Female Entrepreneur: Ashleigh Thornton
Company: NoireNaturals LLC
Age range: 20s
What motivated you to start your business?
My inspiration for creating this line came when I decided to stop using chemical straighteners and “go natural” after nearly ten years of battling hair breakage. I experimented with several different “organic” products and found that many of them actually contained harmful ingredients; as a college student, I was left disappointed with empty pockets. Once I learned that there were many others who shared my same frustrations, I decided to formulate an all-natural product line of my own!
Tell us about your business.
NoireNaturals™ is a completely all natural line of hair products, designed to cater to the unique needs of multiracial hair. Our products are completely free of parabens, sulfates, alcohol, mineral oil, and petrolatum; they also contain a non-abrasive preservative and USDA certified organic ingredients. We pride ourselves on being the most wholesome, effective, and affordable brand for natural hair care!
What is a day in the life of you like?
I can honestly say there is no average day for me anymore! Being a full-time honors student and entrepreneur keeps me VERY busy, but I still try to take the time to be a 21-year-old and do things that I enjoy!
What have been your biggest challenges so far with running your business?
Challenges that I have faced as an entrepreneur have mainly been financial and promotional. Though I have had several major accomplishments with concern to my business, I have had a bit of trouble getting the Charlotte community engaged in everything that is happening. As far as financial challenges are concerned, there are countless opportunities for growth within my city, but many of them require money; being a full-time student, it can be difficult to expand rapidly with limited funding!
How did you overcome these challenges?
Networking, networking, and MORE networking… You never know who may know who! And most people are very willing to help.
What have you found to be the most effective way to get new clients?
When I would travel to different expos, I noticed how customers responded to being able to touch/smell/hear in-person opinions about the products… A light bulb went off, and I decided to design a nation-wide NoireNaturals “Rep. Program,” modeled after Mary K. and Avon. The program officially launches on our one year anniversary (September 17th), and I’m EXTREMELY excited about the number of inquiries we have been receiving!
What advice would you give to other business owners?
Trust in your own abilities—don’t be afraid to take chances and do things on your own! The creation of this business was a fairly crude process. I knew nothing about Chemistry, so I researched countless ingredients and their properties before formulating my products (initially using myself and my siblings as guinea pigs!) And after two years of saving, testing, revising, and designing everything from the logo to the packaging design, I launched NoireNaturals™ virtually on my own—with the exception of promotions and legal assistance, this entire endeavor has been a one-woman show!
How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
What motivates me to keep pushing is knowing that there is a genuine NEED in the hair care industry for all-natural products for minority hair types. Though there are several corporations who claim to have the same type of product, there are only a few who truly do—and of that few, we are the most wholesome and affordable option. The fact that our products are not only wholly all-natural and reasonably priced is what sets us apart from competitors and makes us a favorite among consumers!
What’s your favourite quote?
“Being powerful is like being a lady; if you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.” -Margaret Thatcher
Who inspires you?
I would definitely have to say that some of my college professors are who inspire me. The faculty at UNC Charlotte are extremely passionate, and have been an invaluable resource, constantly preparing and exposing me to advantageous opportunities and experiences.
Do you have a business philosophy?
I have yet to create a business philosophy, however, my company does have a mission statement: “NoireNaturals aims to lessen the number of “Product Junkies” in the world with a completely all-natural line of products, created to ease the anxiety and challenges that come along with maintaining natural hair!”
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