Turning a bad experience into a thriving business
By Tonya Johnson
Courtney Adeleye knows just what it takes to own and operate a successful business. Before she launched The Mane Choice in 2013, she had opened a photography studio and launched a clothing boutique. She learned from those experiences, but it was her love of science, health, and beauty that truly spoke to her heart and passion.
Raised by a single mother, Adeleye grew up in Detroit, Michigan, as the youngest of three girls. Despite her family’s humble beginnings, she credits her mother for setting a great example and being a key inspirational figure, as the three sisters watched her go back to school to finish her education and pursue a career in nursing.
Adeleye is the first in her family to become an established entrepreneur. “I had a bad experience with hair color. It totally wrecked my hair, and I documented my journey to healthier hair on my YouTube channel,” she explains. “So many people could relate and were appreciative that I shared my secrets.” As the demand for natural hair care products continued to grow, The Mane Choice was born. In addition to her husband, Wale, her niece, nephews, and cousins all help run the business.
Adeleye resides with her family in Huntsville, Alabama, where The Mane Choice is also headquartered.
Diversity Woman: What is the definition of great leadership?
Courtney Adeleye: When you’re a leader, all eyes are on you. I try to lead by example every day. I have come to understand that my daily actions and interactions with others are what people watch. I strive to be mindful and live by the principles I speak about. I work hard to be an example of my expectations.
DW: Being a leader means you must be able to delegate tasks. What is the key to building a successful team you can rely on?
CA: When building a successful business, delegating tasks comes with the territory, but any great leader will invest in her team. To me, that means spending time with them and getting to know them and what’s going on in their lives. Reinforcing their strengths and improving upon their weaknesses. Investing in enrichment classes in areas where you know they could be stronger. That will help them as individuals, while helping to build a stronger team.
DW: What type of growth in revenue have you seen from 2013 to 2018? What are your most popular products?
CA: We’ve grown from grossing over $180,000 in the first year to over $50 million in five years. Our top three sellers are the Manetabolism Plus Vitamins, Growth Oil, and 3-in-1 Co-wash/Leave-in/Detangler. They’ve been favorites since the beginning due to the results they yield. People want to feel that the products are specifically for them, so we’re seeing the demand for more specialized products.
DW: What is the key to maintaining a successful brand like The Mane Choice?
CA: While keeping an ear to the ground regarding growing trends in the industry, you want to have tunnel vision when it comes to building your brand. Having too many external influences can keep you from standing out as a brand. It is also important to continue to listen to the consumer while remaining true to the brand.
DW: Today there are so many natural hair care products on the market. What makes your brand a unique choice for consumers as they scan the beauty supply aisles for new products?
CA: Aside from the dynamic packaging to attract the eye, we use only the best ingredients!
DW: Have you had any challenges or setbacks in the business? What is the key to overcoming them?
CA: Challenges, if any, may stem from The Mane Choice being a new brand—like being the new kid on the block having to prove herself. We haven’t experienced any setbacks. However, we’ve had wild growth, super quickly, and if we weren’t well equipped with the manpower and resources, it could’ve been a disaster.
DW: Why is diversity in business so important? How does it contribute to success?
CA: Diversity is important because it ensures all the best parts of an idea, project, or deal are executed. The more different thinking you have in a workplace, the more you can ensure the view is just not one-sided, and it will work for more than just one type of person. I truly believe that the more diverse a workplace, the more successful a company is.
DW: Who do you turn to when you need support?
CA: I depend on my mom for sound advice and guidance because she taught me how important it is to build my faith. I lean on prayer and faith in the adversity that life can take you through.
DW: What is your approach to providing customer service?
CA: Building quality relationships is imperative. Aside from quality products and excellent customer service, great relationships are the foundation of establishing your brand and are the conduit to longevity.
DW: How much travel is required throughout the year to promote the business and build new partnerships? Where have you traveled?
CA: My colleagues and I travel between 75 and 80 percent of the time. We’ve been all over the globe, from here in the United States to Europe, Africa, and Asia.
DW: What are some of the most important insights that you’ve gained through the process of becoming a leader and the founder and CEO of a company?
CA: I’ve learned a lot about people and even more about myself. I’ve learned that you have to be open and flexible when being a leader. I realize even more now than ever that there’s no such thing as “balance”—at least for me. Between my family, business, fun, friends, etcetera, I have to prioritize what or who needs the most attention at any particular time.
DW: What is The Mane Choice “Pay My Bill” initiative and why did you decide to create the program?
CA: My mission is to empower others through a spirit of giving. I understand that to whom much is given, much is expected. I hold myself, my team, and the company to a high level of expected philanthropy and actionable efforts. For the “Pay My Bill” initiative, anyone is eligible to enter the weekly drawing, where one or more winners are chosen. Applicants can enter any bill, tuition statement, credit card payment, or the like. To date, 144 people have benefited from the initiative. Interested applicants should watch for the weekly Instagram post for instructions @TheManeChoice. DW
Tonya Johnson is a full-time web content writer at BES Inc., a division of Berkeley College in Paramus, New Jersey, and a freelance writer living in Montclair, New Jersey.