Founders of Mented, CURLS and Me & the Bees Lemonade offer entrepreneurship tips

By Lottie Watts
Published Oct 7, 2020

This week on NRF Foundation All Access, we featured a panel discussion on the challenges and opportunities in retail for Black-owned businesses. 

Here are a few takeaways from the discussion:

Mented Co-Founder and COO Amanda Johnson on planning for growth:

We launched with six lipsticks. We now have 80-plus SKUs, but that took three and a half years to get there.

We thoughtfully rolled out the business and the collection. We did our entire product development process. We had customers validate it. We had retailers validate it. We thought through seasons and what customers really wanted.

You don’t have to have it all up front. You’ve got to leave them wanting more, and having a plan is going to help.

CURLS Founder and CEO Mahisha Dellinger on safely taking a risk:

I always suggest this to anyone I mentor: You never leave your job until you have enough stable income, sales and history to sustain going into business and taking a salary.

I did not leave corporate and then go directly to CURLS. I went to pharmaceutical sales so I could have flexibility with my schedule, use the income from that job to funnel back into the family and every penny made in CURLS stayed into CURLS. I did that for three years.

Before I took a salary, I had to be profitable times 10. Be very conservative in that space. If you quit your job early on, and you are trying to grow a business but also have to pull a salary to live, you’re doing the business a disservice.

Me & the Bees Lemonade Founder Mikaila Ulmer on aligning with a cause:

Attach some sort of mission or cause to your idea. For me, it was saving the bees and encouraging social entrepreneurship.

Not only because there is an increase in customers who want to see the good businesses are doing, because that’s definitely there. It’s also something a lot bigger to motivate you and your team members.

You’re going to draw people who share that same mission and want to make a difference, so when you have adversities in your company, it’s going to be a lot easier to overcome those.

If you’ve missed any NRF Foundation All Access sessions this fall, you can find all the videos on our on-demand page – including exclusives like our deep dive into COVID-19’s impact on how and why we shop with the National Retail Federation’s Senior Director of Industry and Consumer Insights Katherine Cullen.

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