Tasha Branham has gone from making hair care products in her kitchen to seeing her goods on store shelves at the largest retailer in the nation.
Branham is the owner of Naturally Smitten, a hair care company specializing in products for type 4 hair. Based on a hair typing system, type 1 hair represents a fine, straight texture and spans to type 4, the texture of most non-chemically treated African American hair – coiled, or with a Z or S pattern.
A quest to find the right products for her locks after she decided to stop getting her hair relaxed led Branham to the world of hair care.
“I had to learn to style and care for my hair,” Branham says.
She found a lack of information on how to care for natural black hair and nothing that would keep her new style moisturized – a common problem for type 4 hair. She turned to the internet masses and found a YouTuber “who had hair just like mine and she was in her kitchen with her mixing bowl, mixing products together,” Branham says.
She started making her own kitchen concoctions landing on a formula that left her strands moisturized. The comments about how great her hair looked morphed into comments that she should sell her product, so in October of 2009 Branham introduced her hair care solutions to Etsy.
Branham’s background in art helped her craft an eye-appealing product from the get-go. She had been going to nursing school, until having her first child and realizing she was not a fan of blood. She switched gears and tapped back into her early love of art and started teaching herself graphic design and coding. She started taking on a few clients, knowing entrepreneurship was in her future, but waiting for the right opportunity.
Naturally Smitten started gaining momentum on social media and landed features in Essence and Ebony as well as shoutouts from local bloggers. Then Branham found an opportunity on Facebook through an article in Black Enterprise Magazine that Wal-Mart was looking to partner with small- and minority-owned businesses.
She pitched to Wal-Mart in 2014 and by 2015, Naturally Smitten was on store shelves. That same year an opportunity to pitch to Sally Beauty Supply presented itself, and at the end of 2016, Naturally Smitten is available in Sally stores across the country.
Going from Etsy to Wal-Mart has taken Naturally Smitten from hobby to business.
“You have to think nationally or internationally versus just on a local level,” Branham says.
It’s presented its fair share of challenges, but on the flip side a number of opportunities to think outside the box for brand goals. The kitchen doesn’t quite cut it anymore, either.
“We ended up contracting with a local manufacturer that helps us produce our products to meet the demand of mass retail,” Branham says.
Learning the basics of how to make each product, trial and error and faith help Branham arrive at the recipes for Naturally Smitten. The offerings are geared towards the hard-to-grow, fragile, moisture-resistant characteristics of type 4 hair.
“Our most popular item is the moisturizing hair butter,” Branham says.
The oil and butter based product was the flagship offering. There’s also a daily hydrating and moisturizing spray, tangle-free pudding infused with marshmallow root and hair custard infused with a number of oils and butters. Branham explains that when used in sequence – spray, oil, cream – the hair is best prepared to receive and keep moisture.
Expansion in many forms is on the docket for Naturally Smitten. The product line is growing with a recently launched shampoo and conditioner. Branham also has a goal of expanding their footprint through brand awareness. While the brand sells online and in some larger retailers, Branham knows they are still a relatively new business and much more opportunity exists.
There’s also a plan to add some educational notes to their roster, not just about their product, but, “We really desire to show women how to be healthy from the inside out,” Branham says.
As the business continues to grow, one big challenge remains – funding.
“That’s the one thing that has been a challenge for us that we still, to this day, have been working to overcome,” Branham says.
For more information, visit naturallysmitten.com.