How did you begin working with botanicals--what initially drew you to plants and flowers?
I began working with botanicals when I decided that ‘hair grease/pomades’ were not what I wanted to use on myself or for my clients. They were heavy and not convenient to apply between all the tiny partings that were in the styles that I created. This was in the late 70’s and since I had already become a vegetarian, I was exposed to herbs and natural remedies for the inside of the body. It only made sense to carry that concept forward for the outer body. So I decided to use liquid oils and I researched what herbs/botanicals would be best to help hair to grow and thrive. The botanicals offered not only healthy hair and scalp remedies, but they also scented the oil creating a subtle aroma-therapy for the wearer.
When did you know it was time to turn your knowledge into a product line--Anu Essentials?
It took me quite a while to develop my line. First, because my clients were very slow to purchasing products for their hair other than hair oils. In the early days we carried products by other popular brands and they would just sit and gather dust. Many of our clients were used to wearing protective styles and did not do their own hair at home. They were not wearing their own hair out and did not see the value in purchasing products. But others were constantly asking me via my blog, email etc to recommend products to them. I realized that times were changing and I needed to offer not only my clients, but the general public a product line that I truly believed in.
What is the best part about being an entrepreneur, and bringing your products to consumers exactly as you envision them?
The best part about being an entrepreneur is the freedom to create the kind of life that works best for you. The best part about bringing my product to consumers is being certain about the ingredients in my line. I truly believe that products should be not only good for your hair and body, but also good for the planet. Whatever we use on our bodies washes down the drain and enters the eco-system, just as it enters our blood streams. In order to promote a healthy body and healthy planet we should consume products that are natural and have the same DNA as our bodies and the Universe.
In addition to the Anu Essentials hair and body care lines, you are the president of high profile natural hair salon, Khamit Kinks, which has serviced a roster of clients including: Chrisette Michele, Solange, Venus Williams, Oprah Winfrey, Angela Bassett, Terry McMillan, Queen Latifah and many others. Did you envision that it would be so successful when you were first starting out back in 1989?
No I had no idea of some of the celebrated people who would one day walk through our doors. That was not my goal or intention. I just want to offer excellent and superior skills and services. Our everyday clients are the ones that have kept us in business and to me they are the rock stars. I give thanks for them every day.
What have been some of the challenges to running your own businesses, and how have you overcome them?
One of the biggest challenges of running my own business is lack of ownership in the space that my business occupies. Therefore, having to relocate and build out and improve upon the value of someone else’s property has been very challenging. It’s extremely taxing (no pun intended) in every sense of that word and financially draining to own a business in New York; particularly if you don’t own the building. How I have overcome this challenge is to keep pressing forward, and continuing to do my best to offer our clients a beautiful and peaceful environment and exceptional services.
We love that you are also a certified Hatha Yoga instructor, and that you promote a healthy overall lifestyle for both your staff and your clients. Can you leave our readers with a few tips for a healthy life and healthy hair?
I have always been concerned with health because of my family history. Some tips I would love to offer are:
Take care of yourself as well as you take care of others. Take time for mediation, prayer, renewal and regeneration. As women, we often spend so much time and energy taking care of others physically, emotionally, spiritually and financially. And then we’re bankrupted when it comes to giving back to our selves. Put your oxygen mask on first! Which means: give to yourself too, so that you can better serve others.
Make an effort to get the proper amount of rest and relaxation for your body. If you require 8 hours of sleep to feel rested, then days, weeks, or months of 6 hours of sleep will never do. In the end you’ll end up depleted. Relaxation and sleep is often underrated.
Exercise – often we put off exercise because we consider it a task. Find out what type of exercise is fun for you and do that. For some swimming is a joy. Others enjoy tennis, yoga, dancing, walking or hiking. Whatever it is, just do it! Exercise is the key to a healthy lifestyle and the reward is feeling good. Even if you don’t practice yoga, have some type of stretching exercises in your regimen. I sincerely believe that flexibility is the key to feeling young inside and looking young on the outside.
And last but not least, eat well. Imagine your body as a luxury car. You wouldn’t put the cheapest fuel in it. You’d give it high-grade fuel. Give yourself high-grade fuel in the form of God’s foods. The best foods for you do not come in a package, they comes from the earth, out of the ground. Eat well. This, along with a good hair regimen, will help you to feel good and look good.
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