Enamored with making her own money on Ebay as a child, Michelley began her own hair care line when she realized you don’t have to be mixed to grow long natural hair.
Can you please introduce yourself; name, where you from and what is the name of your business?
My name is Michelly, I am from Atlanta, Georgia and my business name is Terrene Fusions: “terrene” means earthy and represents the natural ingredients used in all of my products.
What inspired you to start your business, when and what is your goal?
I’ve been entrepreneurial since I was a child. I started selling random items on eBay when I was 12 and became enamored with making my own money. I began doing my own hair when I was a teenager, but always thought that it was impossible for me to grow long hair since I wasn’t mixed with any other race (a common misconception amongst many black women). Every woman in my family had neck length relaxed hair besides my older cousin. Unbeknownst to me, she was growing long natural hair under the braided extensions that she wore regularly. Once she reached her goal length, she began wearing her natural hair, which reached waist length when it was straightened. I was so shocked since I knew that she wasn’t mixed at all. I asked her what the secret was and she showed me the online world of black hair care forums. After that, I spent almost all of my free time surfing the sites, learning everything that I could about black hair care.
Through the sites I learned the importance of natural ingredients and the variety of benefits that they provide for those looking to achieve healthy hair. This knowledge prompted me to research natural ingredients that were good for the skin, as well. I slowly began making my own concoctions for my hair and face and sharing my creations with my family members.
When I was 17, I decided I would go natural. I transitioned for 2 years before cutting off my relaxed ends. I got a lot of mixed reactions, but I’ve never been one to care about what people thought of me if I didn’t consider them important to my life.
When I graduated college, my first full time job was one that made me miserable. I made a lot of money for a recent college graduate, but hated the duties and my co-workers. I was the only black one in my team of colleagues, and my coworkers would say racist things without a care in the world. My loved ones suggested that I find some outlet to release my frustration- something to look forward to when I came home from work. I enjoyed making beauty products, so I figured I could share them with others and turn it into a business! I began finalizing my recipes in January 2015, and opened my online store in March 2015 after quitting my job. Black economic empowerment is very important to me, and I decided that this would be my way of contributing to it while doing something that I loved. My goal is to grow my business to a point where I can sell my products in health food stores and salons. I’d also like to be able to become an employer for my community.
What do you find most challenging about running a business?
So many ideas, such little time. My business is currently a one woman show, so it can be a bit daunting managing all of the aspects of running a business. My duties involve product creation, writing listings, building a social media following on 3 different platforms (Instagram, Facebook & Pinterest), maintaining my website and writing blog posts, fulfilling orders, accounting, ordering inventory & responding to customers. It’s a lot of work! I also work a part time job to help fund my business, which takes a big chunk of time out of my day. Not to mention carving out time to spend with my significant other and family. Whenever I have any additional free time, I am working on my business.
What makes your business and your products special?
When making my hair products, I specifically formulated them to make it easier to manage even the kinkiest textures. When I used store bought products, I remember having to modify them with so many things from my kitchen to make them work as I thought they should. They either didn’t provide enough moisture, not enough slip, or hardly had any natural ingredients even though they were marketed as natural. The body products that I was using were also lacking with the benefits they provided. I decided to make a line that works perfectly on kinkier textures & dry skin with as many natural ingredients as possible and no modification required. I am extremely proud of the fact that my products have worked so well for everyone that has tried them. I also offer a total of 15 different scent options (with options for men and women) so customers make customize their products and make it suitable for their preferences.
What is the most important lesson you have learned from doing business?
Maximizing my time by being as productive as possible, and not being afraid to be ambitious and fulfill my goals.
Have you ever been to a hair or trade show? If so where and how was the experience?
Not yet, but I plan to in the future.
Do you think it’s important to have a website as a business or is it more important to have social media like facebook?
I think both are important, but social media wins if I had to choose between the two. A website establishes professionalism and allows me to share a variety of content. Social media allows me to engage with customers and convey my brand’s values on a consistent basis. It also helps bring more attention to my products.
Where do you want to be in five years?
I’d like to be in health food stores and salons that cater to women with kinky and curly hair. I’d also like to be at a point where I can employ other people in my community.
About Black Natural Hair
Did you ever believe you had “bad” hair? If yes, how do you think you got that idea, when did it change and how did you change it?
I got my first relaxer when I was 5, so I had no idea what my natural texture was like. I remember thinking that my hair was nappy when it was time for a touch-up and I also thought it was impossible for me to grow long hair as a black woman. I grew up around people who openly used the terms “good” and “bad” hair around me, and assumed that my hair was bad since it was short and thin. When I transferred to a mixed school, I noticed how many of the black guys would fawn over the mixed girls or those with looser textures, and openly talk about how they hated nappy hair. This gave me a complex. That complex started fading when I saw my cousin’s gorgeous kinky hair. I slowly freed myself of it after months of exploring all the hair forums featuring women with thick, long kinky hair. Once I started learning about how we’ve internalized European beauty standards, I decided to unlearn all of it and accept myself for who I was, “nappy” hair and all.
Did you ever feel ashamed of your hair? If yes, can you please share one or more moments?
As a natural, no. By that time, I was well aware of how many of us have internalized European beauty standards, so I knew any negative comments just came from that internalization. I’ve always been confident with my appearance and had supportive friends and family. Boys in high school that used to like me with my relaxed hair thought it was fun to make jokes while I was transitioning, saying that I let myself go. I was annoyed, but didn’t really care since I knew that they were just ignorant. As my hair grew natural longer, I actually got more attention from guys, and those same boys that made fun of me during my transition were trying to talk to me on social media. Funny how that works!
What styles have you tried in the past (relaxers, Jherri curls, locs, afro etc). Which one was your favorite and why do you choose to wear this style now?
I’ve tried Senegalese twists, Marley twists, braid outs, Curlformer sets, blow outs, loose twists, and twist-outs. My braid outs and twist outs are my favorite since I love having big hair. I also really love Marley twists. On a regular day, you’ll most likely see me in a twist out bun. I wear protective styles (buns) 90% of the time since they help me retain length- I reached mid back length thanks to my buns! I typically only wear my hair out on the weekends or when I want to look cute J I plan to loc my hair in a few years, definitely before I’m 30.
We are doing a crowd funding for BlackFollicles.com to build theamazon.com or etsy of Natural Hair Care products. The goal is to give entrepreneurs like yourself the chance to expand their market and sell to Europe. Can you please take a look at BlackFollicles.com and tell us what you think of the idea?
This is a great idea!
What perk/gift would you choose and why?
As a seller, I’d choose the Large Promotional Top Banner option. I think this would be the best option for exposure since many people don’t spend much time on sites. This would be a way to build brand familiarity amongst everyone who came to your site.
Do you support the idea of BlackFollicles.com? If so why if no why not?
Absolutely! It’s important for us to support each other’s business and this would be a great online avenue to do so. I’ve been looking for other sites to sell my products that cater to my target market, so I’m glad I found out about this! I know many other black owned beauty businesses would love something like this as well.
About Your Store
Where can people find you and your products?
You can find my products on my website at www.terrenefusions.com. My products are linked to my Etsy shop, which is where customers can pick their scent and size options then checkout. My site also has a blog with informative posts about healthy hair and skin care. I add new posts every Monday.
A few lovely Youtubers have also done product reviews for me. I have those in a playlist on my website at www.terrenefusions.com/buzz
P.S. I also ship internationally!
I love what you are doing with both of your sites! Thanks so much for featuring me. I wish you nothing but success and happiness.
Also read why Khokho Designs creatively expresses love of African fabrics