Cherice William’s strongest subject in high school was Math, so it’s no surprise that she chose to pursue a degree in accounting when she went to university, with her eyes set on becoming a Financial Analyst.
“That was my passion,” Williams says.
However, things did not go as planned. When she could no longer afford her tuition fee, she was forced to stop her studies in Jamaica where she was born and raised. Desperate to find a way back to school, she travelled to the US in May 2016 to look for work.
Two years later, despite working as a housekeeper and a waitress, Cherice could never seem to earn what she needed to resume her studies. Not only was life no better for her than when she arrived, but things had actually gotten worse. Her health had begun to decline.
“I was experiencing hair thinning. I put on a lot of weight in my stomach area, and my menstrual cycles were not regular.”
In 2018, bloodwork confirmed Cherice had a hormonal disorder known as Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Learning that PCOS can have infertility implications, flare-ups etc, Cherice felt frustrated.
But despite the severity of the diagnosis and what it meant for multiple aspects of her life, she decided to tackle the symptoms that she felt could be managed, like her hair loss. Little did she know this act would eventually lead her to grow a multi-million-dollar hair business—Blaq Luxury.
Cherice tells me she did a lot of research to figure out what she could use to bring back her hair. She knew Jamaican Black Castor Oil could help from its popularity in the West Indies so she began mixing it with other oils and ingredients she learned were good for promoting hair growth.
Soon after using her concoction, she noticed her hair stopped shedding excessively!
“When I used to run my hands through my hair, there would be hair flying all over the place. That actually stopped,” Williams says.
Having a surplus of her elixir and wanting to help other women going through the same thing, Cherice began to offer her product to other women.
“I was in a Facebook group for persons with PCOS. It’s a group for us to talk about hair-related stuff and other issues, and there were a lot of women that wanted to purchase the product,” Williams says.
Here’s where things began to get interesting for Cherice. Though she never intended for this to be a business, she found herself steadily selling her product through Facebook.
“It wasn’t a lot, but it was steady. I would say over the period of two or three months, I sold around 200 units, about $4,000 in sales.”
The steady sales in the group coupled with repeat buyers and her hair success made her realize maybe this could be a business. However, for it to be sustainable, she would need to get in front of more people.
“If I had the money at the time, I would have gone back to school and finished my degree but I was a housekeeper and a waitress. I wasn’t very happy at both jobs. I started to see where Blaq Luxury could become a company if I invested more time and effort into it. So that is a risk I took to see where it would take me,” Williams says.
Investing Her Rent Money on One Shade Room Post
To get in front of more people, Cherice tried connecting with influencers to promote her product, but few responded to her messages. Of the accounts she reached out to, The Shade Room was one of the few who responded and were willing to help her out. For the price of her rent, they could post a single promotion on their feed for her.
At the time, Williams says the $2,000 post was the most affordable media option.
“It was expensive for me but some accounts were charging upwards of $10,000 – $15,000 for a post. I slept on it. I prayed. I slept on it. But I just had this belief that there was a market for what I was offering. I just needed to be held in front of the right audience.”
Cherice sent them her rent money. If the tactic didn’t work, it would have been an extreme hit to her.
“It would have broken me real bad,” Williams says.
But to her surprise and delight when the Shade Room posted about her business she made her money back in just 24 hours!
“I made almost $3,000. I could pay rent and invest in a label printer because I was manually printing shipping labels, cutting them out with scissors, pasting them on packages, etc.”
Cherice saved up money for another post and did that several times until she started growing organically through word of mouth, and repeat buyers.
Getting Into Stores
Wanting to expand by selling her product in stores, Cherice approached small local beauty supply stores in Orlando to see if they would stock her product.
“We pitched to stores on several occasions directly with no luck. I guess there are thousands of people doing the same thing.”
But when a businesswoman who wanted Blaq Luxury in her store reached out to Cherice online, that’s when momentum started to build.
“They actually helped us in getting into the beauty supply store.”
Cherice says it was through this experience that she began to learn what it took to get into stores. There were product and packaging regulations she needed to comply with to be stocked. She had to hire a chemist to make her formula up-to-code too.
“We had to change our labelling, basically rebrand, as well as the whole formulation. We had to have everything done professionally. We had to prove that we were able to ship not just individual packages but pallets etc.”
Williams says it was a very tedious process but at the same time rewarding.
Now Blaq Luxury is in around 500 plus beauty supply stores and is also anticipating a launch in Sally Beauty and Target.
What She’s Learned From Being An Entrepreneur
From her time as an entrepreneur Cherice says above all, she learned patience and not dwelling on the bad.
“Everything is a process. I developed patience. I know that today might not be a good day, but tomorrow might be a better day. That’s what keeps me going. I try not to dwell on bad things or things that are not promising at the moment, but I look toward what the future really is going to offer. We’re a small company with big dreams. Even though there are bigger companies out there, we don’t let that scare us because they started just as small as we did. So I know that we can get there too with hard work and determination.”
Cherice anticipates going to the mass retail market so Blaq Luxury can become more accessible to consumers and reach a wider audience. She also wants to start donating 1% of the company’s profits to PCOS organizations. Finally, while Cherice no longer wants to become a Financial Analyst (she loves being the visionary of her company), she does plan on finishing her degree.
“Right now a lot is going on but as soon as I stabilize, then I’m definitely going back to school just to be educated for myself. It has always been my dream so I want to execute it.”
“Everyone’s journey is different,” Williams says. “My journey, I would say honestly, was just faith, luck, and chances. If you believe that you have a great product or service to offer and you think it is in demand, and you can make a difference, my advice is to go for it. Put your all into it because you never know where it will take you until you try.”
To shop Blaq Luxury, go to https://blaqluxuryhair.com/