Ada Rojas thought she had it all when her beauty blog catapulted her to influencer status, but she felt her calling was way bigger than the content that she was creating. One trip across the world helped her realize her true purpose: starting her own natural hair-care line.
But like many aspiring entrepreneurs, Rojas didn't have the resources to move forward right away. After a couple years of dreaming, she finally found a mentor in the industry to help her launch Botánika Beauty, a curly hair line made with the Latinx community in mind.
Her range of under-$12 products is set to launch later this month, and ahead, Ada shares her unconventional journey to entrepreneurship and explains why Botánika Beauty means so much for her and her community. The following interview was told to Thatiana Diaz and edited for length and clarity.
I always wore my hair curly growing up because my mother couldn't afford to take me to salon every week like most Dominicans would. She was a single mom raising six kids, so I had to learn how to do my hair with whatever was on the shelf at that time, which was usually Pink Lotion, mousse, and hair gel. Then, when I got to college, I had access to my roommate's flat iron, and I damaged my curly hair. Luckily, I found YouTube, and I was able to get my curls back and eventually start a blog.
In 2015, I was at the height of my career. I graduated college — I'm the first person in my family to graduate — I had a great job at the time, and my five-year-old beauty blog was doing great. But something came over me. I was really uncomfortable with being in such a comfortable place in my life, and I really wanted more. So, I decided to go work on a cruise ship half way across the world for six months selling artwork. Everyone said I was crazy, and I had no idea what this job was going to entail, but I just went for it.
Open Waters, Open Mind
I went from being really plugged into the digital world as an influencer to being completely plugged out, because we didn't have easy access to the internet out on the sea. This all made me start thinking: What do I really want to do with my life? You could say it was a quarter-life crisis. But it came to me: I wanted to create a natural hair line. I just felt there was a lack of products in the natural hair world that Latinas really resonated with in the market. So, the whole six months on the ship, I was doing research when I would get internet, and I came up with a business plan. Once I got back to the U.S., I was fixated and motivated on this goal, but I quickly realized I didn't have the money, so I had to put the dream on the back burner.
That all changed in the summer of 2017, when I was connected with Aisha [Ceballos-Crump], the founder of Honey Baby Naturals. We met, and it was an instant connection. I knew she was the mentor I was looking for in the beauty industry. After getting to know each other, I approached her about an influencer collaboration to get my foot in the door, and she said, "I don't want to offer you a collaboration, I want to help you with your dream hair line." And we got to work on my hair brand, Botánika Beauty.
Building A Bigger Table
I've always been fascinated with botánicas, apothecaries that are dominant in Latinx communities, where people can buy herbs and folk medicine to heal themselves. The products in my Botánika Beauty line have the ingredients that these shops sell, like sage and rosemary, and it all ties back to botánicas being created by us, for us. I'm not creating a revolutionary product that is going to change the hair game, I just decided to be a little more intentional about the stories that we're telling through products.
These are the stories of not just the Latinx community, but where I come from. Growing up in the Bronx, I feel like people were ashamed of where we came from. But there's beauty in adversity, and these communities are built up of entrepreneurs. When people think of entrepreneurship, they think of some pretty picture, but what about the lady from apartment 4B who makes cakes for everybody's birthday and that guy selling pastelitos in the corner? That's an entrepreneur, too. Now that my brand is here, it's my duty to do what Aisha did for me. I want to pay it forward, while also standing up for my community.
What happened for the Black community with the embracing of natural hair is happening for Latinas now. Latinas are embracing their roots, but nobody is paying attention because they don't know how to speak to us. The market is not listening, and that's fine because that's making room for people like me to pull up our own seat to the table.