Although it may look cute and ‘fly’ to rock one’s natural hair today, we can’t forget that it wasn’t always like this. For the longest time, kinky hair was seen as a burden for Black women. It was a burden to look after, maintain and put it this way, society didn’t think it was cool a few years back. This distaste in society for natural hair propelled women such as Nickie Nougaisse, who went on to launch Curls Dynasty so that Black women have a reliable hair care brand to make their hair soft, manageable and healthy. Nickie shares her journey with us, right from the very beginning to her now success!
What made you transition to wearing your natural hair years ago?
Nickie: Years of a love/hate relationship with relaxers left my hair breaking, limp and uneven. I was caught in a cycle of getting trims, stretching the time in between touch-ups to improve the health of my hair to no avail. My last touch-up was October 2011 and I was so badly burned, I was in pain and walking around with an unsightly, scabby scalp for weeks after. I was over it at this point. I wanted healthier, stronger hair however I was not ready to take the “big chop” route. Ultimately I decided to stop the chemical processing altogether and opted to let my natural hair. What I discovered is that the hair growing out of my scalp was totally foreign to me. It was increasingly difficult to maintain the two textures, dry all the time and breaking. I was getting nowhere fast. So… I started doing research on what my natural hair was all about, what it likes and how to take better care.
A few years back, kinky hair was too commonly associated with negative terms like a brillo pad, dry, or uncontrollable. How were you able to push past these stereotypes and find the confidence to embrace your natural look?
Nickie: I definitely bought into this narrative at first, because it was hard to get the results I wanted. However, going back to the relaxer was not a viable option so I had no choice but to apply myself to working with what I have and make the best of things. The journey to loving my crown was much easier once I stopped trying to make my hair something it was not, learned how to care for it, style it and embrace it completely. It’s freeing.
What inspired you to start Curls Dynasty? (You mentioned your Haitian culture was influential in this decision.)
Nickie: My frustrations with my hair being constantly dry led me to mixing ingredients in my kitchen to gain and maintain moisture. Growing up in my culture, we love natural remedies. We have solutions for almost everything with herbs, fruits, roots, etc. My concoctions provided much-needed relief and along the way, I tapped into a bunch of other women who had the same concerns I had with the health of their hair. Their struggle, sharing with them, and seeing their results have been inspiring me from the first person who bought a bottle of oil from me, (out of my purse lol), until now.
There are so many natural hair brands, how were you and still able to stand out in such a saturated and competitive space?
Nickie: By being super clear about exactly who my customer is, talking to them, consistently showing up for them with mutual understanding, providing them with high-quality products, showing them how to get the best results, encouraging and celebrating them every step of the way.
I love that your brand is for hard-to-hydrate hair!; those with super thick, kinky, and curly hair. What makes your products different from other hair care products which cater to the same hair texture?
Nickie: Laser focus on exactly what the problem is and not being all over the place. Ingredients and formulation matter! The core line is designed to provide maximum moisture infusion and even more importantly, longer retention. It is the foundation on which any natural can build and maintain an easy regimen, with no guesswork, because everything is already there. Each product works amazingly separately and together so there’s no need to worry about the gunky buildup. Just moisturized, shiny, popping curls from natural ingredients.
What are some of the challenges you faced on your journey with Curls Dynasty and how have you navigated them?
Nickie: For me, like most start-ups, funding was a huge obstacle. There’s nothing like having a vision and burning with passion for something that you’re ready to execute on but not have the means to do it. It can be frustrating and this is where a lot of young businesses fail. It’s where a lot of dreams die. Funding can be an ongoing challenge for brands at any stage, whenever growth is occurring. It is important to remember to keep showing up every day even when it hurts when it’s uncomfortable. It is important to keep putting one foot forward, doing the most with what you have, where you are, pushing towards the next level because guess what? Whether you’re crawling or walking, you’re still moving forward. You remain consistent and you will unlock new opportunities and solutions.
Today Curls Dynasty is sold at Target, WALMART and dozens of other beauty supply stores across the country. What is your secret sauce to achieving this much success?
Nickie: Authenticity, being purpose-driven, discipline, a heart for service, a whole lot of perseverance and prayer!
What is the future of the hair care industry and how does Curls Dynasty plan on adapting to it?
Nickie: Hopefully, an integration of tech and beauty to further facilitate targeted, precise solutions to specific hair care issues. Curls Dynasty will be setting trends by getting a head start on such advancements.
If there is one piece of advice you could give to “naturalistas”, what would it be?
Nickie: Your hair is as unique as you are. You might find similarities but just as there’s only one you, the same goes for your hair. Embrace your crown, learn from others, develop your own routine, be patient, and remain consistent.