You know you are in the presence of Black Girl Magic when every time words are spoken, clusters of gems are dropped and you realize you need a basket to catch them all. That's the experience I had when I interviewed three of the five founders of CurlFest, the world's largest natural beauty festival. Simone Mair, Tracey Coleman, and Melody Henderson can attest to the fact that the one thing that binds us all together as black women, is our hair. Whether it's kinky, curly, or coily, there is an unspoken connection we have with one another when we're in our natural state. We all have dealt with those difficult wash-and-gos, or the twist outs that didn't work out the way it did for that YouTuber.
Most importantly, we also know what it's like to feel the stares, or hear the negative comments in regards to how we choose to wear our crowns. The founders of CurlFest agreed that there was an undeniable need for a brand that empathized with the experiences of women of color. Melody, who acts as the design guru among the tribe, said, "It was really to fill a need, to fill a void. My background (career in marketing), my whole question was always, 'Why aren't we being seen, why aren't we part of the story?' And the five of us wanted to be part of that solution. How can we, as women of color, in our natural state, in any capacity, be a part of the story?"
Thus, the Curly Girl Collective was born.
The brand started with five women seeking to create a space for women of color to talk about their experiences with their hair, as well as others' perceptions. It was a judgment-free zone that they soon realized many other women probably need as well. Creative marketing consultant and freelance writer, Tracey Coleman, who makes up ⅕ of the Curly Girl Collective explained, "At first people (brands and press), weren't really interested just because they didn't deem it as important. And as the narrative has changed on what beauty looks like, it's a huge shift from when we started. You're seeing more women of color and women with natural hair in commercials and in movies and in leading roles and all over the world. That's when the media starts to listen, and we're a part of what's driving that."
"The media realized that this was an important story that needed to be told."
Tracey and her teammates have made it their mission to develop fun and unique ways to help multicultural women celebrate their natural beauty. The first CurlFest was launched in 2014, and in just four years, this tribe of girl bosses was able to take their at-home business and transform it into a staple event in the natural hair community.
The founders of CGC are proof that heavy is the head that wears the crown, even if that crown is a mane full of beautiful curls. Simone, who is also an award-winning volunteer, told us, "I think sometimes as women of color, we're kind of a double minority here and naturally have more to prove."
"We kind of have to work twice as hard as some of our counterparts, so there are challenges."
Despite these challenges, these queens are thriving honey, and they shared some gems with me that will help you flourish, too. I got to speak with these ladies more about their roots (both proverbial and natural), as well as how pursuing your passion can truly liberate you from the daily grind and ultimately allow you to develop a profitable business.
What is the secret to your success? How did your brand become so well known in what seems like such a short amount of time?
Tracey: The growth was interesting...there isn't some marketing campaign behind it, or a celebrity that's driving it, or something that happened that went viral. Honestly, it's the energy that people feel when they come to CurlFest and that feeling of appreciation and celebration of who they are. That comes through in what people say about the event to their friends and family, and what they say on social media.
One thing that we've learned is that you can market something all day long, but at the end of the day, it really speaks for itself. The fans actually drove the growth, they decided that they were coming back the next year. Every single year, they're telling their friends, and telling their cousins. It's a blessing not to have to have to market the event because the demand is there.
What do you think was the major turning point? How did you turn your passion into profit?
Melody: I believe that the passion and the profit actually are intertwined. I think we are where we are today because that passion never went away. There's five of us, and we are literally doing this around the clock: putting on something that can support the 30,000 people. But what's driving it is that passion. The turning point really came when brands started to realize that we were bringing them qualified leads.
It's not a commercial you're bringing to the masses. People are opting into CurlFest, people are looking forward to CurlFest for the entire year. So, knowing that from a brand perspective, when you start to talk about revenue and finances, we're telling them "This is your demographic and we're able to tell you what they need, we're able to tell you what's missing, and we're able to tell you how you can plug in."
When we had our first CurlFest, there were two brands on the lawn. So, now you fast forward to this year, it was in the mid-twenties. A lot of that is really based on fostering relationships, building a network, really holding true to what our brand is with no apology.
We typically see the glamour of what success looks like, but not so much the setbacks. With social media, everyone makes it look so easy. What have been some of the challenges that you've had building this business, and what are the ways that you've been able to overcome them?
Tracey: With that type of growth happening that fast, we had to learn really fast. We had to bring on other experts in other fields and people that could support us. We've learned that with the five of us, we all have full-time jobs. You realize that for us to maintain that and to support the growth of CurlFest that was happening so quickly, we had to tap into our village. Most entrepreneurs learn that as you grow, you have to expand to let people help you.
That's really any business, if you're trying to grow your baby, you have to let your village support that baby.
That's what we've done over the years to help us grow so fast.
What does it mean to the team to have so much support for CurlFest from black women?
Melody: A lot of times we don't realize the psychological things are happening because of how society is telling how us we should be. The fact that we're able to play a role in breaking down some of those barriers is amazing. We often marvel at the success of others wondering whether or not we also have what it takes to get into business for ourselves. Instead of being paralyzed by the fear of "what if", be empowered by it.
Turning your passion into profit IS possible. The Curly Girl Collective shows us that when you combine your passion with your drive, determination, and fearless forward progress, anything can happen. Make sure to follow the Curly Girl Collective on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for updates and fly content from past events.
Featured image by Cincinart/Shutterstock.com
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Michelle Schmitz is a writer and editor based in Washington, DC originally from Ft Lauderdale, FL. A self-described ambivert, you can find her figuring out ways to read more than her monthly limit of The New York Times, attending concerts, and being a badass, multi-tasking supermom. She also runs her own blog MichelleSasha.com. Keep up with her latest moves on IG: @michellesashawrites and Twitter: @michellesashas
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
The first big leap was moving to a new city and getting settled into my new home. The next big leap? Was finding community and belonging. Moving to a new city excited me! I looked forward to having my own apartment, decorating it, and exploring what the city had to offer. I also found excitement in the thought of meeting new people and expanding my connections. When it actually came down to it, I felt nervous. I heard that making new friends as an adult can be hard because we all have different responsibilities and schedules that may not align. I knew in order for me to really feel at home in my new city, I had to create community.
Having a community of people who I can share memories with, lean on in times of need, and inspire each other is something I always valued. I took a moment to truly center in on what I desired from the new friends I would make. Then I realized it all would have to start with me. I had to be centered and confident in who I was to attract who I desired to be aligned with. As someone who moved to a new city and established quality friendships, I gathered these six tips that helped me feel grounded and create community in hopes that it will help you, too.
6 tips to start building community and making new friends in a new city:
Sean Anthony Eddy/ Getty Images
Be true to yourself
Do you know who you are? If someone asked you to describe yourself in three words, what words would you use? In order to develop deep friendships, you must be a friend to yourself first. Know what refuels you and what zaps your energy. Self-study your habits and why you do the things you do. All this will be important to keep in mind when looking to create bonds with others. Every day there’s all kinds of people telling you who you should be, how you should act, or what you should wear. At the end of the day, the only opinion about yourself that truly matters is your own. Spend some alone time with yourself indoors or out at an event you like to truly discover who you are in this season of your life.
Pray about it
Before you step out into the world and cross paths with all kinds of people, it’s important to pray about building your community. God outlines what true friendship looks like in numerous Bible verses such as "Iron sharpens iron." - Proverbs 27:17 and “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.” - Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. If you desire friendships that last, pray about what you seek in friendship. I remember praying for mentally stable, happy, and whole women who moved through life with abundance mindsets. Take a moment to journal about the community you want to build and then pray on it.
Go to fun events to meet people who share your interests
Most metropolitan cities like Washington, D.C., New York City, and Atlanta are known to have strong young professional communities and events where you can connect with others. I highly encourage you to attend events in or near your community to see what the city is like and meet people. It’s likely that the people at the event have the same interests as you, which is a great way to start a conversation. You can start by searching for events on Eventbrite or following Instagram pages that highlight events happening in your city.
Carlos Barquero/ Getty Images
Accept that you won’t be compatible with everyone you meet
While living in your new city, it’s likely you’ll meet a variety of people. Please know that everyone you meet will not bud into lasting friendships, and that’s okay! You are uniquely created and not made for everyone. Then you’ll meet people who are good for only surface-level connections, and then you’ll have your girls who you can get deep with. I think sometimes people can look down on surface-level friendships, but not everyone needs to fully know you. That’s a privilege to have and to accept within yourself. Continue to check in with yourself and be real about who you crave to spend more time with and who is nice to see for a monthly or quarterly catch-up.
Join Facebook groups & GroupMe chats
If you haven’t used Facebook in a couple of years, it’s time to dust your profile off. Facebook Groups is a great place to join online communities for people who just moved to a new city like you. Typically, you have to agree to the group’s guidelines, and then you can join. For example, you can search for groups in the Facebook app by using keywords like women, Black girl, or [the name of your city] foodies. With the GroupMe app, you’ll have to be invited to join an already existing group. While you’re out and about networking, don’t hesitate to ask if they’re in any online groups/communities they recommend you join too.
Be friendly to folks in your neighborhood
When I first moved to my new apartment, I spent the first week walking around the complex and working in the community spaces to get a better feel of it. I was able to meet people in my neighborhood, enjoy small talk, and learn more about what the community has to offer. Step outside of your comfort zone and work in your apartment’s community space or a local coffee shop to connect with others.
Overall, you may feel alone in your new city, but I guarantee you’re not. There are other people experiencing living in a new city too, and all you need to do is find each other. I hope these tips help ease the nervous feelings you have about building a new community and inspire you to make a new friend today!
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