Voyage MIA Interview with LaToya Stirrup of KAZMALEJE - KAZMALEJE

Voyage MIA Interview with LaToya Stirrup of KAZMALEJE

Feb 22, 2018LaToya Stirrup

Interview By: VoyageMIA 

Today we’d like to introduce you to LaToya Stirrup.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Our story starts with a problem. To give a bit of background, like many black women in America, our hair was permed for most of our lives and we were very well versed in how to take care of and maintain chemically straightened hair. However, in 2008, we each started “going natural.” LaToya went first, then LaTasha and then LaTrice. But going natural isn’t like getting a new haircut. No, we are talking about reacquainting yourself with a hair texture you have not seen, touched, combed since you were little. And back then, you weren’t even the one doing your hair. Most likely, your mom was your hairstylist. It is for this very reason that “going natural” is often referred to as a journey, because each day presents you with something new, especially in the beginning. Fast forward a bit into the journey, we have somewhat of a regimen down and are exploring different products to find the right mix to get the best curl or twist out style. However, the detangling process was always such a pain (both literally and figuratively). There would be hair in the comb, on the floor, on the couch or wherever. So, we purchased all kinds of combs and brushes to see if we would get a better result when detangling our tresses. Some would work better than others, but we never found that one. That’s when an idea came and we decided to try designing a comb that was created specifically for curly, kinky, coily hair. Enter KAZMALEJE.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Our journey has not been easy and is still very much a work in progress. In late 2015, we started out with the idea of changing something as simple as the design of the teeth on a comb to solve the issue of excessive hair shedding and breakage that many women, men and children deal with when detangling their hair. From there, we did an initial prototype to test the idea, then we began the process of protecting our IP and fleshing out our brand and product design. Fast forward, we are now in 2018 and I can tell you that we thought our product would have been officially on the market by now.

Late last year, we hit a snag where some of the manufacturers we were courting expressed concern with our product files. This caused us to take a pause on launching our crowdfunding campaign. Could we have moved forward with doing the campaign while trying to figure out the details of the product design, sure. However, that did not sit well with us and how we wanted to present ourselves on such a public stage. Doing a crowdfunding campaign on a major platform is not something to take lightly. However, we had started a countdown to the crowdfunding campaign on social media and felt that we needed to release something to keep interest going. It was then that we decided to move up the launch of our apparel and accessories line by doing fun, lifestyle amplifying tees and bags for the holidays.

Even though, we had to rearrange a few things and take a bit more time, we learned the importance of being nimble and open to new paths when it comes to realizing your vision. Patience is everything.

KAZMALEJE – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
KAZMALEJE (pronounced “cosmology”) is a company that celebrates beauty and creates innovative, lifestyle amplifying tools and accessories catering to curly, kinky, coily hair. Naturalistas have their pick of hair creams, puddings, gels, and everything in between. However, when it comes to hair tools, there’s a distinct lack of quality options on the market. This is where we come in. We have designed patent pending hair detangling combs in three different styles to minimize breakage and unnecessary stress when maintaining and styling naturally textured hair. Our first line of detangling combs include a pick, comb and paddle comb. Each hair tool is uniquely designed for different styling purposes and hair needs.

As sisters and naturalistas ourselves, we know the love one can have for their kinks, coils and curls. We also know the journey to learning how to embrace and care for one’s natural hair texture is not easy. We started this company as a solution to a problem we were experiencing on our curl journey. And after talking to our friends and other naturalistas, we found that we were not alone in wanting better tools and accessories to support our healthy hair regimen and lifestyle.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
Honestly, our proudest moment is every time we complete a milestone or successfully move through a “roadblock.” Entrepreneurship is not a well traveled road with a myriad of signposts to guide you along. There are definitely bumps in the road, but there are also bridges that come in the form of new resources, guidance, insight, etc. that help to move you from point A to point B. Celebrating those moments when you are able to work through a challenge and/or complete a milestone, is so important because those moments serve as fuel to keep you going.

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