Hair. It comes in all textures, colors, lengths, types and densities.
But for Black women, the topic of hair can be complex -- especially when it comes to caring for your natural locs.
Enter Kazmaleje, a Miami-based business focused on creating hair tools and products for curly and kinky hair types. The business was launched by three sisters with a major mission: To empower Black women to embrace and love their natural hair, through products designed specifically for their hair types.
LaToya Stirrupp and her two sisters, LaTasha and LaTrice, first launched Kazmaleje in 2016 because they couldn't find hair tools that catered to their curly and textured hair types.
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"Once the curly hair movement started to happen, you started to see different brands come on the market," LaToya said. "While they focused a lot on the hair products out of the game, we came in and we want to focus on the tools, because the tools that you use are just as important as a product that you put on your hair."
The three sisters designed the hair tools to make detangling and combing easier, incorporating features that allow the comb to easily glide through curly and coily hair.
From there, Kazmaleje was born -- but the sisters were soon hit with an unexpected challenge.
REBOUNDING FROM THE PANDEMIC
In 2019, Kazmaleje was in its "beta," or "testing" stage, and the Stirrup sisters were getting ready to tackle new and exciting developments with their business.
And then, COVID happened.
"It kind of happened at an inopportune time, to be honest with you," LaToya said, explaining that Kazmaleje was one of 70 brands selected to launch on HSN and QVC as part of the Big Five program.
She said that during the pandemic, the business also encountered supply-chain issues, because their products were made in China.
"Everything came to a halt, not only for us, but the world felt it as well," LaToya said.
While the supply-chain issue was a big hurdle, LaToya said Kazmaleje actually saw a spike and increase in sales, because the business is an e-commerce-based brand and more people were looking to go natural with their hair.
"We actually saw a spike and an increase in our sales as soon as everyone had to shelter in place because they couldn't go to the supply stores, they couldn't go to the salons. So they started looking for those solutions," she said.
Despite the challenges, LaToya said they were able to make it through with the help of some different pitch competitions and grants that helped them cover a lot of their inventory needs.
"There was a lot that we were kind of dealing with. But we're here and we're growing and we're expanding. So we're we're here to stay," she said.
THE IMPORTANCE OF SELF-CARE
Taking care of your hair, as a Black woman, can be stressful, LaToya says.
She said she hopes Kazmaleje's products can help Black women take a moment for themselves during wash days, to transform the experience from a stressful one to an enjoyable self-care moment.
"Oftentimes for women with curly hair -- women and men, as well as kids with curly hair -- [wash days are] stressful because you're like, oh, my gosh, I'm gonna have to comb my hair, I'm gonna have a ton of hair in the hair tool, on the floor, on the couch, in the bed, in the sink, wherever I am," she said. "And then the mental chatter that can sometimes happen is like, is something wrong with my hair? This isn't working the way that I thought it would. Should I just go back and get a perm?"
She said she hopes Kazmaleje's products help alleviate some of the anxiety that Black women face when tending to their natural locs.
"So if you have the time to really kind of sit down and do your hair and take your time with it and just love on yourself? Fabulous. But if you need to be quick in and out, we can do that, too, because our hair tools can make the detangling process faster."