As a cosmetologist for over a decade, Stephanie Gregory from JournEssentials Haircare has worked with many different hair textures and scalp environments over the years. Assisting her clients with issues ranging from itchy/flaky scalp to hair loss, she always found herself recommending products from other brands to her customers.
For a while, Stephanie would research and recommend products that she believed would help remedy their situations. In return, the common question she received from clients was, "Do you have any [hair products] that you make or sell yourself? After constantly getting bombarded with the same question, she soon realized two things. One, her clients not only trusted Stephanie with their hair, but believed that she could create a solution for their hair troubles in the long run. Two, they were willing to pay her extra to do so.
So, Stephanie began creating hair butters and they were an instant hit. She listened to the feedback and suggestions of her customers about products they were interested in and looking for. Stephanie says she prayed, fasted, and developed exactly what she wanted to create. After a 3-day fasting period, the business name came to her, JournEssentials Haircare. She says it was a play on words, needing the essentials for your hair journey.
After going back and forth with what products she wanted to create, she decided to write down main hair care struggles. After-all, she had witnessed and helped so many firsthand.
Stephanie then came up with 3 out of 4 of her collections:
1. Help Me Grow (created to help those dealing with hair shed)
2. Fix My Scalp (created to help those with an irritated scalp)
3. Hydrate Me (created to help those with dry, brittle and dull hair)
4. Jellybean Collection (children’s hair care product line named after Stephanie’s daughter's nickname; created for those struggling with what the best products are for their little ones)
That is how JournEssentials was born.
Stephanie says one of the greatest challenges she’s faced as a Black woman has been the struggle of not being taken seriously. When she ultimately decided to share her products with others outside of her circle, she soon realized that not everyone was as passionate about her products than she was. She says she felt like a really small fish since it seemed like everyone already had their hair care routine set in stone, purchasing mostly from well-known brands from Big-Box retailers.
However, not everyone was jumping at the same chance to support a Black-woman owned small business with products probably better than half the hair care products on those shelves.
“These people didn't know me, understand what I was doing or why I was creating products the world already had… This is still a challenge I know I will face until JournEssentials stands side by side with big brands but it is okay because before you can prove yourself to the world, you have to prove yourself to yourself. And that is how I have and am still overcoming this challenge. I was another black girl that did hair and created another hair product but telling my story about how I started the brand had power. Telling the story about my products and what they do, had power. And using my experience as my story was how I had to show that I was going to be taken seriously,” says Stephanie.
She advises other entrepreneurial women of color who may be feeling intimidated by the journey and as if they will not be taken seriously, to still do it. She continues, “Everyday someone has an idea and everyday a dream dies. Let your consistency speak for you. Keep going and show the world how serious you should be taken.” We all need us an encouraging bestie like Stephanie in our life.
Before she knew it, Stephanie realized her clientele was her biggest support. Promoting her business purely through word of mouth, Stephanie’s network has marketed her products and services for her. She has created and joined communities of other Sistahs in Business who share similar business practices and goals. They share opportunities, resources, upcoming events, a wealth of knowledge, and much more amongst each other.
However, having to pivot once the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Stephanie knew this was not the end of her road. It couldn’t be after only being in business for five months at the time. She still had that fire in her to get her business off the ground.
As many other businesses, sales decreased drastically for JournEssentials due to the pandemic. So, Stephanie decided to discount her items. Running her first sale for Mother’s Day, she received 25 orders in one day! This was one of her first milestones, but definitely not her last. Running into multiple carrier and shipment issues time after time, she knew she couldn’t continue making the same mistakes and waiting for shipping supplies to be in stock again.
So, she did what a creative Sistah in Business does best, she created her own shipping supplies. Needless to say, customers were satisfied with the updated branded packaging of their shipments, and Stephanie was able to cut costs for shipping supplies.
When asked, “How do you balance the demands of running a successful business with other priorities in your life, such as family or personal interests?”
“...If I'm being honest, as much of a natural multi-tasker I like to think I am, you can not do it all. Unfortunately, you are going to have to sacrifice something. It may be time away from the kids, saved finances, or trips and getaways with friends and family. You have to make a decision on what type of business you want to have, and what type of business owner you want to be… Then, the sacrifices won't seem as great. Your sales in business will be a true indicator of your success or need to improve. It gets hard sometimes to balance business with everything else going on in my life. I recently stopped taking hair clients which took a lot of my time away from the business but I also worked from home and homeschooled my daughter. I guess you can say I tried wearing the big S on my chest for a while.”
We all know how easier said than done self-care can be, however, with grand goals, come grand sacrifices.
A particularly fulfilling experience in her journey as an entrepreneur has been receiving the opportunity to have her items featured and sold at The Sistah Shop, says Stephanie. She shares it has been “the gift that keeps on giving,” bringing more awareness and exposure to her brand. She’s received numerous messages from customers who have shopped her items at The Sistah Shop - New Jersey and The Sistah Shop - Atlanta, sharing with her how much her products have helped them. I myself can say that I am a proud user of JournEssential’s hair care products and they definitely have made my natural hair journey a much smoother ride. The kid’s Jellybean collection is even a part of my own hair care routine!
Stephanie says it feels good when someone she doesn't know has experienced something she's created and put out into this world. It feels even better when they've loved and benefited from the product. And it never hurts when they keep returning as a faithful consumer. That person now becomes a part of the journey says Stephanie.
“Success to me is not a destination, it's a checkpoint.” - Stephanie Gregory, JournEssentials Haircare
One of Stephanie's long term goals is to be a known household name. She wants her products to touch thousands of kinky, curly heads. Inspired by Teri Ijeoma’s story of success, the owner of Trade and Travel, Stephanie hopes she's able to share her products with Ijeoma one day.
So, what's next for JournEssentials? Stephanie plans to remain consistent and scale, scale, scale. She encourages those considering starting a business to just give yourself a deadline, stop overthinking, and launch the business! She says overthinking will affect you in the long run so hold yourself accountable. And lastly, “Don't focus on anyone… focus on your process and your business only. You can't compare your day 1 to [someone else’s] year 7.”