have where you are. Seek mentors who have experience in areas you struggle with. Don’t take advice from people you would not switch places with. Expect no handouts – and be ready and willing to learn from as many people as possible. Outwork everyone. Be a good person – it is a much smaller world than we all think. Be kind.
Who would you consider your ultimate beauty entrepreneur inspiration famous or otherwise?
I have a lot of respect for Richelieu Dennis founder of Sundial Companies (inclusive of: Shea Moisture). What he has built from family traditions, recipes based on his heritage and the level to which he has scaled it in nothing short of incredible.The opportunities he continues to create for black women is second to none. Shea Moisture is not without controversy of course, but when we look at the bigger picture and the greater mission – Richelieu will be remembered for the change he has made for black women in business, in beauty and now in entertainment. He is truly a game changer and mogul.
What have been some of the most profound learning experiences throughout your entrepreneurial journey?
My most profound learning is just how useful spiritual practices, and reminders can act as a guide for all areas of life including business. For example – I will be in the shower and randomly an idea comes to mind, later that day someone will reach out and mention something complimenting this idea. Or someone will come to mind and I will realise we haven’t spoken in a while, so I should touch base. Two days later they email or call me out of the blue. Instinct and gut feeling in business is big for me. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably is not. I am still learning to pay attention and honour this feeling.
What does the rest of 2018 have in store for you and your business?
I am most excited to close out the year celebrating our 3rd birthday in our new office and conducting our 3rd Mini Me Afternoon Tea Party in December. Details are yet to be released. What keeps me and my team going is thinking about what kind of world we are creating for little girls who look like us. How can we make the world a better place for them? Through our afternoon tea’s we are able to see this even more clearly.
For further information on TreasureTress visit here.