Have you ever wondered what it's like to be the CEO of a small, Black-owned business? Our founder Ceata Lash sat down with Moisture Love’s CEO, Jeannell Darden, on Instagram Live to talk about the entrepreneurial journey and the state of the natural hair industry. You can catch the replay of this live on @ThePuffCuff’s Instagram, or below.
An Entrepreneur from Birth
The entrepreneurial mindset and drive started at a young age for both founders, instilled by their hardworking parents. Jeannell sold backpacks full of candy at school to fund school trips and did hair for events. Meanwhile, Ceata used her artistic talent to paint business signs for extra cash.
“I loved seeing people being their own boss, like my grandfather was. He may not have been hyper-successful, but he worked for himself. That looked like success to us because it was more than what their grandparents had.” - Ceata
Ceata and Jeannell never imagined their businesses growing to their current size and they couldn't have started at a better time. The natural hair movement had re-emerged and the beauty industry began to notice the spending power of Black women who desired products for their hair.
If There Isn’t A Solution, Create One
Jeannell began her natural hair journey shortly after experiencing severe chemical damage and breakage. Jeannell got her last perm in 2005 and went natural in 2006. But this journey began when the natural hair industry was not what it is today. Natural or textured hair products were scarcely available.
“I studied Madame C.J. Walker for my African American Entrepreneurship class while at Georgia Tech. If she created products in the 1900’s to solve her hair challenges, surely I can do the same thing.” - Jeannell
Having done her sibling's hair from a young age and her classmate's hair for school events, Jeannell dove headfirst in experimenting and concocting solutions. Jeannell eventually created her first few products, launched her brand and found herself everywhere she could get brand exposure. Jeannell generated enough buzz to entice natural hair influencers, who requested samples and fell in love.
Setbacks Happen. Breathe and Move Forward.
For those who don’t know, “Moisture Love” was initially named “Coco Curls.” About a year after her business launch, Jeannell received a cease and desist letter from a brand claiming the “Coco Curls” brand name. After a lengthy legal battle, Jeannel dissolved "Coco Curls" and rebranded as Moisture Love.
“We lost a lot of momentum. By the time the new brand came out in 2016/2017, the natural hair industry was different. Mainstream beauty conglomerates were entering the natural hair space, Shea Moisture blew up, and new brands were coming out. We thought it would be an easy transition. Nope. Despite our transition efforts, people unfollowed and we got a lot of hate mail. People saying “where did Coco Curls go?” and “I won’t buy it unless it’s Coco Curls.” It was devastating." - Jeannell
Jeannell recounts the rebuilding process and how she may have handled the situation differently in hindsight. Digging into her hustling roots, Jeannell continued onward and Moisture Love continues to thrive.
The State of the Natural Hair Industry
Natural hair has changed dramatically since Ceata and Jeannell first stepped on the scene. There is now a plethora of brands for natural and textured hair, and a lot of money is being poured into the industry. But not all changes are positive.
“The extra came and it became noise. Customers are frustrated because there are so many products. They’re trying all these products that don’t work.” - Ceata
The natural hair industry became overwhelming for consumers, with a surplus of brands to choose from, inauthentic influencers promoting underwhelming products, and large corporations entering the natural hair industry to make a quick buck and ineffective products.
“I use to feel, I don’t know, that this may be coming to an end… But now? People have a real care for authenticity and integrity. We have a great opportunity and it’s just getting started. We’re barely into one generation of Black women wearing their hair natural!” - Jeannell
Despite the drawbacks, consumers are speaking up, and brands like Moisture Love and PuffCuff are listening. Even now, Gen-Z is raising the bar for brands and authenticity. The message is clear: “They aren't here for games or fluff,” Jeannell says, as more brands adopt ethical and sustainable practices.
So What’s Next?
What comes next as the natural hair industry evolves? Both founders plan to keep serving their customers and communities. As Black-owned businesses continue to grow and gain recognition, opportunities to build generational wealth have never been greater.
“Black and brown wealth… We haven’t seen that at all. Now, these large companies are finally taking note of and buying our brands. I want to see the money that comes from our hard work, and continue to see that money go forward so we can be the person for the “me” that did have help when we started this road. This is real! And it can be real for more than just you or me.” - Ceata
Whether it's becoming an angel investor or an entrepreneurial coach, these founders are looking optimistically toward the future and helping their communities.
What do you think lies ahead for the natural hair industry?