Jesseca Harris-Dupart exemplifies excellence in everything she does. With her innate talents for cosmetology and consumer packaged goods, Jesseca has become an esteemed leader in her field. Her brilliant mind led her to build Kaleidoscope hair products and gain deep trust from her clients. Her big heart and deep empathy for others inspires Jesseca to complete record-breaking levels of philanthropy. A keen eye for trends helps her amass millions of followers on social media. Despite her immense success, Jesseca has no intention to rest on her laurels. Instead, this beauty guru and businesswoman uses her wisdom to elevate and educate her global audience through in-person tours and in her debut book, When The Miracle Drops: How Instagram Helped Turn A Quick Fix Into A Million-Dollar Product. She even sat down with us to provide further insights for BAUCE women.
My first question is about turning your passion for hair styling into a full-time job and career. I read that your parents originally wanted you to be a doctor or lawyer. How did you get comfortable on this path?
Jesseca: I used to play all in my dad’s hair. In high school I actually got reprimanded because I would sneak friends over to do their hair. My parents wanted me to do the more traditional thing at the time for success, which would have been a lawyer or a doctor. But I just went full throttle with what my passion was. There probably was a little bit of pushback, but, I mean, I retired my mom so I think she’s perfectly fine with it now.
Fair enough! Clearly the vision came true, and it all worked out. You spent years honing and perfecting your craft and building respect from peers and clients. What was the pivotal moment for you when you realized that you wanted to build, grow, and lead your own company instead of working for someone else?
Jesseca: I’ve had quite a few experiences, and, from those experiences, I learned what kind of boss I wanted to be and what kind of boss I didn’t want to be. I was at a salon that was overrated, like the prices were too high. The stylists didn’t get a key, so you’d have to wait for it to open. And then I worked at a salon that had a very warm/family feeling. So for me it was always a goal to have my own salon because I was able to see so many experiences. I took nuggets along the way on what I wanted to do and what I didn’t want to do. And with me being in all these salons I thought about how I could do something a little bit better.
That sounds like the healthiest way to go through some harder experiences. You thought: “Okay, this is not for me, and I won’t be doing this when I’m in a position of power.” On the topic of leadership: a huge part of being a leader is building your team. What do you prioritize when cultivating a cohort of people?
Jesseca: For me, I think the biggest thing is work ethic. I feel like I am a person who doesn’t necessarily micromanage well. I’m a person that’s a big self-starter. I was a hairstylist who was appointment-only, so once I was booked, I was booked. So if I had any overflow I loved being able to give my client to somebody who I could rely on to take care of them. But I didn’t want to be the person to have to stop my client’s appointment to go to you and say: “This is wrong, this, that, or the other.”
That makes sense. You need that in any environment. It’s great when people don’t have to be prompted – that builds trust. And going back to your journey of getting to where you are, you faced so many challenges. That almost seems like an understatement because you endured personal loss, financial instability, and having your business literally burn down overnight. That sounds like the stuff of nightmares. What kept you going in those hard times?
Jesseca: I learned very early on that my purpose was bigger than just me and making a lot of money or doing hair. When the fire itself happened, the word itself spread like wildfire through the community; no pun intended. They reached out and helped in many ways. The hair stylists were donating equipment and hair products. They were really supportive. That made me feel that my obligation, now that I know everyone is watching, is to show that this isn’t the end. Even if you go through a trauma or tragedy, you can not only triumph, but you can be bigger and better than before.
That’s another phenomenal perspective to have. It’s key to think about what you can learn and adjust some things from the first time around. The Kaleidoscope universe is broad with so many product lines. What advice do you have in regard to launching new products and trying to reach new demographics? How did you get comfortable knowing when to take another step?
Jesseca: I feel like if you build the right kind of community, your customers will tell you exactly what they need. Also, if you understand your industry, understand your morals, and understand who you want to reach, then I feel like all of that aligns. I’m a person that has dogs, so if I want to tap into some doggie products then that aligns with who I am, how I am, and who people know me to be. If it’s consumer packaged goods, which I already know how to do from doing Kaleidoscope hair products, it aligns perfectly. It doesn’t go far from my story or my morals. So, I just feel like if you understand what’s considered whitespace i.e something that is needed in the market and you should fulfil that.
That leads perfectly to another question I had. You’ve been so thoughtful about client engagement, knowing your audience, and evolving your brand. From my vantage point, the hair and beauty landscape has grown exponentially over the past few years. So how do you think through 1) maintaining relationships with your audience and 2) remaining at the forefront of communicating with your clients?
Jesseca: I am a person that’s very mindful of where I got started, where we got the bulk of our growth from, where most of our revenue comes from, and understanding that the brand was born and raised on social media. I feel like it’s my responsibility to stay in front of the trends, stay in front of finding out the next social media platform that’s coming out, and stay in front of new features that each social media has. I feel like in my everyday life, I can communicate day-to-day with the consumers. I used to do my hair all the time, and consumers would say, “I’ve tried this a million times and I don’t know how to do it.” So, then it’s my responsibility to go on Instagram Live and show them how to do it.
Another question I had is based on conversations I’ve had with other founders/entrepreneurs. I feel like there are almost two schools of thought when starting a business. Some people say you should operate in stealth mode because it’s your vision while others suggest manifesting and sharing your ideas with your family and friends constantly. Where do you fit on that spectrum?
Jesseca: I am wholeheartedly both. For some people what makes them happy is being able to talk to their friends and family about their ideas. Others feel discouraged when friends and family don’t understand their vision. If God gave you a vision you cannot be mad at others for not understanding it. The journey is you, your crazy ideas, and God. When you do get on the journey, everybody will become a believer anyway. So, I feel like, if for your sanity, if you’re a person who doesn’t share anyway and moves in silence then you should be that. The entrepreneur journey is hard enough so do what makes you happy. If you like to sit around with your friends every week and drink mimosas and tell them what’s on your mind, then do it. But don’t be discouraged if they don’t support it or don’t understand it or have a million questions that you can’t explain.
What advice would you give your younger self or an entrepreneur who is just starting out?
Jesseca: I feel like every time I’m asked this question it depends on the year and where I am. Now, the lesson I’d tell myself is you cannot expect everybody to be you. You cannot expect everybody to be as invested in your business as you are. Although they might not have the capability to do things the way that you have, they are still essential to team building because you can’t do everything by yourself. It’s big for people to give other people grace and to be able to effectively communicate what’s expected… The only other thing I might say is when it comes to people not believing. In the beginning, 99.999% of people didn’t understand what I was doing at the time and advised me against it. Before, I used the bartering system where people would do their hair for free in exchange for being on social media, but people in my life didn’t understand it. They thought I was doing hair for free, and that people were using me. But I knew I needed exposure because I didn’t have a large enough platform to grow my following. So, I did the thing that hadn’t been done. It was scary as hell to do, and I had people in my ear telling me “Don’t do it.” But now those people are asking me to teach them how to do that. I had to realize that discouragement is not a no.