Kurlee Belle founder on pivoting to ecommerce and making 6 figures


  • When the pandemic hit, Terrinique Pennerman shortly pivoted her haircare enterprise, Kurlee Belle, which usually sells in main retailers like Sally Beauty, to ecommerce. 
  • A number of months later, Kurlee Belle hit the six-figure mark in income for 2020 — a milestone in her enterprise’ historical past.
  • The Bahamian native at all times had a ardour for creating her personal haircare mixtures utilizing pure substances.
  • She credit the corporate’s surging recognition to a necessity for at-home hair options and discovered inventive methods to fill orders on-line shortly. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for extra tales.

Like many entrepreneurs, Terrinique Pennerman did not understand how the pandemic would affect her pure haircare enterprise, Kurlee Belle.

Before COVID-19, Pennerman relied on her product distribution offers with Sally Beauty and different native hair shops in Caribbean international locations for in-person gross sales. Once she was pressured to transition her focus to ecommerce after shops closed amid coronavirus, she was shocked to discover that Kurlee Belle reached six figures in income for 2020 — the primary time in her enterprise’ historical past — with $20,000 to $50,000 monthly in on-line gross sales. 

Creating her personal haircare mixtures was one thing that was handed down to Pennerman from her mom. The Bahamian natives would take merchandise from the fridge to create lotions that promoted power, progress, and shine to their hair. 

“[We used] mayo, avocado, banana for strengthening treatments for our hair and then shea butter for shine and coconut oil,” she instructed Business Insider.

In October 2008, whereas she was working as a securities analyst inside business mortgage-backed securities at Wachovia, now Wells Fargo, Pennerman determined to embark on her personal hair journey by transitioning her hair to its pure state. 

“I started mixing my own stuff,” she stated. “One of my friends just said, ‘You know, you should start your own haircare line because your hair looks really good.’ That idea just stuck in my mind.” 

KurleeBelleOriginalCollection

Kurlee Belle’s authentic assortment.

Terrinique Pennerman


Pennerman created her Kurlee Belle merchandise utilizing the identical formulation she used on her personal hair. Once she felt snug with the product mixtures, having examined them on herself, she had her coworkers and buddies attempt them out. 

Building a digital neighborhood of future model champions

Word-of-mouth advertising helped her trigger, which led her to create a weblog and doc her haircare journey. 

“I wanted to establish Kurlee Belle as a trusted brand, so I created the blog [in 2008],” she stated. “I would give information on healthy hair tips, healthy ingredients, and then the fan base grew. The people who were following the blog and following us on social media, they began to become very excited about our launch.” She created merchandise earlier than having a hair product to supply to construct model consciousness, promoting shirts with graphics of ladies in afros and slogans like, “Kiss My Kurls.”

Getting an MBA diploma earlier than beginning a enterprise

Before formally launching her firm in February 2013, Pennerman determined that she wished to be geared up with the information to scale her enterprise and utilized to Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business to get her MBA. 

“All the pieces started to come together because as I was learning more about marketing and entrepreneurship, I was actually working on my new company,” she stated. Pennerman was additionally in a position to discover a producer to mass-produce her merchandise to feed her already established fan base from social media and running a blog.

An alternative for retail distribution

As recognition grew for Kurlee Belle merchandise, a Sally Beauty purchaser had a 3rd social gathering attain out to Pennerman to promote her haircare line on the magnificence provide retailer. Pennerman shared that entrepreneurs should interview with Sally Beauty at their Denton, Texas-based headquarters to be distributed by the corporate. The product was examined in 80 shops nationwide and to start with of 2020 reached 1,200 shops. 

KurleeBelle_Shot1 318 (1)

Kurlee Belle.

Courtesy of Terrinique Pennerman


“You have to be ready to go into retail because you have to have your upfront capital when they place that order, you have to have the inventory ready to go,” she stated. Pennerman prompt that enterprise homeowners wanting to host their merchandise on the cabinets of main retailers develop a plan earlier than taking a gathering.

“You have to have a plan on how you’re going to get people to walk in those doors and buy those products,” she stated. 

Bootstrapping the enterprise on her personal

Pennerman bootstrapped her firm with the wage she made as an analyst — she reported investing over $100,000 of her personal cash — and stated she hasn’t taken a wage from her enterprise because it launched. Instead, she reinvests the cash again into Kurlee Belle. 

“I was really putting the company first and then having good relationships with my manufacturers, where if I didn’t have the upfront cost, they would help me because they knew that I pay my bill,” she stated. She maintains an reasonably priced way of life residing within the Bahamas by utilizing her social media experience to seek the advice of with small companies. 

Pennerman discovered about mergers and acquisitions whereas pursuing her MBA and stated she wasn’t keen on the method of buying enterprise capital. 

“I just felt like I would rather put that energy into my business instead of going in the front of a group of investors who are going to pick my business apart when I already know in my mind that this is something that is going to be successful,” she stated. She attributes the perspective of constructing her enterprise on her personal to her persona. Pennerman lives by the worth of working onerous till the payoff comes. 

“I figure I can just do it on my own,” she stated. “Then if I need funding, it will come.”

For years, she stated she wore many hats, together with dealing with advertising and accounting, however now she has seven individuals who work full time on achievement and different advertising wants. She now spends extra of her time on the operational and enterprise partnership features of her enterprise. 

“I mainly focus on the operations, such as inventory replenishments, negotiating contracts with vendors, and additional back-office work that I didn’t have a chance to focus on previously,” she stated.

At-home haircare wants spark on-line curiosity 

The pandemic introduced an unsure time for Kurlee Belle, however Pennerman shortly noticed the advantages of ladies staying at dwelling and having to care for his or her hair themselves. 

“I think more people were sitting at home online, and they were able to dig a little deeper into our brand and they decided to give us a shot,” she stated. She stated web site gross sales have elevated 1,000% 12 months over 12 months, whereas retail gross sales have even elevated 100%.

Before the pandemic, Pennerman targeted on pushing customers to shops to buy her product. 

“We were more reliant on retail sales than ecommerce because that’s where we felt like customers wanted to get the product immediately,” she stated. “Like they wanted to drive into a store and pick it up immediately versus ordering online.” 

Pennerman’s relationship together with her producer helped her fill the rise in demand. Still, she credit sturdy communication together with her customers about delivery and packaging and discovering inventive methods to fill orders with serving to her enterprise soar. 

“One of the things that we experienced was our packaging was sold out,” she stated. “I had to get on the phone and research companies, even small companies that sold our packaging, and we would buy the entire inventory.”

Pennerman made enhancements to the Kurlee Belle web site to make it extra person pleasant, in addition to provided particular promotions for her merchandise, like a bundle that permits prospects to save whereas figuring out their particular hair wants.



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