Since around the age of 4, Jamelia Donaldson has had a thing about hair. “I’d braid my own hair and my friends’ hair,” she explains. “In fact, you could say it was my first ‘business’; I’d get paid to do hair for my mum’s friends and their daughters after school.” It was an interest that never went away and over time Jamelia became particularly interested in finding the best natural techniques and products for styling curly hair like hers.
While studying for her Business and International Relations degree at Aston University, Jamelia spent time working in Beijing and New York before returning to London to take up a role in financial services. But on her travels, Jamelia had noticed something. There was a wealth of great curly and Afro hair products out there—they just weren’t easily available in the UK. “I was determined to tackle the issue,” say Jamelia. “I wanted to help girls discover and experiment with European and American curly hair care brands that they wouldn’t find in their local salon or high street beauty store.”
Hair care by post
The idea for a monthly hair care subscription box was born, with the intention of giving young curly-haired girls everything they needed to care for their hair and experiment with new products and styling techniques. But it wasn’t just about the hair, though. Jamelia wanted little girls to feel celebrated, represented and special. It worked and since the first boxes were shipped in November 2015, the Treasure Tress range has already expanded to include monthly subscription boxes for teens and women, too.
The early days brought some inevitable challenges—and opportunities to learn. “For example, I had a really clear idea of how I wanted the box to look and the size it would be,” says Jamelia. “But soon after launching we were approached by an amazing brand that wanted us to feature their products in our boxes. Obviously we jumped at the opportunity! But once the products arrived, we realised they were way too big for the boxes. With days to go before shipping we had to completely re-design the boxes to accommodate the products.”
Another challenge was Treasure Tress’ unexpectedly quick growth in popularity overseas. Having anticipated selling only in the UK for the first few months, Jamelia woke up one day to orders from America and Europe. But there was a snag. “Because the website was set up to sell to the UK, they’d been charged UK postage—which doesn’t even come close to the price of international shipping.” Undeterred, Jamelia honoured the orders despite making a loss on them and made sure that the website and shipping processes were updated immediately to reflect her new, international audience.
Connecting to the world
So how did Jamelia achieve this sudden global reach, seemingly overnight? “I can only say I underestimated the power of connectivity, social media and hashtags!” she laughs. Instagram was Treasure Tress’ primary social media platform when it launched, and the brand has been right at home there ever since. Particularly popular are the unboxing videos that feature the Treasure Tress team revealing each new selection of subscription box goodies.
Jamelia calls Instagram “a fundamental part of our DNA” and says that she owes much of her business growth to the exposure and customer engagement that it has enabled. “I’m still astonished that I’ve been able to reach women in the Middle East, Europe and America so quickly,” she admits.
Reflecting on her first year of business, Jamelia has never felt more motivated. She was recently selected to take part in Future Girl Corp, a 12-hour business bootcamp organised by beauty industry pioneer Sharmadean Reid, where 100 up-and-coming female entrepreneurs came together to learn from, and inspire, each other. Still riding on the energy of the event experience, Jamelia is excited about what’s to come. “I’m a firm believer in finding your purpose, in adding something to the world. To me, that means creating and putting in place the products and services that women like me need—or will need in the future.”
Learn more about Jamelia Donaldson and Treasure Tress: