By Katrice L. Mines
Rochelle Graham has finally made it … to another milestone for her company, that is. The owner of Alikay Naturals now has her products on the shelves of select Target stores — a major leap ahead for her burgeoning brand, both a triumph and a challenge. For Graham, there’s always more reaching.
What was key in your decision to transform from kitchen creation to brand?
I never imagined that my YouTube videos would spark the birth of Alikay Naturals as an influential brand in the natural hair community. Initially, I began documenting my natural hair journey with photos and videos to use as a reference point for determining the best ways to re-create my hair styles later. I was bouncing between undergraduate courses and working, so the videos made it easier for me to remember what I did to achieve different looks. As more people started inquiring about what I did to achieve different styles on my natural hair, I started creating instructional videos on my BlackOnyx77 YouTube channel to support other women as they embarked on the same path. Tired of mixing and matching different products in an effort to find the right combination to manage my mane played a role, I decided to put the techniques that I learned from my herbalist grandmother to work and start my own product line.
A few years ago, women with natural hair had just a few lines to choose from for hair care products. Today, there is a sea of options. How do you position Alikay Naturals to stand out or what is it that gives your brand its space in the marketplace?
As a lifestyle brand we are committed to being more than just “skin deep.” From the Alikay Naturals “Regal Royal Natural” theme song to our interactive social media platform, Alikay Naturals offers a message of self-expression and self-love. Going beyond conventional perceptions of beauty, the brand is structured to be a platform for sharing this appreciation of beauty with all of its imperfections as well as the individuality that builds confidence.
Being inventoried at Target seems like a major coup. How did that feel?
It feels fabulous to see a part of our grand vision for Alikay Naturals unfold. I am living my dream, which shows that with dedication and hard work all is possible. We have worked so hard in building our brand and the hard work/rewards don’t stop here. There is so much more to come for Alikay Naturals in 2014. This is only the beginning!
Many women have staple products that they want to have at their fingertips … What two products from Alikay Naturals would you suggest and why?
Moisture is very important to sustain hair health. Key components of my L.O.C Method; the Lemongrass Leave-In Conditioner and Shea Yogurt Hair Moisturizer are two staple products that I would recommend to keep hair hydrated by locking in moisture.
Your go-to healthy hair tips?
Always put hair health first.
Can you give women who are newly natural or working to find the best products for their hair a few tips on where to begin?
Deep condition on a weekly basis. To keep my hair hydrated, I apply our Lemongrass Leave-in Conditioner daily and lock in moisture weekly with Shine Crave Hair Glosser followed by either the Shea Yogurt Hair Moisturizer or Moisture Rich Hair Parfait. I love pairing the Lemongrass Leave-In Conditioner with the Shea Yogurt Hair Moisturizer for twist outs. I massage my scalp every other evening with the Essential Growth Oil.
What inspires your brand direction?
I look to YouTube and other social media outlets like Instagram for inspiration. As YouTube played a key role in the brand’s launch four years ago, the company wants to keep social media at the core of the consumer being able to identity with the brand. We never want to lose sight of the customer’s needs.