Thirteen years ago while working at a Chicago law firm, Chris-Tia Donaldson started transitioning out of her relaxed hairstyle.
“There were very few products on the market for kinky, curly and wavy textures and it was before you could find information on YouTube,” recalled Donaldson.
Her research into alternatives to lye-based relaxers prompted her to write a book, “Thank God I’m Natural: The Ultimate Guide for Natural Hair.”
While touring the country discussing her book, Donaldson noticed women started asking her for products. She didn’t start out to be an entrepreneur, but found herself mixing products in her kitchen and peddling them at festivals, churches, bookstores and farmer’s markets. She tapped into her $40,000 savings to get started.
“I was literally selling shampoo and conditioner out of the trunk of my car,” recalled Donaldson of the line she called TGIN for Thank God It’s Natural.
Right from the start she stressed the moisturization benefits of her line. “Other brands were talking about silky curls. We were focused on moisture right out of the gate and that is the biggest distinguishing factor.”
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Through social media exposure, her line caught the attention of Target, a pioneer in texture hair care. While presenting to Target, Donaldson was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer. That fortified her efforts to make the line as natural as possible.
Following success at Target, TGIN is now sold in Whole Foods and Sally Beauty with plans to add CVS and Walgreens in 2017. TGIN is also distributed internationally.
“This [textured hair] is a big industry and women want choices,” said Donaldson. Underscoring the demand is the fact Target’s department has exploded for an original four-foot section to as high as 16 feet in some stores.
Her line now encompasses 12 hair and body items priced from $9.99 to $17.99. While TGIN was made with black hair in mind, Donaldson said TGIN’s moisturizing properties help the collection provide benefits to all consumers, especially those with aging, processed or straightened hair. In general: the brand is especially effective for those who have compromised the health or integrity of their hair.
Social media is at the heart of her marketing efforts, especially since those platforms encourage a dialog among customers. “We have become experts in our messaging,” she said of the social media efforts.
Donaldson has more items in the pipeline for 2017 including a moisturizing styling gel and an edge control paste.
Pitching products to potential retailers has more in common with her law career than might be expected. “Working with retailers is a like a mini-court room trial where I make the case for more shelf space. I continue to gather the evidence to support my case.”