A few weeks ago I had the awesome opportunity of chatting with Donnet Bruce, who is the founder of hair company Nubian Hair Oasis. I first learned of her hair line on Instagram after seeing a post by brand ambassador Kela Walker. I was intrigued by the company (and at the time was on a hair company scouting binge) so I screenshotted the post and made a note to reach out.
Fast forward a few months, I finally sent the email to Donnet and asked to chat with her via phone about what it’s like running a hair company. I also got to learn a little more about her background, business challenges, and hopes for the future. One of the things that stood out to me was that Nubian Hair Oasis wasn’t Donnet’s full-time responsibility. She runs the business all while managing a full-time position as a marketing manager for an automotive group in South Florida. Impressive!
Are you currently dreaming of ways to quit your job to pursue your dreams of being an entrepreneur? Or are you currently managing a side hustle and looking for ways to transition into working on it full-time? As any entrepreneur will tell you, running a business is no easy feat and knowing the right time to take the leap is crucial.
I chatted with Donnet for Madame Noire about what it’s like running a hair company while still maintaining a full-time job. She shared with me her inspiration for launching a side hustle, daily challenges she faces, how she manages the two responsibilities, and her plans for eventually becoming a full-time entrepreneur. I definitely think she fits what it means to be a BRANDMAKER.
My biggest takeaway?
What inspired you to launch Nubian Hair Oasis?
Donnet Bruce (DB): It was an idea I had for several years. I was disappointed about going to local beauty stores here in Miami, Florida. The customer service wasn’t the best. I felt as if the individuals, typically men, behind the counter were just trying to sell something instead of providing customizable options that were good for my texture of hair. I read an article in Essence about the beauty and hair industry and how much Black women spend on their hair. I wanted to start an online store where I was able to provide a really good customer service experience for women.
I’m a woman. I love wearing extensions and wigs. I wanted to provide and source for quality products for women with textured and transitioning hair. I also wanted Nubian Hair Oasis to be a place where women left empowered, inspired, and encouraged.
You also have a full-time job as a Digital Marketing Manager. How does Nubian Hair Oasis fit into your life?
DB: I’m what they call a multi-passionate entrepreneur. Prior to me getting into this corporate job over a year ago, I was freelancing. My background is in integrated marketing; I have a Masters in that. I’ve worked with different brands developing marketing strategies, public relations campaigns, social media campaigns, etc. Now, I’m working as a digital marketing manager for a major automotive group in the Southeast. That is my 9-5. On nights and weekends, I work at building and operating Nubian Hair Oasis.
I am the main person working on the company. I have an associate who is a really good friend of mine that helps out with social media. I’m working to change that. There are so many different facets and divisions within Nubian Hair Oasis. There are so many ideas I have to take the company to the next level. I will be looking for talent to help.
What are some of the challenges you face while growing your company?
DB: I’m not going to sugarcoat it. It’s very challenging and exhausting. One thing that helps me is remaining in a positive state of mind. For example, when I wake up in the morning, I wake up with positive thoughts. I talk to God. I visualize myself in a year or two or what I will be doing in my life after the corporate world. I’ve gotten so used to that, as soon I wake up in the morning, my mind clicks. Everything that is happening right now is for a reason. Any job that I have or take helps me.
Yes, I could be operating Nubian Hair Oasis full-time; however, this is where I am right now. I do what I have to do during the day for my company and it really helps me get through the day. I know that everything that I am doing is setting me up for the next big thing in my life. Staying focused helps with those challenges and beating the exhaustion. Another challenge was having the time to take on and do everything. There are major roller coaster days.
Trying to find an honest manufacturer and supplier was a challenge. In the beginning, I took the time to vet several suppliers and manufacturers. I spent quite a bit of money ordering samples and taking the word of a manufacturer that said their hair was good quality and human hair. I’m all about quality. The fact that I would spend a lot of money to get the hair and have to send it back to the supplier – that was a project within itself. I took the time to pause on promotion and find the perfect supplier and build better business relationships overseas.
My goal is to travel overseas. I want to spend some time with my makers. I am always looking for ways to improve product. I want to spend time with my manufacturers and make sure what they are producing is Nubian Hair Approved.
How do you manage juggling a full-time job and being an entrepreneur?
DB: I wake up earlier, especially if I have urgent to-dos and tasks. It’s more quiet and serene at that time versus leaving the 9-5, hustling through traffic, getting home, having to make dinner, and trying to get back into that hustling mode.
On weekends, you can find me at a coffee shop or somewhere in Miami – headphones in, working on inventory, a new collection, or answering customer emails. Also on Saturday, I fulfill orders.
I put everything in my calendar. I even put my 9-5 schedule. I designate days when I work for Nubian Hair Oasis. I use the Passion Planner – which is a calendar and journal in one. It’s filled with good quotes and milestone evaluations.
What’s been the hardest part about keeping Nubian Hair Oasis in business while still having a 9-5 job?
DB: Finances. I’m funding my business on my own. I pay for marketing, shoots, inventory, etc. I don’t have any major complaints because it’s something that I wanted to do.
Do people at your job know that you have your own company?
DB: I believe in operating with integrity. I don’t want my bosses to think that I am on the job trying to sell and promote. Once I leave, that’s when I turn into Nubian Hair Mode. I have let a couple coworkers know that I operate and run Nubian Hair Oasis, but you don’t want your boss or employer to feel like there is something else taking you away from doing the job or that you are heavily promoting your company too much on their time. There are some companies that encourage their employees to share their side hustle. I’ve worked for one before. If you’re in a setting where you know it’s not encouraged, keep it private.
What plans are you putting in place so that you can run Nubian Hair Oasis full-time?
DB: Save. You should always have your exit strategy account going. As you get paid, continue saving. You’ll know for a fact that if you decide to resign, you have cushion.
Set a goal. If there’s a date that you want to leave, set it and post it by your bed or night stand. Do everything you have to do to prior to that date. That includes getting more sales, gaining more customers, marketing and promoting more.
Always meet and network with people. I just spoke at the New Orleans Hair Expo for Essence Festival. I met so many women there and got sales. Continue getting the word out about your business. Use social media. That will help make it a little bit easier when you decide to leave your job.
What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve received?
DB: Just the other day I was talking to a friend who is heavy in the tech scene, has opened businesses and runs a few companies. She told me I cannot do it on my own. You need a team of ninjas/superstar people who are going to help you take your company to the next level. As I grow I delegate, and if I’m not strong in a certain area I make sure I outsource those tasks instead of spending a slew of hours on something and the end result may not even be to my liking or match the brand.
Give tasks to someone who can knock them out. Pay them and keep it moving. Learn the art of building a team. I believe in my vision and mission to take Nubian Hair Oasis to the next level. As a CEO and creative director, I oversee so many different areas. I oversee branding, marketing, PR, operations, inventory…having a strong solid team will help.
How do you respond to those who think you aren’t qualified to run a hair company?
DB: My background is in integrated marketing, experiential marketing, branding, and social media. There may be questions that arise. People [may think], “Donnet is not a hairstylist. What does she know? Why should I trust her?” It goes back to why I wanted to do this. I love hair, styling, and makeup. I know quality. I really care about making sure women go out into the world with something that they are happy with and looks good. I love protective styling and rocking extensions, especially being a natural now. Eventually, I do want to open up a storefront. We need that in South Florida — a Black-owned beauty supply store.
When I have my customers send me emails praising the fact that they loved the hair during vacation and went on a romantic getaway, and everyone is complimenting them on their looks, that makes me feel good. It makes me think about why I even started in the first place. Everything that you do in life sets you up for the next chapter. I probably didn’t even realize how branding and marketing would help me. It helped me establish the logo, feel, and colors — everything about Nubian Hair Oasis.
[Not feeling qualified] was one of the reasons I put [starting a business] off for so long. It’s a personal thing – one of those things where you are talking yourself out of something. You’re your worst critic or enemy. Year after year, the idea would come to me. I’d always push it off and say, “Naw, I went to school for this. This is the path I should be on. What are you talking about?” Even talking to friends, I was like,“No, I can’t do that. That’s not what I went to school for. I ain’t no hair stylist.” It’s a testament to doing what’s in your heart. Do what you want to do and love to do.
What side-hustle to full-time entrepreneurships tips have worked for you? Share in the COMMENTS section below!
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