It’s a great time in history for female, African American entrepreneurs, according to the most recent Nielsen Survey of African American millennials. Businesses owned by black women make up 59% of all black businesses—a 67% increase since 2007.
Over the last decade, the visibility of the natural beauty products created by female African Americans seems to have dramatically increased. On any given day, consumers can connect in person or online with what has become majorly recognizable brands fronted by African American women. Brands like Miss Jessies, Carol’s Daughter, and Mixed Chicks consistently appear on top 10 lists, where at least one of their beauty products, if not the brand itself, is cited as a popular choice.
A recent name making headway among entrepreneurs in the natural beauty brands market is Camille Rose Naturals, a vegan brand founded by Janell Stephens in 2010. Ms. Stephens’ stunning attention to detail, business savvy, and her own natural beauty image has helped get her brand in stores like Target, Whole Foods, Bed Bath & Beyond, and select beauty supply stores across the country.
How did the doctor’s wife, mother of five, and former therapist make such strides in her field of choice, with ambitions of crossing the cultural divide, so quickly? She sums it all up succinctly in a brief Q&A:
Black Enterprise: What has the process been like, going from an unknown business woman to head of a successful brand that is still growing?
Stephens: This journey has been amazing, and it is truly the path that God has laid out for me. Never did I think that I would go from being a licensed therapist to creating hair, body, and home products with a holistic focus. I was simply on a quest for a better lifestyle for myself and my family. However, God has blessed me, allowing me to share my creations with the world; every day, I wake up and thank God.
BE: What prompted you to market Camille Rose Naturals as a multicultural brand, as opposed to strictly targeted at African American? How does your brand differ from similar lines?
Stephens: Our focus is not on one particular culture. Rather, our focus is on the ingredients and ensuring that what your body absorbs [now] will not have a harmful effect on you later in life. That is what makes us different. I didn’t have a hair type or texture in mind, when I created Camille Rose Naturals. My focus was on using specialty food ingredients mixed with natural oils. We welcome everyone!
BE: Tell us about your partnership with Target. What does this partnership mean for Camille Rose Naturals?
Stephens: When we partnered with Target, we looked at it as simply creating awareness for our brand. It was an opportunity to educate people on living a healthier lifestyle. Simply changing what products you use on your hair and body will make a huge difference in your life.
BE: What products are most successful for your brand and why? Can you tell us about some of your newest or upcoming products?
Stephens: Our stylers and deep treatments are huge for us, because of the amount of moisture they provide. We have an array of almond milk buttercream stylers, a marshmallow and agave [infused] hair gel, as well as coconut milk and avocado leave-ins. Up next are our body, kids, and home collections. We can’t wait to share!
BE: As a mother of five, how do you balance it all? Any advice for other entrepreneurs who are also mothers?
Stephens: The best advice I received when I started out was from my mom. She told me to ask God to “order my steps.” Every morning when I wake up, I do just that.
Also, pace yourself—know what you can and can’t handle. It’s okay to say “no,” “not at this time,” or “I need to step away for a second and take a little break.” Believe me, when you come back, you will be recharged and ready to go. Sometimes 30 minutes is all you need. My family comes first. This is what I live by, and what I practice.
For more on Camille Rose Naturals visit the website at www.camillerosenaturals.com.