In our new series entitled “Entrepreneurial,” BuzzologySurveys spotlights the African American business owner, what drives their success, and the challenges they overcame to start their own venture.
Debra Smalls, creator of HPO Spa Treatments, knew first hand as a stylist that quality products were key to helping her clients maintain healthy, beautiful tresses. The St. Louis salon owner developed High Performance Organics in 2005, a line incorporating natural, all organic ingredients; she expanded last spring to include a skin care line.
Using essentials such as avocado, honey, shea butter, citrus and coconut oil, HPO not only feeds and moisturizes the hair and skin, but also “nourish your soul.” Products such as “Twisty Locs,” “Butter Drops,” and “Lemon Body Bar” have already generated buzz in magazines such as Jolie, Clutch, and YMIB.com.
Smalls, and other entrepreneurs such as her, are tapping into a very lucrative market: African American hair/beauty care - estimated to be $1.8 billion annually. She shares with BuzzologySurveys her inspiration for starting HPO as well as offers advice for those starting their own business:
* First off, we’re loving the company name HPO (Happy People Only). Tell us what inspired you to create a beauty line that incorporates natural ingredients? "My inspiration came from over fifteen years’ experience in the beauty industry…based on many perceptions, one being global warming, it has changed our environment and we need to start becoming aware of the endless possibilities, combined with traditional knowledge and therapy together."
She also shares, "so much of our resources come from nature…in creating the HPO SPA TREATMENTS product line…there are no exceptions…this product is blended with love."
* What are some of the products you offer? "Just to name a few of our top sellers…SPA Conditioning Treatment, Butter Drops, Happy Scalp, Twisty Lochs & Raw Sugar Scrub."
* With so many hair and beauty products available, how have you been able to differentiate HPO from other lines? "HPO is a product that has been created by (me, a working stylist)…who would know better based on customer demand? Other popular brands test on animals and we tested in a salon environment…our line is about treating and maintaining healthy hair & glowing skin without lanolin, petroleum...and we (also) have no sulfates in our shampoo."
* What are some of the ways you’ve been able to generate buzz for your company? "Generating buzz for HPO has been a constant effort through top magazines exposure, the internet and hard work…my customer base has been great at spreading the word…and it also helps that I sleep and eat my HPO product line to everyone I meet."
* Tell us about your other company plans for this year. "HPO plans to create a concept that will allow salons & spas an (exclusive) service that offers just hair treatments only available (through them)….it's a marketing tool for a new clientele base that focuses on healthy hair."
* If you could get your products in the hands of anyone (celebs, etc.), who would it be? "Celebrities? (It’s a) tough call since we have such a diverse line of products for most textures & hair types…Alisha Keys, Jill Scott, Paris Hilton for her line of hair extensions to reduce tangles (are a few.)"
* You talked about the passion that drove you to start your own business. Share some of the challenges you faced when creating your venture in 2005. How were you able to fund your business? "I'm blessed God gave me this gift, so challenges have been few….funding was in place when my vision began many years ago."
* What advice would you share with aspiring entrepreneurs? “Entrepreneurs, please stay true to you dreams, love what you do, and put the creator first…he has your back.”