Coined a “black beauty pioneer” by Essence magazine; Rochelle Graham’s journey began when she decided to chuck straightening chemicals in exchange for embracing her hair’s natural texture with the launch of her BlackOnyx77 YouTube channel as an undergraduate student in 2008.
Always having felt a connection with nature from her early countryside childhood with her herbalist grandmother in Jamaica, it wasn’t long after her “Big Chop” that Graham began bringing the herbalist remedies to life with the creation of Alikay Naturals. Offering hair care products composed of the richest natural & organic ingredients packed with healing properties and natural humectants to define curls, Alikay Naturals nurtures and replenishes moisture from root to tip.
Today, the CEO and “mompreneur” focuses on using her brands as a platform to inspire and motivate women to look beyond their circumstances to achieve their dreams. A well-respected industry influencer with 79,000+ YouTube subscribers and over 12 million video views, Graham travels the globe hosting demos and sharing her own journey of relearning how to maintain her natural hair texture without all of the artificial frills.
Rochelle answers a few questions for Regal Realness fans:
YOU AND YOUR BRAND ARE CORNERSTONES IN THE NATURAL HAIR COMMUNITY. DID YOU KNOW YOU WOULD HAVE SO MUCH SUCCESS WHEN LAUNCHED YOUR FIRST YOUTUBE VIDEO IN 2008?
Initially, I began documenting my natural hair journey with photos and videos to use as a reference point for determining the best ways to re-create my hair styles later. I was bouncing between undergraduate courses and working, so the videos made it easier for me to remember what I did to achieve different looks. As more people started inquiring about what I did to achieve different styles on my natural hair, I started creating instructional videos on my BlackOnyx77 channel to support other women as they embarked on the same path. At the time, I never imagined that those videos would spark the birth of Alikay Naturals as an influential brand in the natural hair community.
VIRGINIA TECH RECENTLY MADE HEADLINES FOR LAUNCHING A $5.1 MILLION ON CAMPUS PROGRAM FOR ASPIRING ENTREPRENEURS. WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER YOUNG ENTREPRENEURS WHO ARE LOOKING TO MAKE THEIR BUSINESS PLANS A REALITY?
Invest your time wisely in research. Industry knowledge, money and a vision are the main resources. Be passionate about your business and be willing to go the extra mile for your business. Having your own business is so different from working for someone else. There is no one to tell you when to start your day or end your day. You have to be self-disciplined, be able to set your own boundaries and have the ability to forecast what your business needs for growth. As an entrepreneur loving what you do is an important part of the dedication to your business, because you are going to work harder, wear many hats and be required to make sacrifices.
WITH OVER 79,000 SUBSCRIBERS ON YOUR BLACKONYX YOUTUBE CHANNEL AND OVER 12 MILLION VIDEO VIEWS, HOW HAS YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA BACKGROUND INFLUENCED YOUR BRAND?
Alikay Naturals is currently sold at over 100 retail outlets across the US with a plan for mass market expansion in 2014. As YouTube played a key role in the launch of Alikay Naturals 4 years ago, I want to keep social media at the core of the consumer identifying with the brand. As a vlogger, I saw how consumers sharing their experiences on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook greatly impacted how brand messaging spread.
From our “Regal Royal Natural” theme song to our interactive social media platform, the Alikay Naturals brand has become a means of self-expression to naturalistas around the world. As a lifestyle brand that is committed to being more than just “skin deep” with hair & skin care products, we offer an online Skype consultation program and online style cards.
HOW DO YOU HANDLE CURL ENVY?
While I love seeing women rocking their natural curls in all patterns and lengths, I never experience curl envy. From the time I decided to “big chop” to this day, I appreciate & embrace my own hair’s versatility at every stage. Every day is a celebration. The Alikay Naturals marketing platform and packaging are a reflect that celebration.
WHAT’S UP NEXT FOR ALIKAY NATURALS?
Going beyond conventional perceptions of beauty, I want Alikay Naturals to be an influential force sharing the appreciation of beauty and imperfections as well as the individuality that builds confidence. I will spend the next 5 months on the road; motivating, empowering and enlightening. I will be on this month’s Kansas City Natural Hair Care Expo’s natural hair blogger panel, I will be hosting New York City’s Fro Fashion Week fashion show in September along with a VIP dinner and I will be hosting ingredient focused natural hair workshops at the following shows: The Armed Force Natural Hair & Health Expo in Texas, Delaware’s Natural Redefined Natural Hair Expo (I will see her there!) and South Florida’s Natural Hair Expo.
ENTER ALIKAY NATURALS GIVEAWAY HERE! Open August 7-11, 2013.