Brands aren’t made overnight — and that couldn’t be truer for vlogger, social media and hair crush Whitney White. Better known as Naptural85, the social media celeb has been in the vlogging game since 2010, amassing more than one million followers.
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Fans first fell in love with her head full of enviable, voluminous curls and then her easy-to-follow tutorials. They also wanted in on her DIY hair recipes, often asking to buy them directly from her. Through the idea sparked her interest, White often talked herself out of it.
“I always brushed it aside, because my main goal was to encourage people to be independent with their haircare. So selling products to them seemed a bit counterproductive to that goal,” she said. “But as time went on, I would receive messages from people telling me that they really wanted to try my homemade products, but they either didn’t have the time to make them or couldn’t mix it the same way I did.”
Eventually, Whitney chose to respond to the requests and ventured into a six-year effort to develop her own products. With her partner and sister, Taffeta White, by her side, she created Melanin Haircare. The first collection debuted in the fall of 2018 and included a Twist-Elongating Style Cream, a Multi-Use Pure Oil Blend and other signature merchandise, all of which have received rave reviews.
Hype Hair talked with Whitney about the challenges she faced while building a brand from scratch and the lessons she learned along the way.
HYPE HAIR: This was six years in the making. Why so long and what was the process like?
WW: I wanted to create my homemade recipes, but on a large scale, and it had to be just as beneficial for my community as it was for me. I didn’t want to just make money for the sake of making money. There’s plenty of opportunity to just slap your name on a pre-made product and pretend that you made it, or settle for some chemical-laden product that works just fine. No, I was intentional about exactly what I wanted to do and how it needed to be done, which eliminates a lot of opportunities to fast-track your way through the process. But in addition to that, I was creating this line solely with my sister. Neither of us had any previous knowledge about creating products on a large scale like this, so many of those years were spent gaining the knowledge, making the mistakes, failing and trying again.
All the pieces to the puzzle needed to fit; not to mention, this was not something that we were able to commit 24 hours of our day to. I was still a mom to two kids, working as a full-time social media “influencer,” keeping all of my social platforms updated with new content. I was vlogging every single day, editing eight videos a week, not to mention traveling for events, and fulfilling my contractual agreements that I had with different brands… it was a lot, to put it lightly.
HH: Many bloggers use their fame and notoriety to create namesake collections with established brands. What made you go the independent route?
WW: That is a great option if you have it, but the haircare brands that I reached out to were not interested in partnering with me on such a venture. This was the first route I tried to take, starting back in February 2012, and I was swiftly and immediately shot down. I quickly got the hint that this type of collaboration wouldn’t be welcome, and decided to stop inquiring to protect my confidential information. But I think it was a blessing in disguise because had those brands accepted my proposals; my hair products would no longer belong to me, it would be a part of someone else’s product line for eternity, helping to build their legacy, not my own.
HH: You and your sister work on this brand together. How did that partnership come to be and what has it been like to work with your sibling on this passion project?
WW: My sister Taffeta has always had my back growing up, so looking back now I think it was a natural and organic progression. We first started working together when she saw me drowning in all the work I had to do, helping me to pick up on the slack for my Naptural85 brand. At this time I had already started the beginning stages of work on my haircare line but had hit a giant wall. I discussed options with my sister on how to move forward, and then asked her if she wanted to partner with me on the line! She accepted my offer, and we’ve been working together on it ever since. My sister and I have always worked well together, since we were little kids selling lemonade, pop-rocks and pogs on the curb outside our house growing up, haha! We’ve always had a natural entrepreneurial mindset, and looking back, it was always a partnered venture with us working together! We’ve always been our strongest when united together, and Melanin Haircare has proven to be no different.
HH: We’ve all tried out your hair recipes throughout the years like your infamous flaxseed gel. Will there be some variation of that coming out under Melanin Haircare soon?
WW: I definitely don’t want to ruin any surprises, but I’d say that anything that I’ve made over the past 10 years on my YouTube channel is fair game for Melanin Haircare. *wink*
HH: What were some of the biggest lessons you and your sister learned about starting a haircare business, and what advice would you have to women who are hoping to launch their own business?
WW: Our biggest lesson learned is ultimately, to not give up. There were numerous times when we just looked at each other, with tears forming in our eyes, just wanting to throw in the towel. It seemed like money would be wasted, time down the drain, efforts not rewarded, but do not give up. Entrepreneurship, like real from-the-ground-up entrepreneurship, is not pretty, glamorous or easy. It is usually right at the breaking point when you feel like you’ve just fallen off a cliff, that the relief comes. You will somehow find a way, as long as you push through and do not give up. And if it’s something that you really want to do, you will stay the course.
HH: What’s next for you and the brand?
WW: We’ll be at the upcoming Beauty Carnival in New York in April, so you can catch us there! And we’ll be launching with that new-new soon enough, so be on the lookout at MelaninHaircare.com.
This interview was edited for clarity and length.