Kinky. Coily. Wavy. Nappy. Jamyla Bennu knows that there are so many different ways to style natural, textured hair. And she’s making products to serve every kind.
Start with a hobby
Jamyla is a self-described nerd with a love of learning. She started Oyin Handmade, a natural hair and body care product company, in her kitchen in Baltimore.
“I started Oyin because I had a need for naturally sourced ingredients in hair care built for my highly textured natural hair,” Jamyla says. “At the time, there weren’t a lot of products. So, I started whipping them up in my kitchen.”
Jamyla learned the basics of making spa products from a book, then started to experiment with more exotic products. “We love finding ingredients that have a benefit for your style, but also a benefit for your health, because it’s going on your hair, on your skin and into your body.”
At first, Jamyla shared her products with a close-knit group of friends. But as the mason jars of products began to pile up, her husband encouraged her to build a website where she could sell her creations. “It really just started to spread by word of mouth, and then I looked up two years later and it’s all that I was doing,” Jamyla said. “It kind of took over.”
Build a community of support
In the early days of her business, Jamyla and her husband did practically everything. They made the products, printed the labels, packaged each one and made sure the orders were properly fulfilled. “It was madness,” she remembers. “In order to avoid working ourselves into the ground, we learned how to create processes that we could hand off to someone else.”
Before long, Jamyla began reaching out to her friends for help. Things picked up as her friends pitched in, helping her with everything from making product to shipping. The business began to take off, and has become a national brand. Even though the business has grown so much, Jamyla still works hard to keep that feeling of a small community strong.
To do that, the company holds events where people from the community can come in, try the products, give feedback and get advice about style. “It’s really an in-person experience where people really just try to help each other feel their best,” Jamyla says. “There’s nothing like that feeling of being a part of somebody’s blossoming. It’s an honor to be part of that journey of self-discovery and self-love for so many people.”
Grow at your own pace
It took ten years for Oyin Handmade to grow from Jamyla’s kitchen to a company selling in stores nationwide. Jamyla uses her experience as an example and encourages other women not to be afraid to grow at their own pace.
“There’s a lot of pressure for entrepreneurs to experience fast growth, and we all love that fast growth story,” she says. “But it’s not the only way to grow. If it’s something about which you have a passion, and that you believe can work, even if it’s growing slowly, don’t be discouraged.”
Jamyla also knows how important it is to ask for help when you need it.
“None of us does this alone. The people you work with – your partners, your team – they’re going to help you through when speed bumps inevitably occur.”