February 1, 2004
For Stephanie Suthers, making herbal products runs in her blood, so when she decided to become an entrepreneur, she tapped into the knowledge of her ancestors.
At an early age, Suthers was taught the many uses for herbs by her Cherokee grandmother. “In her village, my grandmother was the medicine doctor.”
Suthers, along with her husband Isaac, owns Don-Vant Inc., a manufacturer of herbal hair and scalp products that include shampoos, conditioners, oils, and pomades. With six employees, the Carson, California-based firm posted 2002 sales of $600,000.
Before cashing in on bad hair days, the couple had three businesses and several other jobs before opening the business in 1996. Among them was a nightclub that was destroyed in the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Unfortunately for the couple, the club was uninsured and the owners wound up with $200,000 in debt. That’s when Stephanie decided to use her knowledge of herbs to eliminate that debt. With $1,000 of their personal savings, which was used to purchase bottles, ingredients, and labels, Isaac threw himself into selling the product and the business was born.
The company’s first contract was with a beauty supply store in Los Angeles called Beauty Town, which in the first year sold $6,000 worth of hair conditioner, the couple’s first product. “It was really hard trying to get people to accept a product that had inferior packaging, a product they’ve never heard of, and one that had no advertising whatsoever,” Isaac says. “What we would do is sell the products on consignment and at least we could direct customers to these stores to buy the products.”
Today, Don-Vant’s product line, Hairobics, includes 22 beauty products for the hair, skin, nails, feet, and face. Looking ahead, the couple’s next plan is to open a day spa. Last year, the company moved into a 5,000-square-foot complex that will accommodate the spa, their manufacturing facilities, and office space. The couple estimates it will cost $100,000 to establish the spa and projects $250,000 in annual revenue.
“What we are trying to do is develop this first one and then franchise,” Isaac says.
Don-Vant Inc.; 20850 Leapwood Ave., Ste. A; Carson, CA 90746; 888-532-6267; www.hairobicsallnatural.com