Create & Cultivate 100: Beauty: Courtney Adeleye

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Courtney Adeleye is a BAWSE. Literally.

The self-made mogul is the CEO of The Mane Choice, Foolproof Body, executive producer of Who’s The Bawse (coming summer ‘19!), and CEO of The Bawse Conference. She launched The Mane Choice hair empire with $500 of her own money and business acumen from growing up with scarce resources in Detroit and putting herself through college. Her entrepreneurship paired with her unique perspective on the beauty industry has made her a force to be reckoned with.

Oh, and that $500 investment in herself scaled to $25 million in sales for The Mane Choice in just four years.

She is the definition of a hustler, but with the spirit of a community leader. Because she didn’t have a mentor as she launched her career, she’s passionate about providing professional counsel to a new generation of entrepreneurial women. Whether it’s through her weekly “Pay My Bill” initiative on Instagram wherein she pays one follower’s bills each week, granting female-driven startups seed capital through Who’s The Bawse, or sharing motivational realness on her Instagram, Courtney has an intimate relationship with her community of aspiring BAWSE babes.

How did the idea for The Mane Choice come about? What made you want to start a hair care line?

After a hair coloring experience went terribly wrong, I went on a rampage to find the best way to fix it, but I wanted a more natural solution. I started to research ingredients and hair products to help with the journey. So, I decided to make my own deep conditioner by blending natural ingredients together. I started a YouTube channel to document my journey to healthy, waist-length hair. Eventually, I shared my deep conditioning recipe with my subscribers, and most of them didn’t want to make it. They preferred for me to make it and sell it to them. The light bulb came on, and that’s when The Mane Choice was born. My husband, Wale, and I started the business with $500. That same deep conditioner was the very first product sold under The Mane Choice name, and the rest is history!

A lot of people have asked you to be their mentor. What’s one piece of advice you would give everyone if you could?

Everyone has a gift! Ultimately, it’s up to you to learn what it is and hone it. Be open minded and receptive to learning and growing—ALWAYS. If you’re not teachable, there’s no way you can evolve. Condition your mind and your body every day. Take it upon yourself to learn something new and exercise, daily. Be introspective; always evaluate yourself—polish your current skills, develop new ones, and expand your limitations.

You have such a large presence on social media. How has it impacted your career?

I’ve been able to build some new relationships and nurture existing ones. Social media has been instrumental in helping me to touch people that I may not have had access to before.

What can the beauty industry be doing better?

By not only recognizing that beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, and colors, but by being intentional and inclusive. All people should see themselves represented in a positive light in the beauty industry. We need to see more variations of beauty. EVERYONE should be represented, as representation matters.

What characteristics make you successful in the beauty industry?

You must be bold, creative, and resilient! The beauty industry is ever-changing, and you must be adaptable, or you’ll be stagnant. Stagnation eventually causes you to become extinct or invisible (at least in the eyes of the consumer).

What does it take to build a beauty brand from the ground up in today’s world?

It takes innovation and the guts to take risks. Find your target demographic and shower her with love and attention! You MUST listen to your consumer and be open to not nailing it 100% in the beginning. That creates opportunities to learn and evolve.

What about your job makes you feel the most fulfilled?

I’m fulfilled knowing that my way of creating solutions to problems in the beauty industry has simultaneously enabled me to offer livelihoods to some amazing people.

What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever been given?

Try not to rush the process, yet don’t be afraid to take chances. Enjoy each phase of growth. Learn as much as you can in each “season” of building your business so that you can scale in the best way possible. Many business owners want to grow large, and quickly! Believe it or not, it’s possible to be unprepared for rapid growth, so pace yourself.

What’s been the biggest surprise or highlight of your career to date?

My biggest highlight, so far, really has little to do with business. It has been the effect that my giving back has on people. What comes second nature to me, can be monumental to others. Recently, my husband and I wanted to do something special for our daughters’ teacher. She works so hard, and when I found out that she was taking multiple buses to get to work, I thought something was grossly wrong with that. It bothered me terribly; it was only natural for me to want her to have reliable transportation, so I bought her a car. It was so fulfilling to just GIVE! The response I received from everyone caught me completely off guard! It was and still is an overwhelming highlight in my life.

Try not to rush the process, yet don’t be afraid to take chances. Enjoy each phase of growth.

Where does your passion/drive come from?

I’m heavily driven by my family. Mostly my husband and my children. They’re my ”why!”

What are the common challenges you've seen among female hairstylists?

Typically, I’ve seen them have challenges with adaptability. When times change, and hair styles and techniques evolve, some of them either refuse to just go with it or they wait as long as they can to learn new techniques or polish up the ones they have.

When you hit a bump or hurdle in your career, how do you find a new road and switch gears to find success?

Just like in life, you deal with it. In the beginning, it may knock the wind out of you, but you assess the situation, learn from it and use it as a catalyst to grow. Sometimes the solution won’t be obvious, so you may have to really dig deep and request the help of your support system, and/or mentor.

Whose career really inspires you?

Right now, the owner of Amazon, Jeff Bezos. He’s a beast! I truly admire his work ethic and business savvy!

What’s next for you in 2019? What are you most excited for?

For 2019, my mission is to be on all hair care aisles, not just the ethnic/multicultural section…I am most excited about the possibilities. They are infinite!