It's no secret that the world of hair care was once lacking all-inclusive products for Black, natural hair types. That’s why 21Ninety has been on a mission to engage with diverse founders making a lasting and positive impact. Enter Jamelia Donaldson, founder of the British-born hair care subscription service TreasureTress.
Donaldson’s innovative hair product discovery platform aims to pave the way for women with kinky/curly hair textures and explore new products that are carefully matched to their age, hair type and preferences — all in a gorgeously presented box of custom hair goodies delivered to customers doorsteps each month.
Check out our exclusive interview with Jamelia Donaldson below.
21Ninety: Will you please explain the formative years behind the brand and how you got started?
Jamelia Donaldson: TreasureTress was launched in November 2015 off the side of my desk, during my role at one of the worlds largest asset management firms. I was in their graduate program when I could no longer repress the urge to do something creative, exciting, and centered around beauty.
I had been a huge natural hair enthusiast during my time at university (college) and had become the go-to person for friends and family curious about how they could take better care of their hair. I was recommending products and regimens when I realized that I could do this on a larger scale and reach more women.
In 2013, I began sketching the idea. Then in 2014, I started doing my research on subscription boxes and the natural hair scene in the UK and attending more events. By 2015, I launched our website via Instagram which brought us our very first products.
21N: What was the process like in founding TressureTress and how long did it take to get it up and running?
JD: Once the website went live, the business was pretty much up and running. It was my job to market the brand, pitch to brands, pack and post the boxes to my growing monthly customer base.
21N: What does your subscription box include?
JD: Four to five full-sized products to complete your full wash day: shampoo, conditioner, leave in, oil/gel alongside a step by step guide on how to make use of the products.
Beyond our box, and what I believe to be key to TreasureTress as a brand, is our online/offline community. By subscribing to TreasureTress, you’re automatically invited to join the sisterhood with traditions including — monthly unboxing, kink ups (curly girl link ups), pop up shops and the list goes on. This sisterhood spans over 26 countries and has seen old friends reunite, new friendships were made, and has supported growing the businesses of women within our community.
21N: What goes into the process of customizing the box each month? How do you decide which products to provide?
JD: We are a team of naturalistas with a range of hair types; we form partnerships with legendary natural hair brands who keep us posted on new ranges launching soon. We’ll be the first to try these and give them the go-ahead before sharing with our tribe. Alternatively, we’ll see new emerging brands and pitch the opportunity to them, sharing with them the potential of tapping into the Afro-European consumer most authentically and engagingly —our monthly product discovery box.
21N: How much does it cost? Are they full-size products or samples?
JD: $20 per month, plus postage and packaging. 4-5 full sized products, sometimes we throw in some bonus items.
21N: What do you think makes your business unique over others like it?
JD: Our community. Our offline events, online traditions, connections made, bonds formed — The TreasureTress Sisterhood.
21N: What do you love most about the work you do?
JD: Connecting amazing Black women, sharing experiences amongst Black women, and putting other Black women on. Forcing us to level up in all aspects, starting with our hair — the products we use and the service we receive.
21N: Have there been any challenges or obstacles along the way? If so, how did you overcome them?
JD: Initially, I was under the impression that I needed to raise funding to start my business and take it full time. Growing tired of explaining my idea to middle-aged white English men, I decided to dedicate 100 percent of my effort and attention to growing my business to be a profitable, self-sustainable business with an incredible team. I’ve learned most of the time that I am rejected or turned down from opportunities, it is only to prepare me for a much better opportunity, or teach me a valuable lesson.
Photo: Jamelia Donaldson
21N: How are you helping U.S. beauty brands market to the Black U.K. consumer?
JD: A 2014 study showed that in the UK, £5.25 billion is spent on hair care and Black women account for 80 percent of the total hair product sales.
Given how underestimated the Black British Consumer is as a starting point for entry into Europe, US-based brands find it difficult to understand the nuances of the culture and show up physically in relevant spaces.
For brands including Shea Moisture, Creme of Nature, Lotta Body, and Palmers, we’ve hosted blogger events such as our latest Kink Up for Palmers UK — our Pop Up Shop to educate and provide an engaging, informative and interactive retail experience for their target consumers, alongside creating brand-sponsored content with our favorite influencers to tell an authentic and culturally relevant message.
Brands are also invited to support community initiatives by investing in the community that supports them, such as, our very own personal development workshops for teen girls: The Teen Experience.
21N: What are some of the services you offer?
JD: Influencer Marketing, Offline Eventing, Product Sampling, Market Research/Data Insights, Media Production.
21N: What are your hopes for the future?
JD: We recently launched She's Obsessed – The Podcast, inviting Black British Women killing it in all industries and fields to share their current obsessions and share their experiences. Our Pop Up Shop is returning this year on an even bigger scale than last year.
Longer term, I am focused on making visible the Afro-European consumer, and helping develop a unified identity on this side of the pond. We’re starting by expanding TreasureTress across the region, and leveraging the spending potential of this consumer base to enable us to help more brands reach more women and truly become global in every sense of the word.
21N: Why do you think every woman should embrace their natural hair type?
JD: It is an extension of who you are. It tells the story of your ancestors; it is unique to you and should be fun. Getting to know your hair is just another form of getting to know yourself better.
21N: Do you have any other advice or words of encouragement for women interested in wearing their hair natural?
JD: Just do it. Have fun with it. Drop any expectations. Your hair is yours, and no one else so don’t expect it to act like anyone else’s.
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