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’m tackling a question I get a lot — how the heck I am doing this as a single mother to babies.
One of the questions I often get is how I manage to run a six-figure beauty business as a single mom to 3 kids (aged 5, 3 and 16 months.) I could write a bunch of Instagram-friendly platitudes about vision boarding to success, but the real answer is more layered and will require me to be reaaaallly candid.
There are two elements here; how I’m doing this from a money/finances standpoint, and how I’m doing it from a time standpoint. Today I’m tackling the money/finances standpoint. Here we go…
When I started my natural hair blog, Black Girl with Long Hair, in 2008 it was one of the first to compile natural hair stories and images in one space, but I had no clue there was actually money in it.
Within a couple years my blog earnings had doubled the earnings of my former job. At its height BGLH was earning $300,000 in ad revenue a year.
Why so much money? Part of it had to do with my high traffic — 5 million visits a month at one point — but a lot of it was that back then advertising companies were scrambling to get in on the blog craze. They felt it was a perfect way to target a niche — just find a blogger who speaks your audience and bam, you get your product in front of the right eyes.
It was exhilarating, but also strange, to be a twenty something year old making that kind of money. I did a few of the ‘OMG I suddenly have money’ things — vacationing in France, buying a few pairs of expensive shoes. But ultimately I saved most of what I had earned, putting the majority into a mutual fund and purchasing an income-producing rental property (oh, and taxes took a big chunk of it too.)
I started BGLH Marketplace in November 2014 as a possible exit strategy for BGLH because I knew I didn’t want to be blogging forever, and that I also didn’t want to return to the traditional 9-to-5 workforce. Although I stumbled into BGLH Marketplace and the world of product creation I quickly identified it as a way to move my professional life forward.
Most e-commerce businesses take 3 to 5 years to turn a profit. And therein lies a challenge for many black business owners. We do not have the capital to float our concepts while we wait for them to become profitable. Many of the non-black small business owners I know can experiment with different approaches while their companies survive on loans from friends, family or financial institutions. Black people (including me) do not have access to capital and investment in the same way. So when I started BGLH Marketplace I used my BGLH earnings to subsidize it. Additionally I was married at the time and living close to relatives who wanted to help out, which afforded me free/low-cost labor.
So remember how I mentioned earlier that advertising companies were basically throwing money at natural hair bloggers and vloggers in the early 2010s? Well that ‘gold rush’ ended almost as soon as it began as companies realized that returns from blog/vlog advertising were diminishing. They moved their budgets to cheaper and more traditional forms of advertising and blog revenues began to stall.
So, here’s where things really go to hell.
Facebook had always been a huge driver of traffic to BGLH. Our content performed really well there and I regularly paid for Facebook ad campaigns. However, in late 2016 they changed their algorithm in such a way that my paid and organic reach dropped drastically. All of a sudden content that could easily get me 10,000 pageviews was getting me 2,000. My ad revenue — which had already stalled — dipped even further. BGLH Marketplace had lost its primary source of capital.
A few months later I asked my husband for a divorce. Did I pick the worst time ever? Um, yeh. But as anyone who has been through divorce can attest, it is damn near impossible to stay in a relationship when your heart, gut and mind are screaming at you to get out.
With the loss of a partner my childcare costs and my labor costs for BGLH Marketplace shot up. Between this and my declining blog revenue I was suddenly financially underwater.
My parents offered to let me and my kids move into their Denver home while I got back on my feet. It was an incredibly tempting offer that I agonized over for months. Ultimately I declined. Why?
Because I believed in the viability of my business concept. I knew I had a product that could be on every shelf in America, so I decided to double down and rebuild my professional life on that premise. As a symbol of the confidence I had in myself, I signed a lease for a storefront/workspace in Brooklyn and moved BGLH Marketplace operations there.
Which brings us to the original question: How am I doing this, financially, as a single mother with no outside investors.
1. I am using my savings.
Yes, all that money I saved in my twenties is now being used to invest in BGLH Marketplace. I am basically a self-funded beauty start up.
2. I put a prime on profit.
There are things I will never touch in the name of cost-cutting — like the quality of the butter, essential oils and extracts I use — but I am nimble with things like marketing and labor. Whatever I can do by myself, I do, from hauling boxes to creating and managing my ad campaigns. I know my numbers by heart — how much I need to earn every day to break even and how much I need to turn a meaningful profit.
3. I believe in my concept.
I won’t pretend that I haven’t had days when I’m like, ‘What the hell am I doing!?’ But then I think about the efficacy of my products. There is a reason I have dedicated my professional life to whipping shea, cocoa and mango butter — they are nothing short of miraculous. I see how effectively they work in my skin and hair. I have proof of concept.
4. I won’t shut up about my products.
My products are incredible, I know that. But what I have learned is that incredible products do not sell themselves. The whole ‘if you build it they will come’ thing DOES NOT apply to the overcrowded beauty market. Every day I am educating people about my products, why they stand out, why they are one of the best options on the market. I literally can’t afford to be modest or demure.
5. I am grateful to have a plan B.
I don’t take for granted that I have parents who are willing and able to support me should I need it.
And there you have it, next week I will tackle how I am running this business as a single mom from a scheduling/time perspective.
As always, I hope this was informative!
Other articles in this series:
4 Things I’ve Learned Transitioning from Natural Hair Blogging to Running a 6-Figure Indie Beauty Business
7 Reasons I Only Sell Whipped Butter Instead of Creating a Full HairCare/BodyCare Line