I do hope that you enjoy the first of ChocolateOrchid's Heroine Entrepreneur Series. Remember a heroine is 1. A woman noted for courage and daring action. 2. A woman noted for special achievement in a particular field.
She is here to encourage, motivate and/or give you insight into what it takes to go after your vision, your love, your baby and make it work for you.
Our very first heroine is Jane Carter of Jane Carter Solution.
1. How was Jane Carter Solution birthed?
I am a stylist. I owned a salon for years. I used to direct the education for Avalon Firm that makes a relaxer. I spent a bunch of years as a hair color educator doing the whole national hair circuit. One of my pet peeves was that I always felt that products in the ethnic market were just kind of inferior. That they just didn’t get the job done. Products shouldn’t be prescribed based on ethnicity. As a colorist, my clients are everybody. Our salon is very diverse so I was looking for a product line that we could prescribe to any client. Not just, “I have to go to this line for this client and another line for another client.” I thought that that was just crazy. So that was one of the things for us that when we started to really roll this out that we can prescribe this to anybody. For us, part of our objective was to have a product line that was performance oriented and naturally based. So that was one thing. But how the products really happened is that I was in the salon and I developed an allergic reaction to products. I couldn’t use anything with the traditional ingredients like dimethicone, petroleum, alcohol, etc. I took an aromatherapy course from Triton which makes an essential oil line and I made one product which was Hair Nourishing Serum. Then I had clients that were like,”Well, can we buy this?” And we were like, “I guess. I don’t know. I guess we have to figure this out.” So that’s really how it unfolded. Hair Serum is a pure essential oil and vitamin product that if you leave the top off it will evaporate. It’s a very different concept to what we perceive as an oil product. So anyway, we started out with one product and then I really needed some other performance products. So I went to three industry chemists to attempt to work on a couple of other products for the line and after I spent some time with these guys they all asked me the exact same question. “Who’s your market? Is your market predominately ethnic? Is your market predominately general market?” And I said, “My market is like everybody.” At that point, in the salon we were probably 10/50/50. So they sent me a batch of samples from the general market products and they sent me a batch of sample from the ethnic market. So they go to a formulation book. They look at the formula and make you a sample from the ethnic section which is the traditional stuff that’s already in the market. You know the stuff, petroleum, dimethicone, etc. And then they go to the general market which is a whole different kind of characteristic. But at any rate, after dealing with the 3 chemists that probably make 80% of the products in the market I went like, “Okay, so why are they sending me this stuff that already exists?” We were really looking for something that’s different. That’s natural-based. That doesn’t have these ingredients and that the complete product line you can use on anybody. And then I met with the 3 of them (chemists). All of them were men and none of them had hair. Which I thought was kind of interesting. And none of them had ever been in a salon. And I mean, that’s who makes products.
So it started to become clear to me. That’s why I took two formulation courses. Took two semesters of formulations. So I do all the formulas. And then we got busy. That’s the story.
2. So when you first started out you pretty much had a lot of support?
When you make products, it’s an expensive business to be in. I used to make all the relaxer for our salon. I made everything at home that we use in the salon. My kids, growing up, thought that everybody had a manufacturing facility in their basement. That was like normal for us.
We started out with a distributor in New Jersey. And of course, the distributor who distributes to professional salons distributes 80 other lines (product). And so why would they really invest any time in our line? It was like all that kind of stuff that went on. And so we really struggled through it. And it’s still a little bit of a dilemma. But at any rate, we approached Whole Foods because I really wanted to create an opportunity for people for women to go into an environment that wasn’t a beauty supply store. Because really, unless you distribute to a professional salon or you distribute to a beauty supply store, there’s no other way to get your product into the hands of consumers. So we’ve been really selective about who we do business with. Companies like Ulta, Pure Beauty, Beauty First, the Vitamin Shoppe, Whole Foods and now Target (Yes, you read right. Jane Carter will be doing a 50 store Target test so you may want to keep an eye out at your local Target.), have been really great for us because they respect the pricing and the pay us. And it’s not super, super high maintenance.
So anyway, I started this in a blender in my kitchen. We moved to the basement. We moved to the garage. Then we finally moved to a warehouse.
3. Is there anything that you wish you would’ve done differently or handled differently when you look in the past?
Um, not really. I think that we’ve been doing this for awhile now. The only reason that we’re still in business is because we make really good products. It’s an expensive business to run. I still do hair color clients three Saturdays a month because that’s really what I love. It’s my passion. And it just keeps me grounded. It’s like the easiest part of my week. So do I wish we did anything different?.. Not really. I have no regrets.
4. What was the biggest hurdle for you in developing your business? In getting it out into chain stores?
I think that getting into Whole Foods was a big deal for us because it really required us to put all the pieces in place. Like really make sure you have your entire insurance system really clean, all your insurances are correct and all your labeling is certified. It really makes you go, “Okay, we really have to be really on point here.”
I think that much like the music business the beauty business has a huge opportunity. There’s a huge opportunity right now in any business, especially the beauty business. Right now there’s a tremendous opportunity for anyone who has a passion that wants to make products or make a product line to really use the internet. And it is very intricate so you really do have to learn it.
There’s this book that I was reading. It’s called Crush It. It was written by this guy (Gary Vanerchuk) who happens to live in New Jersey and it’s an interesting book. He grew up in this small family-owned liquor store and then went away to college. He came back and had this whole vision for just plugging into his customer base through Youtube so that they could really build this business. He started to do these Youtube reviews of certain wines. He became a kind of phenomenon about reviewing wines. He made it happen.
Years ago, the only venue that you could sell products in was the beauty supply venue. And then there became stores like Ulta and now there are other ones like Pure Beauty and Beauty First. So it gave us another opportunity because you know if you to the beauty supply store no one can really help you. And the average price point in the beauty supply store is $7. So if you make a product that is $7. An oil for dry hair. I promise you its mineral oil which is about $.90 a lb or petroleum which is also pretty inexpensive. So we were really not a fit for a beauty supply environment.
I just hate that there’s a lack of information available for women who either want to go natural or who still relax their hair who are looking for a natural-based product. The beauty supply environment is a lot of hype. There’s not a lot of integrity in the ingredients.
I would say that the obstacles in business are just if there were 8 days in the week I’d be good. But there aren’t. It’s a lot to do.
5. Did you ever envision that your product line would grow to this point?
Absolutely. Absolutely. And you know what, I always say, “I’m not that smart”. Clearly, this was divine intervention and I resisted it, resisted it, resisted it. Except that every time I do my clients hair on Saturday and I use products that really perform, I’m like, “You know what. We’re really onto something here.”
I guess if you’re a chef and you don’t eat your own food then you don’t really get it. But if you’re a chef and you really appreciate it and you eat your own food, you go like, “Wow, this is really good.” I guess because I’m the end user, it’s very clear to me.
Like for instance, I was doing this training. I was talking about spritz sprays. Most ethnic salons use some kind of a hair spray or a spritz spray or a curling spray. Why would they put alcohol in a product that you put on your hair? Cause all a spritz spray is is a polymer with alcohol. So we make a product called Natural Hold Locking Spray and Natural Hold Spray Gel which does the exact same thing but its water-based. So it doesn’t dry your hair out. And you can still get a crunchy hold and you can still get springy curls without having to use alcohol. I kinda got to the point where I was like, “Okay, I see who’s making products. They clearly have never had a relaxer and then had somebody spray spritz on them when your skin is irritated.
We do this product called Scalp Renew. It’s a pre-shampoo scalp treatment. If you’re gonna grow healthy hair. I don’t care if its natural hair, relaxed hair or straight hair, you have to exfoliate and detoxify your scalp. And the number 1 reason that I’ve seen hair loss among black women is an inflammation that sort of chokes off the pore & the follicle so the hair just can’t push through. And that’s like one of the number one reasons. One of the other reasons is the hormone testosterone.
6. Is there anything new or exciting that we can expect from Jane Carter Solution in the future?
Yep. We’re getting ready to introduce this product called Curl Defining Cream for natural hair because I get a hundred questions about wash-n-wear hair and it shrinking. It’s really a great product. We use avocado oil in it. It’s a cream and you put it in your hair wet. We’ve gotten great results. So within the next month, we’ll get that on the market.
And that concludes my heroine entrepreneur interview with Jane Carter. How did I do? I hope that this was informative for you.
**I want to thank Jane for taking the time out to talk with me and share her thoughts and insight. It was a pleasure. I was a little nervous seeing as this was my first interview but she made it quite enjoyable. I’m really excited for your product line and where it’s going. I wish you continued success. You can visit Jane's website here.
I’ll probably do this series once a month so be on the lookout for December’s Heroine Entrepreneur. If you have any questions regarding going into business that you would like me to ask our upcoming heroines or any heroines you’d like to see interviewed, send me an email with the request. I'll see if I can make it happen. Keep in mind this is open to business women who are into some type of wholistic, natural, organic and/or healthy or related product or service. Also, if you have any suggestions send those, too. Bear in mind that I’m learning and it’s a process.
I truly enjoyed this and look forward to the future post regarding this series.