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Meet The SHEeo: Chantel Powell Of Play Pits - A Kid-Friendly All-Natural Deodorant

This all-natural brand is putting the FUN back into how we view deodorant.

Meet The SHEeo

With the rise of more and more black women breaking away from traditional 9-5s to become their own bosses, the CEO is getting a revamp as the SHEeo. In the Meet The SHEeo series, we talk to melanated mavens leveling up and glowing up, all while redefining what it means to be a boss.

While home from basketball camp, Chantel Powell noticed that her then six-year-old son had an undesirable smell, and after doing research, whipped up a natural deodorant in her kitchen. At the time there wasn't a fun, natural deodorant on the market catering to kids, so when her son insisted that she make a batch of deodorant for his friends, Powell knew that the idea was worth investing in.

In 2018, she officially launched Play Pits— a mother's solution to providing a kid-friendly, all-natural hygiene option for youth with active lifestyles an affordable price point. Within a year, the brand has gained over 3,000 customers worldwide, and can be found on shelves in several stores across the country.

Meet Chantel L. Powell of Play Pits.

Courtesy of Chantel L. Powell

Title: CEO of Play Pits

Year Founded: 2018

Location: Upper Marlboro, MD

# of Employees: 5 owners (Chantel, Husband, and their kids Kameron, Kaiden, and Keyona)

30-Second Pitch: Play Pits is a 100% all natural deodorant, free of aluminum, parabens, synthetic fragrances and other harsh chemicals. This is a mother's solution to providing a kid-friendly, all-natural hygiene option for youth with active lifestyles. Play Pits strives to be a beacon of healthier solutions for all demographics and communities at an affordable price point. It's our mission to educate parents and children about the dangerous ingredients found in popular deodorants and everyday household products.

What inspired you to start your brand? 

Funny story! My son Kameron, who was six at the time, was between basketball camp and basketball camp and smelled horrible! My exact words were, "You smell like a grown man!" After research with different deodorant brands and their ingredients, I decided to make a natural deodorant for Kameron in my kitchen. To my surprise, he loved it and told his campers and requested I make his deodorant for all the kids at camp. After my initial refusal, I quickly reconsidered once it hit me that it was a genius business idea. My family and I are committed to providing products to ensure kids have access to all-natural deodorants and parents have a brand that can be trusted.

What was your a-ha moment that brought your idea into reality?

Kameron urging me to make my deodorant for everybody...that was my a-ha moment. He looked at me with his sweet six-year-old eyes and suggested that I make the deodorant I whipped up just for him for EVERYONE. After some additional market research and discovering their was no product on the market that looked like anything I could create...I knew it was worth a try. Ha...I am glad I "tried"!

Who is your ideal customer?

The majority of my customers are MOMS. Moms and dads that are in need of rescuing from smelly pits from their little ones. Our ideal customers are Moms, Dads, families, women, men, anyone sick of using toxic deodorant and looking for a natural deodorant that really works. While Play Pits was initially created for kids, since launching we have discovered though there are a number of natural deodorants on the market, adults are struggling to find an effective natural deodorant. Our adult customers quickly learned that Play Pits is not only a safe natural deodorant, it's effective and it works!

What makes your business different? 

We are making deodorant FUN. There are many natural deodorants on the market but they are BORING and a bit too serious for us. Therefore, we made a traditional boring and lack luster hgiene product fun, exciting and intriguing. Play Pits is the "Cool Kid" in the deodorant market.

What obstacles did you have to overcome while launching and growing your brand? How were you able to overcome them? 

Initially, people didn't understand what we were doing. Why are we making a deodorant for KIDS? It was a different concept and people were not used to it but we overcame that by educating everyone that would listen about the harmful ingredients that was in their traditional antiperspirant. We were able to convert those people and they then became our "Play Pits Under-Armie", who help us spread the word and save one nose at a time! #SaveYourNose

What was the defining moment in your entrepreneurial journey? 

We have had several moments, the first moment was when we won our first pitch competition in May 2018 because that win validated all my sleepless nights and hard work that went into the launch of Play Pits. It was the moment my dream became my families' truth. This May, I was honored as the Hustle & Grow Honoree at The Momference. I was voted and recognized by my target market and my peers; and most recently being featured in our first article by Because Of Them We Can which gained amazing traction and visibility to our community.

Where do you see your company in 5-10 years? 

I see our company becoming a household name! Play Pits will be THE natural body care that parents trust and kids demand found in all the big box stores. In the next five years we will have a whole product line for the entire family. Our ultimate goal is to normalize natural products and using our products to educate generations.

Where have you seen the biggest return on investment? 

We started small and promoted at a grass-roots level with vending and doing pop-ups. Those events has allowed us to talk and connect with new and existing customers monthly. Social media has also played a huge roll in our marketing by reaching thousands of customers all over the world.

Do you have a mentor? If so, who? 

Before I launched I was fortunate to meet the owner of Zen in a Jar, Nikki, at an event. She was completely God-sent, Nikki has truly taken me under her wing by sharing resources, promoting my business and connecting me with her network. I am so grateful to have her as my big sister in business and friend.

Biggest lesson you’ve learned in business?

When we launched, I was doing everything: building my website, managing social media, processing orders, making product, etc all while juggling my family and a job. That is a fast path to burning out physically, mentally and emotionally. I have learned that you can't run a business alone! As the African proverb says, "If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." It is super important to utilize your village. My village of family and friends currently serve as my team as I grow Play Pits.

"During the early stages of business, funds may be limited but there is plenty of work that still has to be done. Therefore, it's imperative to seek the help of people that love you and believe in the work you are doing because those are the people that will work for FREE."

Anything else you would like for people to know, or take away from your entrepreneurial story? 

Dreams do come true! Words can't describe the level of pride I have about Play Pits' success. To know a little over a year ago, Play Pits was in development, a top secret project that I poured all my extra money into, a product that I knew was amazing and innovative but wasn't sure people would get it. And now one year later in business, we have over 3,000 customers all over the world and on shelves in several stores across the country. I am proud of the legacy my family is building.

For more of Chantel and Play Pits, follow her on Instagram.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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