This week, we get advice from Ashleigh Thornton, 21, a senior business major at UNC Charlotte who created her own line of hair care products: NoireNaturals. Seventeen Magazine recently selected Ashleigh as one of three winners in their “Make Your Own Money” young entrepreneur contest. As a result, Ashleigh will be featured in the magazine’s November issue.
Ashleigh is a member of UNC Charlotte’s honors program and Dean’s Fellows organization. She has interned for Hallmark Cards Inc. in Kansas, as well as Procter & Gamble and McGuire Woods LLP.
Q: How did you start your own business at such a young age?
Being a business major, I had learned quite a bit about the horrors of repaying bank loans, so I knew early on that I did not want to go that route. Instead, I decided to use all of the money I had saved from two summers of internships.
Q: How did you come up with the name NoireNaturals?
The name (and overall theme) of the line was inspired by my French-Creole heritage... “Noire” is actually the French, feminine form of the word “black.”
Q: When did you start wearing your hair naturally?
I actually started wearing my hair naturally three years ago last month! Some of the issues that I ran into when trying to find products that worked for me were: One: Finding something that was legitimately all-natural. Two: Finding something that was concentrated enough to actually work on my extremely thick hair texture, without having to go through a full bottle every month. And three: Finding something that was high quality and reasonably priced.
Q: How many different concoctions did it take to come up with a product you were satisfied with?
Believe it or not, it only took me about three rounds of revisions to come up with the perfect product.
Q: What challenges did you face when creating the line?
Not having any type of background in chemistry was definitely a challenge for me, but I was able to overcome this by becoming a “self-taught chemist” by literally Googling about the different ingredients and their properties.
Q: What’s different about this line?
Our competitive prices, and our completely wholesome list of ingredients – I put emphasis on “completely” because many natural lines out there have several “good” ingredients, but still contain artificial colors, fragrances and … preservatives.
Q: In a typical month, how many items do you sell?
Anywhere from 100 to 200 product items (plus wholesale).
Q: How often do you use your own product?
Every time that I wash and style my hair, which is typically once or twice a week.
Q: What’s the next stage for your product line?
I had a one-on-one meeting with the CEO of Dudley Cosmetics (a family-owned company based in High Point that caters to African-Americans and sells hair care and beauty products to retailers nationwide) which resulted in his agreeing to manufacture my products! (Because of this, Ashleigh will no longer need to create, bottle and ship products from her own home.)
Q: What advice would you give to other youth?
Do not be afraid to take risks and trust in your own abilities. There is no such thing as an “age limit” for success.