Camille created FELOH because she noticed an increased need for content creators in the hair and beauty industry to connect with the marketplace of independently owned beauty brands looking to find their way into the industry. She noticed that content creators created quality content that helped other people learn more about hair and beauty products.
Still, there wasn't a genuine relational connection between the two. Camille said, "It was, you know, kind of like a no-brainer, like there are two sides of the market growing rapidly, and they need to meet each other. But the industry is so fragmented." FELOH stands for, For Everyone's Love Of Hair with the marriage of hair and beauty to bridge the gap between the two industries.
What are you most proud of when it comes to FELOH?
Camille loves supporting these independent brands in growing and achieving their goals. Despite being new to the tech startup scene, she feels the love from minority communities such as the Black and Brown and LGBTQ-owned businesses. She said, "Even though I'm a tech startup, these brands are still going through the same barriers to access as I am. So, if I can be a vehicle to get them access, to grow and scale, like that just makes me so proud and happy."
What were some of your biggest fears along your journey?
When Camille learned that generally, Black businesses start with about $20k of capital investments versus their counterparts who raise roughly $100k from friends and family, it frightened her. She and her co-founder began FELOH with their savings and credit. But, Camille revealed that wasn't the only fear. She struggled to learn what was available to her. She shared, "It wasn't until I started learning about the different foundations and organizations and accelerators and networking that our business started to really move forward." FELOH has been around since 2016, and Camille didn't realize she was part of an ecosystem with opportunities that she could plug into.
Tell us about any significant setbacks you had in your business and how you recovered.
The first iteration of FELOH launched in late 2019. The combination of being first-time founders with no technical skills surfaced quickly. They learned along the way, but not without losing significant money in costly lessons. But that wasn't the only challenge. As founders, they had to come to terms with letting parts of that business die off.
Camille said, "But coming to terms with kind of reframing our mind to not you know, focus on the losses, but the lessons like we call them "L's" in FELOH, losses, turn to lessons, and take that to, you know, kind of shift our mind frame and keep us moving forward because it's easy as an entrepreneur to take an 'L' and stay on the floor for longer than you really need to be on the floor."
What's the biggest risk you've taken so far?
Camille lived comfortably with a corporate job and a comfortable apartment but left that behind to immerse herself in the creation and sustainability of FELOH fully. She moved back home to live with her parents in late 2018 to embark on this entrepreneurial path. Camille has been full-time since then.
She said, "I would say that's probably the biggest risk is just literally changing my entire way of life to pursue what my truth is. I know some people do the hybrid, they work and then, but I don't know, you have to do whatever works for you. My decision was easier, probably because I was in a really toxic work environment.
And then, after a year of being a full-time entrepreneur, I'm like, I need some money. So after, I tried to apply to some real jobs or get a real salary, like nothing was coming through. When I look back on it, if I took some of those jobs, even if I had them on the table, it would have taken me so far away to where we are now. So you gotta just go dance, do the entrepreneurial dance, go with the flow, and know that everything is happening in your favor. I would say put the bet on yourself. You can control what you can do. So bet on yourself if it's a good bet."
Describe what it was like preparing for the pitch competition.
Camille has pitched before. However, this was the first time she pitched for monetary rewards. Public speaking isn't a strength for her. But being part of an accelerator program provided her with much-needed practice in learning to pitch her business. Although, pitching with Black Girl Ventures was a one-of-a-kind experience.
She said, "With Black Girl Ventures, I appreciated the dedicated time. To pitch with, our competitors turned out to be—some actually signed up to be on FELOH. So it was just cool. It gave that ecosystem-like factor, you know, it's like, we're all learning from each other, We're all giving each other tips. We're all encouraging each other and networking.
I think you had T-Mobile people come in and maybe some other people that just came in to hear us and help us out. And they were so helpful. So it was fun. If I had to describe the preparation, I would say it was. It was fun. It was educational, but you know, it was a vibe."
What helped Camille the most was removing the fear from pitching and finding ways to have fun with it. Camille's advice to those looking to pitch is to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. When you can dissociate the fear from pitching, you can find it fun. She said, "You can't grow if you choose to be stagnant. So putting yourself in positions of discomfort will pay off in tremendous ways."
She also says to practice often. She suggests practicing the pitch in the mirror with animals, plants, and other humans but becomes comfortable with having an audience. The BGV pitch competition is a crowdfunding campaign for founders. She encourages those pitching to share the experience publicly.
Camille shared, "One thing that I think my team and I did well was we rallied up our troops before. With Black Girl Ventures, it's voting-based, so we made sure like every step we shared our journey with this opportunity with our following, with our listservs, and with our users. So they all got to experience the excitement. And reminded them to vote even two weeks before it was out."
Camille and her team at FELOH used the pitch funds for their operational runway. They invested in email marketing and other services for the FELOH app, such as Shopify. They were able to wrap up their last phase of the app development. FELOH then hired a summer intern and towards their official launch date. The funds also helped them become a sponsor at a hair and beauty event. They decorated their booth and were able to give away swag bags.
How do you measure success?
Success looks different for Camille. She said, "I think success really goes back to how many other entrepreneurs we can empower. Specifically, women of color entrepreneurs—how many of them can we truly help grow and not just grow their sales, but scale their businesses.
To go from I'm making products in my house, to I'm shipping fulfillment from my house to I'm a nationally known brand too. I have some of my products being shipped to the UK or, you know, Brazil or wherever. And so, for me, that's what success looks like. It looks like taking these brands and making them internationally known in box products."
Camille deeply cares about the user and the customer on the flip side. She is committed to creating an authentic beauty ecosystem that doesn't praise likes and views but supports authentic exchanges and inclusivity. Camille shared, "You know valuing the beauty in the human experience over the beauty in like, this is a filter I threw on to make me look cute, so I'm posting it. So to create an authentic community based on beauty is definitely one of the successes that I hope to get."
Support isn't always given to Black and Brown women in business; when has this shown and hurt or disappointed you the most?
Camille said, "Yeah. Oh, man. I would say definitely in my earlier days pitching. I was a part of this network, and I was invited to pitch to a couple of their demo days.
And a lot of the investors in the room, like one, I would literally be the only Black person in a lot of these rooms and definitely the only Black woman. And then when I went to pitch, we would network with the investors, and it was really apparent, like how uncomfortable these investors were with either my concept or me. Just gravitating towards, you know, sparking up conversations with people that look like them.
So that was really disheartening. I remember specifically, oh my God, like this year of 2019, I was like, look, I'm going to network. I'm going to go to all these conferences and spend all my money. Oh my God. So I went to this one conference out in San Francisco. And I remember just being so disappointed at how one underrepresented like Black people were at the conference as a whole in finding out that over 300 companies were able to at some point pitch their business at the conference in like different little rooms and stuff.
And I remember applying to it and that I got denied, and I didn't really understand how many people got accepted, but they were like, they still encouraged me to buy a ticket, come on out, there's investors there and network. And I did, and I wasted money. And then I found out everybody pitched anyway. So it was just, yeah, it was really, really disheartening. And I can't necessarily say, oh, it's because I'm a Black woman, but what I can say is the people that were pitching there were not Black women. So whatever that either unconscious bias is or conscious bias, it definitely exists. And I felt it in a few different ways, along my journey."
What's the most critical lesson that you've learned about business?
Camille learned she had to be willing to surrender to the entrepreneurship journey. She described it as a dance that you must be willing to learn. Focusing on a specific outcome could make you miss out on opportunities as an entrepreneur. Be focused on your big vision and not so much on how every little step will get you there. Create space between yourself and your attachment to the outcome.
She said, "You have to have your eye on the prize, but you also have to surrender to certain flows and cycles that have to pass for you to learn whatever you need to learn to propel you forward. You have to be. You know, eyes on the prize, but be willing to submit when the signs tell you to pivot or change."
What do you think is an important skill or asset you need to succeed in business?
As an entrepreneur knowing your truth and believing in what you're creating regardless of what others are saying is a skill. You have to be ready when people other people won't understand your journey or know why you're on this journey.
Camille said, "You have to cross the bridge between believing and knowing like you have to know a truth that only, you know, while other people might just believe you.
Like you have to be beyond believing yourself. Like you can't just believe in the vision. You have to know that that is what it is and will happen. And simultaneously know that truth while some people believe in your vision or believe in you or some people are like, I don't really believe it at all, or I don't get it, you know? So you have to cross the bridge, from believing to knowing, is what's going to really get you there—wherever there is."
What's the most exciting part of the business?
Camille loves seeing the products from the brands. Being obsessed with beauty products, she becomes excited when brands ship the products that she can experiment with. She said, "Our marketplace is stocked with quality items branded to perfection and that have missions behind it. I know that these brands are small businesses, and small businesses' power impacts the communities from which they come. So I just know people buying from them will have little ripple effects. So that's super exciting for me."
What do you think the future holds for Black and Brown women entrepreneurs and small business owners?
Camille laughed, "We've taken over. Like it's, it's a wrap. Everybody go home. I talked to somebody the other day about venture capital and all this stuff. And you know, white entrepreneurs and white people with businesses get access to money to figure it out. We don't have that privilege just to blow a hundred thousand dollars to figure it out.
So we become these resilient beings that won't die. Like we figure it out, whatever it takes, I just know the lack of privilege is fostering a beast that will not be stopped, and the world will see it. There's going to be no choice about it. So, and two, if you look at the trends in entrepreneurship, entrepreneurship is being democratized.
So big corporate structures are becoming so antiquated. Like they're dying, they're dinosaurs. They're going to die out in the rise of, you know, people creating their own things and selling their services, which is at an all-time high. It's only going to keep going up. And so we're going to continue to live in a world where we're interacting with more humans doing our business exchanges versus corporations. And Black women, I mean, we will be at the forefront."
If you and I were meeting three years from now, looking back, what would it take for you to feel over the moon about your progress?
Camille hopes to take FELOH internationally, in which the brands in the FELOH marketplace can scale their businesses because of overseas interest. She sees the app growing into a robust social market with active daily users that also rivals the marketplace Etsy. Camille wants FELOH recognized as that social media in that marketplace for the beauty industry.
Running a business while balancing a personal life can be demanding and taxing. How do you take care of yourself?
Camille spends time in nature and meditates. When she brushes her teeth, Camille recites personal affirmations and creates consistent positive frequencies that uplift her mood. Camille doesn't subscribe to overworking. She rests when she needs to and calls herself a professional napper.
What is your favorite quote or mantra?
Every day Camille begins her day with, "I am a beautiful being."
What is a book and podcast that you would recommend?
Book: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Podcast: Oprah Super Soul Sunday's
What's your favorite business hack or app you can't live without?
Name one food item that you have a hard time saying no to.
What is next for FELOH?
FELOH continues to work on getting the brands in the marketplace into mass retailers and creating a strategy to penetrate the international market.
Camille's last words, "Black Girl Ventures definitely really helped us out a lot. And I'm still reaping the blessings of that opportunity. So thank you all for creating this. I'm excited for all the entrepreneurs that come up through your platform. This is definitely empowering us in a way nobody else is empowering us, so it's cool."