Since announcing to my readers that my 10-year-old natural hair blog, Black Girl with Long Hair, is officially defunct I’ve gotten a lot of questions about how and why I made this transition, and where I see my brand going. That’s a lot of ground to cover, so I am chopping up my story into bite-sized pieces to share over the next several weeks. Today I wanted to talk about why I haven’t expanded outside of whipped butter products.
As many of you know, BGLH Marketplace started out of my career as a natural hair and beauty blogger. And during that time I covered many indie beauty brands that were started by black women and grew to be incredibly successful — for example TGIN by blogger Chris-Tia Donaldson, Alikay Naturals by vlogger Rochelle Graham and Camille Rose Naturals by Janell Stephens. When my own brand started (kinda accidentally, read about that here) and gained some traction, I assumed I would go down the same route — expanding my whipped butters into a full natural hair care line that would eventually be carried in a big box retailer. But I have realized that my lane is completely different. Here is why I’ve stuck to whipping shea, cocoa and mango butter instead of creating a full natural hair care or body care line.
1. BGLH Marketplace has morphed into a skincare company.
When I started making my products it was from a natural hair blogger stand point. I was using ingredients — shea butter, coconut oil — I’d heard referenced over and over again in the natural hair community. Imagine my surprise when I found that customers were buying my products specifically for skin. I came to realize that there are huge gaps in the skincare market that are not being addressed — and they hit black women especially hard. I have since shifted my focus and now market my products as multi-use, with skincare as my entry point. Which brings me to my next point…
2. The natural hair care market is saturated.
Back when I started blogging in 2008 the ‘natural hair’ section of drugstores and big box retailers had tumbleweeds blowing through it. And then Target began adding proven brands like Shea Moisture (the old school Shea Moisture, before all the changes…), Oyin and Kinky Curly to their shelves. Beauty supply stores followed suit. Haircare behemoths like Pantene and Dove got in the act, releasing natural hair lines that weren’t half bad. Suddenly black women had a plethora of options when it came to natural hair care. There really isn’t any kind of gap I feel the need to fill.
3. I am not a ‘stir and pour’ beauty company. In fact, I operate more like a bakery.
Oh how I wish whipping shea butter was a fast and easy process. It isn’t. Each batch of shea, mango or cocoa butter is whipped for 70 minutes minimum and I can only whip 5 pounds of product at a time, because that is the capacity of the mixers I use. While I’ve found ways to make this process efficient, and I create a respectable amount of product every month (about 2500 units) this is peanuts compared to brands that can bottle thousands of stir and pour formulas at a time. And while this does get frustrating it leads me to my next point…
4. There is a need for whipped butter products.
Many people love shea butter, cocoa butter and mango butter. The problem? The butters are dense and difficult to apply. You have to double boil or microwave them down, and then slap the oily mess onto your body. And while you could whip your own butter at home, it is a messy and time-intensive process. And that’s where I come in. I have figured out all the pain-in-the-ass details of whipping shea, cocoa and mango butter so you don’t have to. It’s not easy work, but it is valuable. While there are a plethora of whipped butter brands on Etsy, there are very few that have broken out onto the market in a big way. Belle Butters, a black-woman-owned company that was really a pioneer in the whipped butter game, just closed in February after 8 years in business, so I feel even more of a motivation to stay where I’m at to fill this gap.
5. Shea, cocoa and mango butter can do a hell of a lot.
My whipped butters have eliminated at least 4 other beauty products in my regimen, and I stay glowing.
Most days I don’t feel like I’m selling just one product, I feel like I’m selling 5. There are those who buy it for hair, those who buy it for skin, those who buy it as a perfume alternative, those who buy it as a massage oil alternative, those who buy it to heal chapped lips, those who buy it for beard care. I feel like I have half of a full body line in one product TBH.
6. Lots of people don’t even know what shea, cocoa and mango butter are.
When you blog for as long as I did (10 years!) you can take a lot of things for granted — like the fact that everybody knows what shea, cocoa and mango butter are. Everybody doesn’t. Everyday in my storefront I meet people (yes, black people too) who have NEVER heard of them and have no clue what they do. A lot of my job involves educating people on the effectiveness of these ingredients.
7. I don’t want to create a full product line. I’m happy where I’m at.
Do I want to learn how to cold process soap? Nope.
Do I want to make body wash? Nope.
Do I want to make a hair gel or a leave in conditioner? Nope and nope.
Do I want to make bath bombs? Hell no.
Do I want to make body scrubs? Actually maybe, I am educating myself on the power of exfoliation and have been playing around with some things.
And this is not to say I never will. But *right now* I’m happy with where I’m at. I love the opportunity to focus on one thing and do it really, really well.
I’m based in Brooklyn. I have a cute little storefront. People love my stuff. Honestly I am content.
I started Black Girl with Long Hair when I was 22 and, due to youth and immaturity, I viewed it through a very competitive lens. I felt a need to keep up with what other natural hair bloggers were doing and out-perform them. It drove me crazy. I am 32 now with 3 kids. IDGAF what other people are doing.
Running my business in its current form gives me time to spend with my kids, time to go out on dates, time to get out into the city, time to try my hand at stand up comedy (which is a legit hobby right now…) I am happy with my life and that is most important to me.
My only nebulous goal at the moment is to get BGLH Marketplace from a 6 figure to a 7 figure brand, because I know it has that potential. I am also finally releasing some butters that do not contain coconut oil (which many people hate) and almond oil (which some are allergic to.) But there is no rush on those fronts.
I hope this was informative. As always leave any feedback in the comments!