Today we’d like to introduce you to Kyra Nicole Young and John Moore.
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
During my freshman year at UCLA, I walked through Westwood and caught the bus to three beauty supplies in search of a hair moisturizer and products for my sensitive skin. To my disappointment there was nothing but “gel and mousse” (as one beauty supply rep recommended) for my hair type. Instead of getting angry or resting on the fact that I would have to always take a 3-hour bus ride home to south central LA to get beauty care products, I decided that I would create them myself.
One of my majors was African-American Studies and I was very interested in learning my roots, including what African women used on their hair and skin. After Google-searching this info, I kept seeing Shea Butter and ordered some off Amazon. Both my hair and skin loved it, but I didn’t like the texture or the strong nutty smell of it. I started mixing in other ingredients like my Mom’s olive oil in her kitchen cabinet, aloe vera juice that my grandma taught me about from her garden, vanilla extract, and other things I could get my hands on. My Mom was a cake decorator, so the way we made buttercream icing was the way I would begin to make my multipurpose “Butter Creams” for hair and skin. I experimented with more natural raw ingredients, including butters, plant extracts, carrier, and essential oils until I had what I believed was the perfect “Medley”.
I had no intention of turning my little creations into a business though. When friends and family started asking me to make them some, I would tell them to buy the ingredients and I would do so happily, free of charge. I rejected the idea of owning a business because I had already decided on my majors (neither of them business nor chemistry) and I had no business experience. After sharing the products with his coworkers and receiving an overwhelming positive response (and orders), it was my boyfriend, John Moore (KSM’s Chief Marketing Officer), who encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone, do something spontaneous for once, and we started the company together. A little over a year later, Michael Moore, John’s brother invested in our business and became a member of our team.
Kyra’s Shea Medleys was born out of a need for natural products in underrepresented communities like ours. That need turned into a demand that we were willing to meet for our customers. To date, we have been featured on Good Morning America, Mashable, Essence Magazine, Blavity, LA Sentinel, 102.3 KJLH Radio, Mercy 4 Animals, and many more. Our products have been sold in 17 Target stores in Los Angeles and local beauty salons and supplies including The Girl Cave LA. We were recognized for our KSM Gives Back efforts by Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Senator Steven Bradford, and more. And through it all we give God the glory.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
We have constantly grown despite the disadvantages we have faced when we began our business. Not only am I a first-generation college graduate, but John and I are both first-generation business owners from underrepresented, low-income communities in South Central LA. In starting Kyra’s Shea Medleys, we had taken a huge leap into entrepreneurship with no prior resources, no business knowledge, no role models, no mentors, and very, very little finances.
Our research and knowledge began with Google, Youtube videos, and trips after work (yep, we both had full-time jobs) to Barnes and Nobles to read business books. I was into learning about ingredients and legalities, while John was gaining some great social media marketing skills. I designed our first labels on Microsoft PowerPoint, printed them on non-weatherproof label paper at Staples, then we hand cut the labels with scissors. I had the audacity to trademark our first logo, which was drawn with colored pencils on black construction paper and cropped in Windows Paint. Haha. We still laugh when we think about where we came from, but you have to start somewhere. Our logos and labels you see today were professionally designed and printed, thank God!
We started our e-commerce store on Wix.com and made about $8,000 in online sales during our first year, then raised about 3/5 of our $5,000 goal on a crowdfunding campaign we put together in two weeks. Yes, we had no clue what we were doing. We found out just how horrible of a site we had when the blessing to go on Good Morning America in New York came about. In just one hour of the show airing live, we had more than doubled our sales for the year. Not only did our website crash multiple times from the inability to handle the traffic, but it was also not compatible with mobile devices at the time, which cost us at least 70% more sales. We were happy and devastated at the same time, but how could we have known back then.
A year later, we would experience another blessing that came into fruition before we were ready. We were sitting around my Mom’s kitchen table, our work area, contemplating on whether we should call it quits. Sales had slowed down, we were tired, and we were not sure of what to do next. John had the idea to sneak into Target to snap a picture of our products on their shelves, then we put that image as our laptops’ screensavers, envisioned and prayed over it.
A month later, we were pitching our business to Target with no knowledge of the retail channel, no barcodes, no SKUs, and no help. To our surprise, Target loved our story so much that they decided to partner with us anyway and featured our products along with a few other small brands in 17 Target stores in LA. We had no idea how intense and time-consuming BNB retail would be and our online sales took a major hit as Target took up 85% of our team’s capacity. We were stocking our products on the shelves ourselves, pretending to be customers to see what was in inventory at each store, trying to schedule in-store demos, and encouraging our customers to shop at Target in hopes that we would be become a resident brand. Unfortunately, none of the brands that we went into Target with got to stay, but we learned a lot in that year.
These are only a couple of obstacles that we have been through, but what we learned from them humbled us and got us thinking about better ways to improve our business. We needed to educate ourselves and that is what we did and do everyday. We joined a business accelerator program, took many classes at our local Small Business Development Center and more. Business is full of successes and struggles that will test your relationships, eat up your money, drain your energy, and take up your time, but we are not alone and surrounding yourself with like-minded people helps.
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Kyra’s Shea Medleys – what should we know?
Kyra’s Shea Medleys seeks to empower women to embrace their natural curls and love their skin. Our products are natural, vegan, cruelty-free, and multipurpose in that they can literally be used from hair to toe. We only use “SHE-approved” (Safe, Healthy, Effective) ingredients that are Safe for your entire family, are packed with benefits that boost your Health, and have been combined in a way that Effectively does exactly what they say they will do for both your hair and skin. We list every ingredient in our Medleys and shed light on the ingredients we do not include:
“ABSOLUTELY NO Sulfates, Petroleum, Silicones, Mineral Oil, Parabens, Phthalates, GMOs, Artificial Colors, Isopropyl Alcohol, Lanolin, Animal By-Products and NO Animal Testing.”
Not only are we transparent about every ingredient on our labels, but we dare people to read the back of the jars of any item they use in their beauty regimens. We believe in providing only high-quality products that are NOT watered down or filled with harmful chemicals disguised by pretty labels. We believe in creating truly multipurpose products because what we put on our hair should be safe enough to put on our skin and vice versa. WHY? Our customers deserve nothing less. Period. Our products and our excellent customer service ratings are how we set ourselves apart at Kyra’s Shea Medleys.
We are most proud of our KSM Gives Back program. Before we even made our first sale, we were giving away free products to homeless shelters and clinics in Los Angeles. During our first Back To Natural Launch Party to introduce our brand to the community, we donated a percentage of our proceeds and 100 jars to local shelter for women. We started asking our customers what causes they support, so to date, we have donated over 7,000 jars to nonprofit organizations that seek to end homelessness, spread breast cancer awareness, empower historically marginalized groups like women and people of color to pursue entrepreneurship, uplift youth development and leadership, and more. “Every purchase is a purpose” here at Kyra’s Shea Medleys, so every time you buy one of our products, you are giving back to our communities in need. Nominate a nonprofit you support at https://kyrashea.com/pages/ksm-gives-back.
Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
There are many qualities and characteristics we feel that every brand should have if they want to be successful, but if we had to spotlight any, we would say “grit” and “service.” I bet you will find a bit of each in every story of successful brands.
To us, grit is simply the willingness to better yourself and move forward in the face of fear. We had no knowledge on how to start a business “the right way” nor did we have anyone to guide us, but we did it anyways. We learned, we experienced, and we met people along the way. The funny thing is that when we ask other entrepreneurs and business owners about their journeys, they all said that they reached a point of “Just Do It” and get back up if you fall. Businesses are inevitably built on risks, debts, and failures, but what you learn during the storm and what you do in the aftermath are what matters. I always say that my education didn’t start in a classroom and it certainly won’t end there. That means there is always an opportunity to learn and improve in life. Grit will help you get there.
There is a saying that without customers, you have no business being in business. Some people may say, “Duh, that’s common sense,” but what is not so common is how you gain and maintain those customers. Service should be the foundation of every business from how we treat and service our customers to our employees and anyone else that we work with including the postal workers that deliver our packages. It may be a result of where we come from and how we were raised, but at Kyra’s Shea Medleys, kindness and gratitude is in full supply. We pride ourselves in providing excellent customer service and obtaining customer feedback so that we can improve. Whenever we connect with other entrepreneurs, we aim to establish a mutually beneficial business relationship. And because we take a little extra time to listen, be respectful, and offer kindness to our postman, ingredient suppliers, customer service reps at our banks, servers at restaurants, and random people we may come across on the street, we are always met with the same kind of service, priority placement, extra valuable info shared, and even more.
Grit and service.
- 15% Off Discount Code = VOYAGELA
- Prices range from $5.99 (individual items) to $74.99 (Gift Sets)
- Website: https://kyrashea.com
- Phone: (323)244-7390
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kyrasheamedleys/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kyrasheamedleys
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/KyraSheaMedleys
- Other: https://www.pinterest.com/kyrasheamedleys/ and www.sheamed.com (our CBD-infused line)
The first image is by Mesiyah McGinnis (LA Sentinel)