It all started with YouTube. Courtney Adeleye, a registered nurse, wanted strong, healthy, waist-length hair, so she turned to the video platform to chronicle her journey, using her science background to create products for natural hair right at home in her kitchen. Her following came fast — eventually leading to the creation of her brand, The Mane Choice, which is now available at 60,000 stores nationwide. It was Adeleye's dedication, authenticity, and openness in detailing her process and growth that set her up as one of the premier hair-care brands for textured hair at a major retailer like Target. Here, she shares how a personal goal became an attainable reality for other women.
How did The Mane Choice come to be? When and how did the brand go from an idea to reality?
"Honestly, the people demanded it. I started out on YouTube chronicling my journey to natural hair. I was in my kitchen literally mixing ingredients together to use on my own hair and just sharing the results. The OG followers remember these videos, and I'm grateful for them because they were the first customers as well when I launched my first line of products. While that was a personal product for myself, the people demanded to know what I was using, so I decided to bring it to market, and the rest is history. The first collection I created was based off of my journey to waist-length hair and is currently called The Core Collection."
What were you doing before The Mane Choice? How did you transition to this business?
"I'm a registered nurse and was practicing nursing before I started The Mane Choice, but I've always been a problem-solver. The Mane Choice is all about the merging of 'beauty, health, and science,' so it went hand-in-hand to integrate health into the beauty industry. I've always had a concentration on health, so when I identified the problem — a lack of products to help my hair grow, retain nutrients, and remain healthy — I set out to find a solution. All products are infused with vitamins and nutrients, plus natural ingredients like exotic extracts and oils that will help our hair grow and retain length. With a science background, I was able to research what vitamins were essential nutrients our bodies need to assist in growing healthy and strong hair."
What has your experience been like being a woman of color in the beauty business?
"It's been an amazing and eye-opening experience. I'm grateful to have such a loyal customer base, but people don't see all the work that goes on behind the scenes. It's been interesting to be one of or the only person of color in the room — either pitching myself and my brand or sharing my experiences and learning from others as well."
What has been the biggest challenge launching a business?
"Usually the biggest challenge is resources. I was fortunate to grow as my sales increased, so I used the profits from sales and reinvested that back into my business. I expanded as my business grew, so I never took out a loan, and I mastered the art of free marketing via social media. A lot of times people put too much focus on finding resources versus learning how to speak, connect, and market to consumers for free."
What was the most surprising thing you've learned as an entrepreneur?
"I think what I've learned is that entrepreneurs have a distinct way of thinking. We're creatives and risk-takers, which is the total opposite of the people we do business with; they're strategic. Taking risks isn't something we're taught in school, so it'll help you do business a lot better once you have that understanding. You can go into a meeting with 1,000 ideas, but they will think you're all over the place if you try to pitch them all."
Why is The Mane Choice important in the current beauty/hair landscape?
"The one thing that makes us different is that my customer's need is my need, so I'm not going to sacrifice when it comes to ingredients and quality. Sometimes beauty products become a commodity versus being a quality product. The beauty space as a whole needs more authentic creators. I engage with my customers all the time. I know what they like, what they don't like, and what will get them excited."
How has the brand evolved since its launch? Is it what you envisioned?
"We went from one product to 100. We went from selling via e-commerce to 60,000 stores across the U.S. We grew from topical hair products to a holistic approach with the Manetabolism vitamin. Bringing that hair vitamin to the hair-care aisle is what I envisioned. My passion has always been about making my supporters (and now customers) happy; now, to be doing that on such a large scale is amazing. Plus, they're just as satisfied and happy as they were on day one."
How did you select Target as your retail partner?
"My products are for anyone looking to use healthy hair products to strengthen, protect, and grow their hair. I looked for retail partners who already had great track records selling in the hair-care space and are go-to spots for customers as well. I didn’t want my customers to have to search for my products; I wanted them at retail locations they already visit regularly. Target has such a diverse and loyal clientele, and I was excited to be featured on the shelves and to share my collections with a new audience."
What advice would you give to someone considering launching a brand in the beauty space?
"Start by solving a problem. This is really advice for any business, but once you figure out the answer to a problem, your customers will naturally come. Also, be authentically you. People connect more with authenticity. They have to trust the product, but they have to trust you as well."
What do you think is next for the world of natural hair?
"What's next is people embracing it and understanding that it's a personal option. People who decide to wear their hair natural find what products work for them. Hopefully people have less emphasis on it being a statement versus it being the way you choose to wear your hair."
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