On Thursday evenings from 8 to 9pm ET, IBN hosts #HandmadeChat, a Twitter talk show to help handmade and creative entrepreneurs sell more products, have more fun, and be more successful at the intersection of life and business. While the show is aimed mainly at business owners who make and sell handmade consumer products, the topics and discussions can empower and encourage the growth of any small business.
This week's chat was sponsored by Nature's Garden, wholesale priced essential oils, fragrance oils, candle, soap and lotion making supplies, classes, recipes and more!
Our guest this week was Jamyla Bennu of Oyin Handmade in Baltimore Maryland. Jamyla is a wife and mother of two, and she nd her husband run Oyin together. They also maintain a retail store in Baltimore. While they make a variety of bath and body products, their special niche is in hair care products for highly textured hair. Here's my interview with Jamyla:
Q1 WHAT IS YOUR BUSINESS, @OYINHANDMADE, AND WHAT IS THE INSPIRATION FOR IT?
We make “delicious and nutritious” hair and body care goodies. They are made by hand, with love. Our slogan is, “Your hair is awesome; shouldn't your products be awesome too?” Our slogans refer to to the fact that our goodies smell great (delicious) and are made of healthy, often food-grade natural ingredients that nourish hair and skin (nutritious).
The inspiration for our business is HONEY! (oyin means honey in yoruba) – which is a powerhouse ingredient in hair care, and also embodies the principle of sweetness and joy. We try to bring those principles into everything we make.
Q2 WHAT'S THE STORY OF HOW YOU STARTED YOUR BUSINESS?
In 2002-2003, we began responding to a void in the market for healthy, affordable products geared to highly textured hair. At that time, there were only a handful of brands, none of which were in mainstream stores. I learned how to find a niche and stick to it; and the importance of responding to my own needs and the needs of those close to me.
As a member of a strong online natural hair community, I benefited from a sense of belonging, and learned about the immense power of word of mouth, as well as the importance of transparency in building trust with customers.
Q3 WHAT ARE YOUR MOST POPULAR PRODUCTS?
Our most popular products are our hair moisturizers: Burnt Sugar (an all-veggie pomade), Juices and Berries (an herbal leave-in spray), Honey Hemp (our multi-purpose conditioner), and Hair Dew (a creamy leave-in moisturizer).
Q4 WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO FOCUS SO SPECIFICALLY ON NATURAL HAIR CARE?
My hair has been natural since 1994; and things were very different in that pre-Internet world. Today, we can take for granted the breadth of natural hair care knowledge, tutorials, blogs, video, and services that are available to women who wear their highly textured hair naturally. When I was in college, we were on our own in a very different way. I focused on natural hair because it was a fascinating unknown to me. I discovered more every day, and I thirsted for infofmration.
Q5 WHAT DO YOU SUGGEST FOR OTHER INDIES LOOKING TO LAUNCH A NATURAL HAIR CARE LINE?
Join the Indie Business Network. Such a wealth of info, services, and informative conversations to be had there. It's ridiculous.
As far as development and ideas: find your passion, speak from your own perspective, and tell that story through your products. This is the best way to ensure your products and brand will be original and resonate strongly with your customers. My husband always says, “You can at best be a really good copy of anyone else, but you are the original you.”
Q6 WHAT DO YOU THINK IS AT THE ROOT OF WOMEN'S (ESPECIALLY BLACK WOMEN) CURRENT INTEREST IN WEARING THEIR HAIR NATURAL?
In a word: the Internet. Through its connectivity, we are amassing a level of knowledge about our hair's marvelous versatility that has never before been shared. I think it generates that same excitement I spoke of earlier, as well as a sense of empowerment, inspiration, and affirmation.
Q7 WHAT ARE YOUR BEST NATURAL HAIR CARE TIPS? INGREDIENTS TO USE?
As a mixtress, I’m going to talk about basic ingredients for the home apocethary: olive oil, coconut oil, and honey. Add any or all of these to practically anything for a nutritious and moisturizing boost. If you're willing to go to the health food store, go for jojoba oil (which mimics the skin's natural oils), castor oil (which draws moisture to your hair, making it a great addition to a pomade or hair oil blend), and perhaps tea tree oil – a few drops can turn a simple oil blend into a treatment for a variety of scalp issues.
Q8 YOU JUST RETURNED FROM THE BALTIMORE HAIR EXPO — WHAT ARE YOUR BEST TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL HAIR SHOW?
Smile, Smile, Smile! Drink lots of water so you don't lose your voice. Don't get a booth near the stage, because you'll have to yell all day. Have samples for sale or little gifts for giveaways. We always bring the same candy and bubbles that we include in our mailed packages. Bring lots of printed matter; preferably with info about your products and/or some FAQs.
Q9 YOURS IS A FAMILY BUSINESS, YES? WHAT ROLE DOES YOUR HUSBAND PLAY IN THE BUSINESS?
Yes! My husband, @exittheapple, is the visionary in our marriage, and has always thought of Oyin as a *real* business when I still thought of it as a hobby. As bootstrap-preneurs, we've each had loads of jobs – for YEARS he was our entire packing and shipping department! Primarily, he's a filmmaker and creative, and so he has been our media director from our audio podcast days, through our goofy “late night talk show” podcast series, and up to our product commercials edited from classic and ephemeral film footage. He's the reason people know Oyin as the fun, silly, open company we are, because he's able to transmit that through all the media we create.
He also comes up with all the cool product names. “Grand Poo Bar: solid shampoo and “Funk Butter” natural deodorant.
Q10 WHAT ARE YOUR BEST TIPS FOR WORKING TOGETHER IN A BUSINESS AS A MARRIED COUPLE?
My advice for business/partnership is the same as for marriage/partnership: Communicate. Support. Work on the same team. Make time for fun.
Q11 WHICH SOCIAL MEDIA OUTLETS WORK BEST FOR YOU TO MARKET YOUR BUSINESS
Facebook and Twitter have grown to be our largest outlets, but Instagram and Pinterest are making their way up.
Q12 WHO DO YOU FOLLOW ON TWITTER FOR THE BEST #SMALLBIZ AND #SUCCESS ADVICE, AND WHY?
We spend more time on twitter talking directly to our customers than reading our general feed. @exittheapple does a lot of tweeting about creativity advice and affirmations that always get me inspired.
Q13 WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE SMALL BUSINESS BOOKS, AND HOW HAVE THEY HELPED YOU GROW YOUR BUSINESS?
“BS or Fertilizer: tough love for artists on the fence,” by my husband, @exittheapple, is my favorite. What can I say, I'm a fan!. It's the first project we did together, and it really is a pocket-sized kick in the pants to get you up and going.
I also really like The Purple Cow, an un-marketing book by Seth Godin. It helped us to put a language to the kind of word-of-mouth growth we were experiencing, which at times we considered a kind of mysterious blessing. Understanding some things about how we all respond to messaging and its sources helped us to fine tune and develop our “strategy,” which I put into quotes because we never thought of it this way. Strategy becomes more important as we hire new people who have to help us get our message out to the world. We have to be able to distill what makes a message “Oyin-ish” and train and transmit that to our team members.
Q14 WHAT IS THE ONE THING YOU WANT US TO KNOW ABOUT HOW YOUR BUSINESS MAKES THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE?
The world is already such a wonderful place. We're just trying to do our part to be a creative, responsive, responsible and helpful piece of that everyday wonder. 🙂 Let us know how we're doing!
Q15 WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT BEING A MEMBER OF IBN?
I love the constant flow of information; I am always learning something new, and helpful to my business.
I love that it's an advocacy organization focused on micro-business; it helps us to come together so we don't each feel alone out there.
I love that so many woman-owned companies are members. I imagine women by the hundreds taking their financial destiny in their hands through this kind of creative work and it's mind-blowingly powerful to me.
More About Jamyla Bennu
Jamyla has been an IBN member since 2006.
Oyin Handmade is line of products, which have caught fire nationwide. Launched in 2001, Oyin and its founders have been featured in dozens of media outlets including Essence and Oprah.com. Jamyla hosts her famous “bottling parties,” and inspires women the world over to join her fight against ash and her quest for a more supple world.
Connect with Jamyla:
When Is The Next #HandmadeChat?
The next #HandmadeChat will be Thursday, April 4, 2013, at 8pm ET, with Andrea Polk of Solo Noir in Chicago, IL. xxxx
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