Fly Female Entrepreneur
Quality products? Check. At affordable price points? Check. Made with love? Check. In a sea of “natural” products that don’t always stack up, Jamyla Bennu and her husband/business partner, Pierre Bennu, have unlocked the secret to launching a successful hair and skin care brand. Known for their creative, quirky, and fun approach to business, the Bennus are appreciating the journey, not just the destination. Get to know the beauty behind one of the hottest natural hair care brands on the market. Introducing fly female entrepreneur, Mrs. Jamyla Bennu:
In Her Shoes: How would you describe Oyin Handmade Twitter style, in 140 characters or less?
Jamyla: Oyin Handmade = naturally nourishing, delicious and nutritious, affordably luxurious hair and bodycare goodies made by hand, with love.
In Her Shoes: The natural hair care market is flourishing at a rapid pace but through it all, Oyin Handmade has maintained a loyal and dedicated following. What is it about your brand that keeps consumers engaged?
Jamyla: Our products are extremely high quality, and surprisingly affordable…Because of this winning combo, we are lucky to enjoy wonderful word of mouth.
Our customers have commented about our personal participation, and the fact that we make serious products but don’t take ourselves too seriously. For example, on our Facebook page you can sometimes see photos of our kids; and we did these video podcasts for years that were packed with information about our products and hair care in general, but were presented in a comedic and silly way. I think folks like feeling like their relationship with us can be more than just the simple transaction of purchasing our products; we invite you to enter our world a little and have fun with us.
In Her Shoes: Oyin means honey in Yoruba. Why has honey played such a major role in your business?
Jamyla: I’ve loved the word “oyin” since i was a little girl, and when I began making my own products and learned what a powerhouse ingredient honey is, and how nourishing it is for hair and skin, it was a no-brainer to both include it in the products and use the name. I also love the fact that behind the name and the ingredient is the principle of sweetness!
In Her Shoes: What is a day like in Jamyla Bennu’s shoes?
Jamyla: We have two small children – 6 months and 3 yrs – and most mornings we are woken up by our three-year-old who likes to come snuggle when he wakes. We clamber down for breakfast and pierre and I pass the baby between us as we each try to get our morning situation together; taking turns showering, eating, dressing, playing with the boys. We also juggle our morning work obligations – checking email, making calls to our morning manager and staff, going over our schedules for the day. It’s kind of hectic, but also kind of leisurely, since we don’t have a hard time deadline for getting into the office – we can start our workday at home, and attend to the needs of our family, each other, and our business all at the same time. we cherish this aspect of our lives especially since we know that once our big boy starts school in the fall our leisurely mornings will go the way of the dodo.
Most weekdays, one or both of us will go into the oyin production kitchen. we have an amazing operations manager who keeps things running smoothly and our staff of oyin ‘honeybees’ do most of the product mixing and order fulfillment with fun, accuracy, and a sense of ownership. This is major because as recently as one year ago, we were still elbows deep in the mixing and fulfillment. now, our duties vary from day to day depending on which challenges cross our desks and include anything from training a new shipping technician or production chef, to ordering supplies or going over systems with our manager, to checking a batch of product for final quality or meeting with our social media liason about this week’s strategy or next month’s sale. We also answer emails and communicate with vendors, retail partners, designers, prospective wholesalers, etc. each day there’s a new opportunity and we love that running a business keeps us on our toes.
Personally, we also try to meditate and/or exercise every day – sometimes these things happen in the morning and sometimes after the boys’ bedtimes. We sometimes have to remind one another to eat, and even though we are usually together, we often miss each other. We try to have quality ‘us’ time as often as possible, although with two small ones and living far from our extended families, our ‘date nights’ are often a stolen hour or two at home, a Netflix night, a romantic walk around the block. It’s all about the intention!
In Her Shoes: If you could bring on any celebrity as a spokesperson for Oyin Handmade, who would it be?
Jamyla: We haven’t traditionally gone the spokesperson/celebrity/model route at Oyin because we want our customers to be able to see themselves in our products, rather than aspiring to emulate someone else. Also, we find that when a specific person is the face of a brand, there is the risk that people who are not of that texture or shade can feel excluded when the fact is, people of all shades and hair textures use our products. We encourage experimentation and for people to take ownership over their choices through being educated about ingredients and learning/listening to their own hair, rather than just following marketing messages.
That being said, if i had my pick of models/spokespersons, it would probably have to be a group, to encompass a wide range of beauty. Some ideas: Shingai Shoniwa of the Noisettes, freckle-faced model Nakia Phoenix, comedic actress T’Keya Crystal Keymah, essayist and scholar Rebecca Walker, blues singer Valerie June, comedian Wanda Sykes, funk/rock star Martin Luther, afro’ed Parisian dance duo Les Twins.
In Her Shoes: What advice do you have for In Her Shoes readers who are ready to launch their own hair care business?
Jamyla: Think about what you want to see in the marketplace, that doesn’t currently exist. Don’t try to do ‘X, only better.’ Do ‘Y’ — with “Y” meaning YOU! As a consumer, you have done your own market research: use it!
Also, look for organizations, guilds, or advocacy groups that are targeted toward your segment of the market – new entrepreneurs need all the support possible, and having a community of likeminded individuals to share information and cheer each other on is invaluable.
Above all, be fearless. Be frugal. Be original, be outrageous. Did I mention be frugal? I don’t think I can stress that enough.
In Her Shoes: What do you enjoy most about being in business with your husband?
Jamyla: We love working together, and our work styles and skillsets complement each other very well. We also get to spend our days together, which – 12 years later – is still something we consider the luckiest thing about our lives.
In Her Shoes: Share a little known fact about Oyin Handmade that we’d never believe:
Jamyla: I used to imagine I’d name a future daughter “Oyin.” Now that I am the happy mama of two sons, I’m sure glad I didn’t hoard the name waiting for a daughter!
In Her Shoes: What do you have in store for the Oyin brand?
Jamyla: During the past three months we’ve been planning, designing, and overseeing the construction of our new expanded factory and HQ – lots of interfacing with contractors and sourcing building materials and other un-Oyin-ish things, lol. But we are SO excited about our new space! To keep up with demand we’ve had to move our production space every year since we moved the business out of our home, and we’re thrilled to be building a space we can grow in for a while. not only will we greatly expand our production capacity, but we will share space with a new studio for exittheapple, my husband’s media company which produces our podcasts, ads, and photography in addition to his own film and media work. We have the space to hire an additional packer/shipper and because of this we will soon be able to open new wholesale relationships. The transition is challenging at times, but it’s such a promising time for our company. There is definitely lots of sweetness in the air!
So, are you ready to quench your hair’s thirst with a bit of Oyin Handmade goodness? Find out what all of the fuss is about by visiting www.oyinhandmade.com. For up to the minute updates on all things Oyin, follow the brand on Twitter by clicking here!
As a New York City storyteller, filmmaker, digital content creator, and PR strategist, Renae Bluitt created "In Her Shoes" to empower and enlighten women committed to realizing their dreams.