People have envied Courtney Adeleye’s long, luscious locks for years–so she decided to spread the wealth and provide a solution for multicultural consumers to achieve similarly healthy hair at home. In 2013, Adeleye, a registered nurse who started sharing her beauty tips on YouTube, had countless followers request- ing that she sell her homemade deep conditioner. So, she partnered with her husband Wale, a physician, and began developing a line of haircare staples infused with essential nutrients like biotin and vitamins A, B, C, D and E. The result was The Mane Choice, which now carries dozens of SKUs spanning hair vitamins, hydrating masks, styling products and even body washes. Let's take a look at where it all began and what’s next for this inspiring philanthropist and savvy businesswoman.
Beauty Store Business: Tell us about your journey from working as a registered nurse to founding your own haircare company.
Courtney Adeleye: I didn’t always have an interest in working in the beauty industry. My background is in science–nursing, specifically. As a YouTube personality, I created a video showcasing my hair length and shared my deep conditioner recipe, which was partially responsible for my length. I received so many responses and feedback suggesting that I sell my deep conditioner. I had no intentions of doing that, but long story short, I eventually did. One order became two, then three and eventually thousands. The rest is history!
The Mane Choice started with a personal investment and grew to a $50 million company in just 4 years. What are the main factors that contributed to its quick rise?
I started the company from an initial $500 investment that my husband, Wale, and I made. We were able to jump quickly at the opportunity to start the company. From there, we made strategic financial and planning decisions that have been vital to the growth and expansion of The Mane Choice. I’ve been learning from my own entrepreneurial experiences. It’s so important to be prepared for opportunities when they present themselves. It’s one of the most vital lessons I’ve learned.
“After a hair color experiment gone wrong, I began to search for natural solutions to help my hair recover.”
What did that first year look like, when you were running the business out of your kitchen?
After a hair color experiment gone wrong, I began to search for natural solutions to help my hair recover. I turned to the YouTube community to share my journey towards healthier hair–which included sharing information regarding my healthy haircare regimen, the success of my hair length goal and one of my deep conditioner recipes. The recipe really piqued the interest of my audience, given my proven “success.” However, they didn’t want to recreate the recipe. Instead, they wanted to buy it from me! Ultimately, I attribute the creation of my brand to the demand from my YouTube subscribers. In fact, I learned a lot about customer service from simply being as responsive as possible to my subscribers. This simple yet effective method has carried over into my business and continues to be a vital aspect. Through those lessons, the company has grown from an e-commerce site to having a footprint in over 50,000 retail locations.
How long did it take to develop your first product and what was the formulation process like?
I’d honestly done years of research on products and ingredients, which gave me the foundation to know which ingredients to formulate with when the time presented itself. Mix a little of this, test a little of that and so on. Aside from using it on my own hair, the women in my family who all have different hair textures/types were also using it. The feedback from everyone helped me tweak the formula as needed.
What is your hero product and what makes it so unique?
I am proud of all of the products created within The Mane Choice’s product range. It may sound cliché, but my team and I invest a lot of time and resources into product development, R&D, testing and marketing. Each product sold to consumers is a testament of the hard work we put into the developmental process. We are proud to be a leader in this space and with the consumer.
When did the Pay My Bill giveaways on Instagram start and what inspires you to give back?
I started the initiative in 2014. I had been so blessed and fortunate in business that it was only natural for me to give back to the very community that believed in me.
Tell us how you’re helping other female entrepreneurs with “Who’s the Bawse: The Experience” and Who’s the Bawse: The Show, a reality show competition coming out summer 2019.
For The Experience, we’re bringing women from all over the globe to meet, learn from and be inspired by other women entrepreneurs–myself included. This serves as a catalyst for growth and helps them effectively build their businesses with the right tools! For The Show, they’ll have the opportunity to pitch their business ideas, receive feedback and, if I’m extremely impressed, they’ll earn a $50,000 investment for their business.
What are your short-term and long-term goals for The Mane Choice?
My short-term goals are to keep my customers happier than they’ve ever been and to stay ahead of the curve in the industry. Long-term, to be etched in the honorary “beauty hall of fame” as one of the greatest brands in the world and, of course, leave a legacy for my children and their children’s children.
What has been your biggest career highlight as a CEO?
My biggest highlight, so far, really has little to do with business. It has been the effect that my giving back has on people. What comes second nature to me can be monumental to others. Recently, my husband and I wanted to do something special for our daughters’ teacher. She works so hard, and when I found out that she was taking multiple buses to get to work, I thought something was grossly wrong with that. It bothered me terribly; it was only natural for me to want her to have reliable transportation, so I bought her a car. It was so fulfilling to just give! The response I received from everyone caught me completely off guard! It was and still is an overwhelming highlight in my life.
What advice can you offer other entrepreneurs in the beauty industry?
My greatest advice would be to make sure your brand is “market ready." When I launched The Mane Choice, I launched with one product; but, I strived to make that product as perfect as possible. I invested in my brand, packaging, logo and website so that customers had no reason to doubt the credibility of my company. Often, entrepreneurs can feel pressure to launch with what they have, but I truly believe there is virtue and value in patiently waiting on perfection and strategically marketing your product. You must have the mentality that you only get one shot to get it right, and I’d rather be on the right on a winning team. Nevertheless, it is important to mention that my company would be nowhere without faith. Having faith and meeting that faith with hard work are the key ingredients in each of my endeavors.
It is the one constant throughout any changes I go through. I can honestly say that my faith has helped me learn to trust the process and accomplish far greater than I could have ever expected to on my own.