You probably recognize this Chicago-born celebrity hairstylist. Not only was she the star of her own WeTV show for several years, but her client list includes many Black A-listers, including Beyonce, Brandy Norwood, Nicki Minaj, Kelly Rowland, Halle Berry, Mary J. Blige, and others. You could say her impressive skills were inherited since she’s a third-generation stylist. After working for decades at salons and creating her brand, she realized there weren’t many products available that were helpful for multi-cultural hair. Most of them were greasy or damaging, and so she was inspired to create a healthier, more effective line. Her personal formula is found in Kimble Beauty products—from shampoo and conditioner to serums, gels and more.
She took time from her overbooked entrepreneurial lifestyle to chat with The Ladders about the future of this hard-hit industry and her experience as a female POC leader:
What are the trends you see within your industry currently?
We’re definitely seeing brands moving toward using natural ingredients. We’re also seeing natural hair, wigs, and extensions growing in popularity.
How would you describe your company culture?
Because I am so passionate about hair and love what I do, I make sure that my company is filled with passionate, hard-working people. I love hair and developing products, so I need people around me that feel the same. We also promote education heavily. There’s always something new to learn or test in the health and beauty industry, so we encourage everyone to continue to grow in this field.
What can a job applicant do to catch your attention?
What stands out the most to you? I tend to look for dedication, loyalty, and longevity. I want someone who is invested in the company they work for because we’re all so passionate about what we produce. I also like to try and get an understanding of their goals and where they see themselves in the future. I want people who are passionate about hair and think of it as more than just a job.
What’s the most challenging part of being a leader/manager? What’s the best part?
When you’re a leader, you’re the one who has to drive the ship, so there are no breaks. You have to be on top of everything, and it can get overwhelming. But it’s always worth it when you see all of the hard work you and your team have put into your dreams come to fruition.
What’s your advice for tackling big projects at a company-wide level?
The most important thing is to have a game plan. Write out your strategy, build teams, and assign leaders and tasks. Team meetings are also critical to keep everyone on the same page and ensure that nothing slips through the cracks.
How do you keep your staff motivated? How do you motivate yourself?
When you love what you do and love being creative, it’s not hard to stay motivated. When you’re passionate about what you’re doing, it keeps you going. For me, that’s trying to solve problems for my clients. Setting goals is a great way to keep yourself or your staff focused and motivated. We all know what we’re working toward and are excited to reach the end. It’s also super important to pick your team wisely and make sure they want to win as much as you do.
At the end of the day, you need your team to motivate you as much as you drive them. You will question yourself from time to time, it’s normal, and you need a supportive team who will help you recenter your focus.
How do you find a balance between work and life demands?
It’s extremely hard to find balance, especially when you’re getting your company off the ground. Sometimes when you’re hustling, you put yourself on the back burner, but it is extremely important to find time for you. You have to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone or anything else. My advice is to pick a day out of the week to treat yourself, whether it be a mini-vacation somewhere nearby or a day at the spa, pick a day and stay away from work completely.
What are some of the challenges you have faced as a POC in this industry?
The hair industry has always been a white male-dominated field. Being a Black woman, you already have two strikes against you. To get through this, I remained strong in my faith and my belief in my work to make sure I wasn’t letting anyone determine my fate. People will discount you, and you have to prove yourself a lot more as a woman of color —you have to bring a lot to the table to have people invest in you or believe in your ability. So you must believe in yourself.
I originally wanted to work for Paul Mitchell, but I couldn’t get my foot in the door there, so I created my own opportunities. Years ago, I tried to get my products in a retailer and was told, ‘We can’t carry these products because African-Americans don’t have credit cards.’ Instead of focusing on the negative, you have to push harder, don’t let situations like these discourage you. Your determination not only helps you reach your goals, but it also opens the door for people to take chances on other POC and allow them to show their talent. Plus, I love to prove people who doubt me wrong and always do something unexpected.
How do you feel about the current climate in America right now in regards to race? Is it changing your work culture?
People’s eyes are opening, and we’re starting to see more opportunities for POC. Now, companies are beginning to take notice of POC who are talented and deserving of a chance. This isn’t a new situation; there’s just more light to it with the rise of social media. The younger generation is bold in demanding change. Black women make up the fastest-growing segment of entrepreneurs, and I believe there’s many more to come.