Sometimes no just means not right now. Once I set my sights on something, I am locked in and pressing for the best possible outcome. As such, it can be disheartening for things to not go as planned, despite the hard work. As I’ve grown in my role as CEO, I’ve had to take a step back and analyze why “right now” wasn’t the “right time”. It’s this perspective that maintains my optimism and allows me to press on to continue innovating for our consumers.
I had the pleasure to interview Courtney Adeleye, founder and CEO of The Mane Choice. Courtney built her innovative hair empire from the ground up by incorporating her specialized knowledge base with her own curiosity. Born and raised in Detroit Michigan, Courtney was no stranger to hard work and self-motivation. Her personal healthy hair care journey became her calling, as her YouTube viewers watched her amazing hair growth progress and yearned for her self-discovered solutions for their own tresses. Courtney’s unique healthy product mixes intrigued viewers and quickly garnered her a large following. As a registered nurse by trade and University of Michigan graduate, her science-based background helped her identify what products and ingredients would render the best results. Sensing an opportunity to help other women improve their own hair health, Courtney mixed and packaged her first deep conditioner from home. She continued the business from her kitchen for one year until the demand for her natural hair care products expanded the business. The Mane Choice grew from a home-based hobby into a multi-million dollar business that carries products for all ethnicities and hair concerns, including growth and retention, moisture, repair, infants, kids, body and even styling tools.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My brand, The Mane Choice came after a hair coloring experience went terribly wrong, I went on a rampage to find the best way to fix it, but I wanted a more natural solution. I started to research ingredients and hair products to help with the journey. So, I decided to make my own deep conditioner by blending natural ingredients together. I started a YouTube channel to document my journey to healthy, waist-length hair. Eventually, I shared my deep conditioning recipe with my subscribers, and most of them didn’t want to make it. They preferred for me to make it and sell it to them. The light bulb came on, and that’s when The Mane Choice was born. My husband, Wale, and I started the business with $500. That same deep conditioner was the very first product sold under The Mane Choice name, and the rest is history!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
One of the most interesting aspects of working in this industry, and one that never gets old, is the consumer buy in. It’s much easier to measure buy in through sales reports. But, when it comes to grassroot events, forecasting turnout is always an unknown. For us, our first Target in-store event truly opened our eyes to how connected our consumers are. More than 600 consumers showed up to our in store in Brooklyn as they wrapped around the different department lines in the store. Not only was the turnout amazing, but we nearly sold out of all items and people stayed for more than 4 hours to engage and get to know more about the brand and how to use the products.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Well, at the time it didn’t seem funny but when we look back at our packaging, we chuckle a little. We had different colors for each product and at the time, we didn’t realize the importance of branding and having concise packaging.
Can you describe how your firm is making a significant social impact?
Giving back. I believe the foundation of everything is giving and staying connected to human beings. I believe we are service-oriented people and that it’s in our DNA to give back in some way. I don’t think you can go wrong with giving, no matter how large or small it is, because it always comes back. So just start. I just want to remind the world that miracles still happen.
Can you tell me a story about a particular individual who was impacted this cause?
I always knew I wanted to be a socially-driven, customer-based company. But I could not have done it without my supporters or my followers on social media. Those were the people going into Wal-Mart and Sally Beauty stores and actually demanding my products and that made my job much easier, so I wanted to give them something back. So, it’s not just one person! I’m always on social media and I find that I become attached to the people following The Mane Choice. I started seeing the same people and getting insight into their struggles and the things they were happy about. I wanted to go beyond just making a really good product they could believe in. I want to be up close and personal whenever I can.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
For us at The Mane Choice, our mission is to maintain a presence as a premium healthy hair care brand that helps to provide solutions for all hair types and goals. We place extreme importance in developing natural products from a beauty, health, science approach. Our products are infused with Biotin, vitamins, and nutrients. Advocates within the community/society/political arena can help further our mission by 1) raising awareness on sustainable practices within the beauty/hair care industry; 2) requiring more transparency on the ingredients being used to formulate beauty/hair care products; 3) requiring transparency on where ingredients/products are being sourced and manufactured.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
I define leadership as being able to motivate people through your own actions. It’s the difference between saying “do this” and “LET’S do this!” You have to set the bar for excellence, not just demand it from others. You have to BE the example. Period! Leadership is also being innovative and igniting the desire within people to want to help you execute your vision, even if they can’t really see it at the time. People naturally believe in you and just want to see you win. When you win, everybody wins!
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. Read and carry contracts carefully: Often it is said that the best lesson is a bought lesson. I’ve always been avid about reading through contracts carefully. But, as I’ve grown in the industry I’ve found it equally important to carry or have a copy on site at all times. Indeed, people are innately flawed and it’s hard to deliver on things as precisely as contracted. But, an agreement is an agreement. My team and I work diligently to make sure each line of every contract is carried out thoroughly whether we are the issuer or the contracted. It makes for no nonsense and stronger business partnerships.
2. Take inventory: Of course inventory is an important aspect of my business. It allows me a comprehensive view as to what I have or don’t have, alerts me when to purchase more inventory, and it also helps me in making savvy business decisions. In the same respect, I believe taking self-inventory is just as important. It’s through this self-reflection that stark revelations are made as to what actions to take next, what’s important for me/my business/my consumers, and it’s the best way I could ever recommend in protecting your peace.
3. Trust the process: In business and in life, there are ups and down. But I am a firm believer that if you trust the process, there is always a method to the madness and a blessing on the other side.
4. You are only as strong as your interface: This is a funny one (now). A few years ago during Black Friday, I decided to offer consumers the biggest sale we’ve ever had. To make a long story short, our website crashed due to excess traffic. Moral of the story, take the time to invest in your interface so that it can accommodate forecasted traffic. The longer the interface is down, the more potential there is for sales to be missed. Thankfully, we had our IT team on standby. Whew! Funny but I don’t wish the headache on anyone.
5. Sometimes no just means not right now: Once I set my sights on something, I am locked in and pressing for the best possible outcome. As such, it can be disheartening for things to not go as planned, despite the hard work. As I’ve grown in my role as CEO, I’ve had to take a step back and analyze why “right now” wasn’t the “right time”. It’s this perspective that maintains my optimism and allows me to press on to continue innovating for our consumers.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
That would be to give, daily! Nothing fulfills me more than giving and positioning people to propel them forward. It’s as natural as breathing for me. That’s why I’m so passionate about our Pay My Bill program, and most recently Heart of Gold. It allows me to get a glimpse into the lives of the people who are supporting me and offer a solution to their problems. Who’s The Bawse Conference, which is my initiative to empower women in the realm of entrepreneurship, enables me to give other women bosses the opportunity to stretch up in their businesses. It’s highly rewarding and good for the soul. I would charge every single person, no matter their status in life, to give. Not everyone may be able to give $20,000 but give something to someone, everyday — -even if it’s a cup of coffee and word of encouragement! #GiveDaily
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Keep the faith and always strive to be so good that they can’t ignore you!” I think it’s especially important to focus on and hone in on your strengths and abilities. Always strive to be the best, the hardest working, and the most knowledgeable person in your respective field. It’s hard to ignore value.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
At the moment, I’d love to have a conversation with the owner of Amazon, Jeff Bezos. He’s a beast! I truly admire his work ethic and business savvy!
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