Sally Beauty is not just talking the talk of promoting diverse products, they are boldy walking the walk. With their inaugural Sally Beauty Cultivate — For Women by Women business accelerator program wrapping up in a few days and their recipient of the Sally Beauty President’s Innovation Award, Ceata Lash, still on cloud nine, 21Ninety caught up with the innovative ladies to get their take on why this opportunity from Sally Beauty is so important to them. 

Ceata Lash | PuffCuff | President’s Innovation Award Recipient

PHOTO: HypeHair

21NINETY: Happy 5 year PuffCuff-versary! Did you ever think PuffCuff would be where it is today when you first launched?

CEATA LASH: I always thought that the PuffCuff would fill a niche and become successful. What I didn't know was the educational curve we’d face. We had this great solution that could replace the existing damaging hair accessories, yet a lot of consumers did not know the existing styling tools they were using were the very source of their hair damage, and that it could be prevented. In all fairness, that’s something I didn’t know either, upon starting my natural hair journey. It took years for me to discover that those same tools were bad for my hair before I began thinking about creating the PuffCuff. 

Also, when launching the PuffCuff, we realized that people automatically wanted to use the PuffCuff like a banana clip, and the PuffCuff is SO NOT A BANANA CLIP! It’s way better. Customers didn’t understand they couldn’t use the PuffCuff to gather their hair. Instead, they needed to gather their hair first and then clamp the PuffCuff around the gathered hair.  The "How It Works" page on our website does a good with illustrating how to wear a PuffCuff.  

Upon launching this product, we realized that we really had to strip away everything people knew when it came to hair accessories for curly hair, because most hair accessories were never intentionally designed to accommodate people with thick, curly and textured hair. For example, people with short hair often thought they needed our smallest size PuffCuff (the PuffCuff MICRO), when they actually needed our largest sized PuffCuff (the PuffCuff ORIGINAL) because short hair can not be gathered into a small circle. I knew we would be successful, I just didn’t realize the amount of convincing and coaching I would need to do.

PHOTO: Black News

21N: Sometimes our best work is born through frustration. You created PuffCuff after realizing there was not a styling accessories on the market that truly addressed the needs of your hair. Tell us a little more about the initial creation and how PuffCuff differs from other styling tools.

CL: The idea for the PuffCuff came about when I stopped chemically straightening my hair and began my natural hair journey. It was a huge transition, wearing my thick and curly hair daily, I found that styling accessories at the time were designed specifically to bind fine straight hair to give it bulk. The products on the market would cause damage to my hair, not to mention ridiculous tension headaches from my hair being pulled too tight. My hair already had bulk, it just needed to be held in place. I found that others were having a similar issue trying to find a hair accessory that worked for them too, so I set out to find a solution. Thus, the conception of the PuffCuff was born! The PuffCuff uses a clamp mechanism and short teeth to work with your hair’s fullness, securing itself in place without causing damage, snagging, or pulling at the hair. It is also made of easy to wash, durable plastic, meaning it doesn’t absorb sweat or hair products nor will your hair or the PuffCuff break. The final touch is that it is built with a slight concave curve, which is meant to fit the head’s natural shape making it something you can wear all day without even noticing it in your hair.

21N: You were recently awarded the Sally Beauty President’s Innovation Award. How exciting! What does this award mean to you?

CL: It’s such an honor and exciting to be recognized by a major player in the beauty world. It’s incredibly validating to know that my concept makes sense to them, that they can see the value and the need for it.

21N: What benefit are you most looking forward to, if there is one?

CL: The biggest benefit in working with Sally Beauty is that we will be able to reach the customers who are still skeptical, who don’t shop online, or those who just want to visit a retail location to preview the product before they buy. We will be able to reach a larger portion of our target audience and able to help more people ditch elastic hair bands in favor of healthier hair accessory alternatives.

21N: This year you also held #DitchTheBandLive which was a live PuffCuff experience. How was that and what inspired you to host such an event?

CL: The event was a huge success and was created to ensure that our customers had a really great time getting to know us, learn more about the PuffCuff while enjoying the entertainment and vendor marketplace that was all apart of the event experience. One of the highlights from the event that our customers loved was the PuffCuff Pop-up Salon, which provided them the opportunity to get a cute PuffCuff style while getting educated on how to best use their PuffCuffs. The icing on the cake was that all of our nearly 200 customers left #DitchtheBand with loaded swag bags filled with $200 worth of products, including an Original PuffCuff. We’re currently gearing up to not only announce our second #DitchTheBand event for next year, but we are also taking the show on the road. Keep an eye out as we have a lot of exciting news coming, and we can’t wait to get out there and start PuffCuffing people!

21N: We are sure you have a lot on your plate already and have more to come, so what’s next for PuffCuff? Can we look forward to any new PuffCuff products?

CL: I’ve applied for my third patent, which is a new PuffCuff that is suitable for hair with less texture and density. It has all the benefits of the original PuffCuff, in that it eliminates elastic bands and protects hair from stress and breakage, but now coming to accommodate even more hair textures.

PHOTO: PuffCuff

21N: What advice would you have for anyone who has an idea for a product, or anything, brewing inside of them but are debating whether or not they should pursue it?

CL: You can’t think that your idea is bigger than you. I almost talked myself out of this idea in the beginning, thinking "I can’t do this, someone else will come up with this idea." I didn’t start out my career thinking I’d invent something. If you create a workaround for a problem, then you are so close to becoming an inventor. From there, all you really need is the tenacity to take it to the next level. It’s not going to come quick, I wish someone told me that, but you’ve got to really stick with it. Let me put it this way, it took us five years to get the PuffCuff to where it is today. However, those five years went really fast, and that’s what it took to really nurture and watch this idea evolve into the brand that it has now become. I’m proud of what I, along with my team, achieved with the PuffCuff, and I wouldn’t change any part of the journey we took to get here.

Serriah Le | Curl Definition | Semi-Finalist

PHOTO: srialandco

21NINETY: You are a semi-finalist for Sally Beauty Cultivate – For Women by Women program! With $25K, distribution on Sally Beauty’s website and mentorship through the Cultivate Program on the line, what does this opportunity mean to you? 

SERRIAH LE: This opportunity is huge for me because it catapults my company farther than I believe we could have done on our own in this short span of time. The three-part win that this opportunity offers is distribution, $25,000 and mentorship. Gaining these three advantages pretty much creates a launching pad for my business that I on my own do not have the reach or resources to gain, enabling us to compete with big name brands and truly address the needs of our target market globally. 

21N: How would winning this contest move your business forward and change your life?

SL: Curl Definition is currently only sold on our website and in a few salons. Winning this competition will provide us financing that we need to expand our production, and the distribution will best make our products available to our growing customer base that spans all across the country and beyond. 

Personally, I have lived out my passion for Natural Hair and empowering women to live in their natural hair without the assumed drudgery of care. This opportunity manifest my passion beyond what I could’ve imagined. It also enables me to build a legacy for my family. 

PHOTO: Serriah Le

21N: What makes your products stand out?

SL: Many of my customers say that, for the first time in their many years of being natural, they have finally found in Curl Definition a product that actually captures the curl pattern of their natural coils and curls. I created the Curl Definition System based on my 20 years as a natural hair care specialist, empowering countless textures to go beyond braids, twist outs and protective styles and let their hair live freely in their natural texture. Our hashtag is #TheBeautyofCoilyHairFreedom, and that’s just what we offer by effectively capturing the natural curl pattern of the tightest coils and kinks with a hold for up to two weeks, while providing shine without a greasy tacky feel.  

21N: Through the process of contest, what has been your biggest lesson?

SL: The biggest lesson that I have learned is to always be ready to step up. Prior to this opportunity I chose not to be satisfied with the products’ success of having a massive following and ever growing sales from our website. I wanted mass distribution. As soon as I made major moves with in the company to ensure that the company would be ready when an opportunity for distribution was gained, the Sally Beauty Cultivate opportunity indeed presented itself. If I had not prepared I would not have been confident enough to apply as a candidate for this competition.

21N: What advice would you give to anyone entering their business in a contest/program such as this?

SL: Don’t shrink back and don’t underestimate yourself. Go with what you have mastered and present it in the best way possible. 

Lexi and Monica Proctor | Curlanistas | Semi-Finalist

PHOTO: Lexi Proctor 

21NINETY: You are a semi-finalist for Sally Beauty Cultivate – For Women by Women program! With $25K, distribution on Sally Beauty’s website and mentorship through the Cultivate Program on the line, what does this opportunity mean to you?

LEXI PROCTOR: This opportunity means the world to me and my Curlanista brand. I feel so honored to be a semi-finalist in this contest. Sally Beauty is the world's largest retailer of professional beauty supplies and for them to select my brand as a semi-finalist makes me feel like I can concur anything. My mom and I work so hard on building my brand and to see if make it to this level feels amazing. Sally Beauty also paired me with a mentor I really can connect with: Jasmine Lawrence, who founded EDEN BodyWork at the age of 13. I'm also a teenpreuner and am 13. Hearing her story and having her guidance is very helpful. I'm even more motivated to win this competition and to continue to make an impact through this program.

21N: How would winning this contest move your business forward and change your life?

LP: Winning this contest will be a complete game changer for Curlanistas as I will now have a mentor to help me with my brand. I will also have the funding I really need to expand my hair line, as I have three more products I want to put out next. Additionally, I'd like to improve my website and truly market and advertise my brand on another level and to a much larger audience. It will also accelerate my goal of getting my brand on the shelves of Sally Beauty Supply. It will change not just my life but the life of other young girls and women of all ages watching me. My brand is all about self-love and girl empowerment.  Winning this competition will truly show all Curlanistas around the world that they can do anything. I believe representation matters and I want the young ones behind me to see me and see themselves; knowing they can also achieve their dreams. I also want to be in a position to hire employees and provide opportunities for others. When I win (yes, I'm claiming it in advance!). One of the organizations I'd like to give back to is Brown Girl Village they helped me when I first started out with my books and I'd like to reach back and inspire and help another girl in their program. I want to make an impact on the next girl with a bright idea.  

21N: What makes your products stand out?

LP: My product stands out because it is truly magical. My products all start out with the intro line "Curlanista Magic…".  My secret magic sauce is included in each bottle and will make your Curls Pop Non-stop. My brand is also unique because I currently don't see any products out now that are made by youth, with the message of self-love targeted to reach the youth. My mission is to grab customers which are moms,  dads and their children. Providing them with a solution to the dreaded wash and detangle day. Reaching a young audience and having them grow with me and my brand truly stands out.

21N: Through the process of contest, what has been your biggest lesson?

LP: My biggest lesson is the power of networking and not being afraid to talk to people. I've been telling everybody, even people at the grocery store about this contest and how I need votes to help me win. From me talking to people even complete strangers, they have been sharing the Sally Beauty Cultivate link and my website. Since then my sales have jumped and I've gotten so much love and support from my community its amazing. I've even been asked to appear on two major radio shows here in DC. My mom always says your network is your net worth and I can truly say that going through this program to bring awareness and gain votes has proven that. I will also talk to people and share my business with others.

PHOTO: The Official List

21N: What advice would you give to anyone entering their business in a contest/program such as this? 

LP: I would tell them that preparation is very important. When you have a great opportunity like this don't take it lightly. It's an honor and you need to make sure you are prepared to take on the challenge. Make sure you have your business tight and in order, not just the products but your mission, your vision, have everything prepared. Also I would tell others to  be prepared to make sacrifices if you really want something you have to work hard and be willing to make sacrifices. My family is going to Orlando and I'll miss the first day of vacation for the competition. We pitch our business the first day of our family vacation. We are willing to miss a day at Disney (my mom and I love Disney) to move closer to achieving our goals. In business, you won't be able to always attend every party or event but, if you want to reach your goals, get ready to work.

Latoya Thompson | Heritage1933 | Semi-Finalist

PHOTO: The Angle Show

21NINETY: You are a semi-finalist for Sally Beauty Cultivate – For Women by Women program! With $25K, distribution on Sally Beauty’s website and mentorship through the Cultivate Program on the line, what does this opportunity mean to you? 

LATOYA THOMPSON: Potential. This opportunity will allow me to maximize my brands potential for the people who've been in similar situations, or have a vision for people of color. Currently there are no beauty brands that focus on women and children of color living in homelessness. It's a need that is getting unnoticed and unserved. So far we've been able to work with great shelter in the community, and provide our tribe with genuine non-toxic products, but this opportunity would provide us with expanding our brand on social media. Sharing our story to other places around the nation. 

21N: How would winning this contest move your business forward and change your life?

LT: This opportunity alone has already been a catalyst of change for the way I view my beauty brand and how I want to impact people's lives. I'm from a small but mighty city called St. Louis. It's provided me with the understanding that women of color are resilient. At the time, when my mother, brother and I were living in homelessness I didn't know the vision for my life, but in some form or fashion I knew I was destined for greatness and still could be fly at the same time. This acceptance to the Cultivate Program is an affirmation to the work and vision I've put in over time. It's a true vision that people are watching and taking note of what is capable of when service and beauty align.  

21N: What makes your products stand out?

LT: I get asked a lot about the name of the brand, Hertiage1933. I was raised partly from my grandmother, who was a visionary, leader and beauty icon in her own way. The word "heritage," to me, pays homage to those women of color that made beauty look effortlessly. That made beauty sand out, and be bold during a time where beauty wasn't accepted for people that looked like me. The number 1933 was the year my grandmother was born. A year that true legacy was founded. 

When I share that story with people I began to see their eyes light up with confidence, and passion for my products. With each product we labeled them with words that empower the culture, and leave your body and skin feeling great! 

21N: Through the process of contest, what has been your biggest lesson?

LT: Being vulnerable is apart of the process. In the process of it all I tend to find myself in a space that imposter syndrome arises. Leaving me to over think and work just a little harder to improve kinks in my business, alone. I've been working alone since the inception, so the thought of promoting and getting votes was a challenging at first. I reached out to friends and family, and blasted on my social media. However, it’s more than that. I'm part of a entrepreneur social incubator that supports small businesses. I mentioned the program to front desk employee and she blasted it out to the entire building. To me that meant I was actually in the game and I had think creatively on getting the message out. I worked with a local social media graphic designer who helped me design some cool graphics social media, and my email blasts. Somehow the local news station reached out to me for an interview, and the local Mayor tweeted out link to get the city behind my business. It's be a humbling process that's given me perspective on the future.

21N: What advice would you give to anyone entering their business in a contest/program such as this?

LT: "To much is given much is required," be prepared for advice and support and allow yourself to be open minded. 

Dr. Isfahan Chambers Harris | Alodia | Semi-Finalist

PHOTO: Alodia Haircare

21NINETY: You are a semi-finalist for Sally Beauty Cultivate – For Women by Women program! With $25K, distribution on Sally Beauty’s website and mentorship through the Cultivate Program on the line, what does this opportunity mean to you? 

Dr. Isfahan Chambers Harris: This is such an amazing opportunity! To be able to partner with Sally Beauty for distribution on their website will enable Alodia Hair Care to broaden our customer base exponentially. 

The funding will allow me to create new all- natural products, that nourish and stimulate the hair follicles and moisturize and strengthen the hair strands. 

Since I started creating products in 2014, my biggest hurdle was finding mentorship. To be able to have someone that I can talk to and learn from will truly be a blessing. 

21N: How would winning this contest move your business forward and change your life? 

DR. H: This will move forward my family’s life and business in a tremendous way. My husband and I have used 100% of our own funds to launch and establish Alodia. With 5-year-old twin boys at home, this was definitely not easy, however we’ve put our heart, soul and resources into Alodia because we believe in our amazing products as well as our mission to help women around the world "Learn, Love and Grow" their hair. 

Winning this contest and receiving the mentorship, funding and distribution will enable us to spread our mission and our products to a larger customer base. To be able to get our products into more people’s hands will truly be a dream come true. 

PHOTO: Alodia

21N: What makes your products stand out?

DR. H: Alodia stands out  because I utilized my Medical Scientist and Hair Practitioner of Trichology background to produce a full line of quality hair care products made with natural ingredients for women, worldwide.

During those years of developing products, I began vending at farmers markets, talking to numerous women about their hair care needs. I discovered that many were confused and overwhelmed when it came to select and using products for their hair care regimens. Realizing that there was a need to make healthy hair care easy, I created the first ever Healthy Hair Style Kits. Each kit is based on the style that you want to create and contains 3-4 products and a step-by-step guide streamlining the wash, condition and style process, taking the guesswork out of having healthy hair.

Whether you want for example, a Wash N’ Go, Twist Out or Thermal Style or if you’re a man with a beard, we’ve got a kit that includes everything you need. 

Our kits are our best sellers and I am looking forward to using my science and hair trichologist background to create other innovative products/kits that simplify the process of achieving healthy hair.

21N: Through the process of contest, what has been your biggest lesson?

DR. H: My biggest lesson is summed up by a quote I’ve heard Oprah Winfrey say, "Luck is when preparation meets opportunity." From this amazing contest I’ve learned that being organized and investing in your business is extremely important because when an opportunity like Sally Beauty Cultivate program presents itself, you will be prepared to show your business in the best possible way.   

21N: What advice would you give to anyone entering their business in a contest/program such as this? 

DR. H: Don’t be afraid to pursue opportunities  and don’t let fear of failure deter you.

The winner of the Sally Beauty Cultivate Program will be announced soon! 

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