It’s around 6.30 on a weekday evening in the city of London and I’m quite looking forward to sitting down and chatting it up with Jamelia Donaldson, CEO of Treasure Tress, the UK’s FIRST monthly subscription box for young girls and women with kinky, curly, coily or frizzy hair.
“I handed in my notice today!” Jamelia boldly says as we get ready to order dinner. Up until now, the 24 year old had been juggling a full-time job and business at the same. Taking her hustle full-time is a move she had wanted to make for while, but only recently finally gained the full confidence to do.
“I’ve been toying with the idea for about a year, she says. “Last year, I had a crazy quarter life crisis. I thought to myself: ‘This can’t be my life.’
“My family were proud of me, I had a good job and was earning good money for my age. I didn’t feel fulfilled but I didn’t want to disappoint my family.
“But then I came across something on Instagram that said, ‘Don’t set yourself on fire just to keep other people warm’. I realised that I actually developed a fear of disappointing others and not having money.
“I spent a lot of time listening to podcasts by entrepreneurs who say that rich people value time, and poor people value money,” Jamelia says. “I don’t have a fear of money anymore. I know that I’ve got time on my hands, I’m clever and I posses the right skills. I’d rather disappoint others than myself.”
But Jamelia is yet to disappoint. Over the past four months, Treasure Tress has provided young girls and women a mix of the best quality hair products right to their doorstep.
“I’m a product junkie and people would usually come to me for hair advice. So I decided to capitalise on that,” Jamelia says. “I fell in love with the subscription business model, it just seemed like a genius way for people to find out about new products.”
Wanting to provide her niece with encouragement on how to take care of her natural hair in the future, Jamelia’s initial aim was to create a box solely for young girls. But it was the website’s landing page that allowed her to see what the real demand was.
“Women stated whether they’d be interested in a box for ‘me’ or ‘mini-me’. I found that majority chose the ‘me’ option and the age ranges varied. So I responded to that,” she says.
Jamelia came up with the concept of Mini Me, Tween and Qween boxes. She had a logo designed, and incorporated the business. But the work didn’t stop there.
Jamelia picked a random launch date for six months ahead and using the help of family and friends, began putting the finishing touches in place to launch with a bang.
“My boyfriend designed the website and one of my uni friends shot the images. Two weeks before the launch, we booked out a studio in Peckham. I messaged some of my best friends and cousins who were all natural, and asked them to be a part of the shoot.”
“It was trial and error. But people saw the branding and the Instagram page and wanted to get involved,” she says.
Jamelia used her knowledge in PR and skills in relationship building to efficiently liaise with brands to encourage them to sponsor the box. She found that many were willing.
“International brands saw it as the perfect opportunity to reach out because they had enough products and were willing to experiment among black women and those with curly textured hair”
After honing the brand and taking time to research and select the best products on the market, on the 15 November 2015, Treasure Tress launched.
“There was a lot of excitement, especially from people who knew me because they knew how passionate I am about hair,” Jamelia explains. “But there was also some scepticism because people wondered if they were going to get a box full of sachet samples. The first box proved that I wasn’t playing games. I wasn’t just throwing products together, but I was giving customers quality.”
Now on the fourth box, Jamelia continues to prove herself as well as making vital changes along the way – such as taking constructive criticism from Wah Nails founder Sharmadean Reid.
“I gave her a Mini Me box for her son. She said it was amazing, but that I should include more information inside the box because she didn’t know what to do with some of the products.” Jamelia explains. “Since then, I’ve introduced an information card that spells out what each product does and the order in which to use them.”
In order to keep customer engagement thriving, Jamelia regularly sends out informative newsletters and blog posts.
"This morning I sent one explaining the benefits of using a tshirt vs a towel to dry hair. So in the recent Qween box I included a t-shirt so customers could apply the knowledge. Little things like this definitely make the box different to the rest of them.”
It’s still early days for Treasure Tress, but with Jamelia’s outstanding work ethic being a driving force, the service is definitely here to stay.
“I’ve always been very hardworking. If I’ve wanted something, I’ve always gone out and got it,” she says. “Everyday, I wake up at 5 am and work until 7am. Go to work, get home for about 7pm and work again until about 12 midnight.
“Throughout the day at work I’m taking conference calls, responding to emails, posting on Instagram and tweeting. Anytime I do get a bit down or really tired, I receive encouraging emails from my customers. They remind me that I’m doing the right thing, at the right time, for the right people.”
Setting up a business or passion project is no easy feat. For lack of money, time or just simply being afraid, many people fail to take the appropriate steps to start.
“To get started, register your company, set up your social media pages, set a launch date and you’re good to go!” Jamelia says. “Share the date with the public so you’re accountable. You can launch a business if you just want to make money, but good luck with that! Create something that is actually going to add value to someone’s life as well as yours.
Jamelia also encourages young people who are due to finish school to pay attention to what they’re good at, and to be careful about taking wrong counsel from parents who may not be entirely clued up on the current climate.
“Be respectful and don’t get yourself kicked out the house, but trust yourself too,” she says, “Work hard on your craft but don’t make money the determining factor. Don’t let your age hinder you. At 16, it’s easy to think you have time and that you can start at 25. But Mark Zuckerburg is laughing because he worked on his craft from a very young age. Facebook probably wasn’t his first business, but he kept trying. If you start at 16 and fail 5 times, by the time you’re 25, you could be a millionaire!”
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