Updated: Aug 11
When it comes to hair, for many Black women protecting their hair is the only way to keep it healthy. It could be using a protective style like braids to protect it from harsh winters or limiting the frequency of washes in between to retain the moisture in the hair. Even more importantly, most Black women protect their hair at night to allow their natural hairstyles to last longer.
Peach Brown, Founder of Sledge Scarves, was frustrated about a common problem. She was frustrated with finding her scarf on the floor, the bed, and everywhere else except on her head. Peach was determined to solve the problem herself by finding a way to keep her scarf on her head all night. Like most entrepreneurs, she was "fed up at work" and wanted to quit her job. Peach began to strategize the different ways that she could work for herself, and that's when she thought about her scarf problem.
Before she started to test the idea with her friends, she recalls having several casual conversations with people about how their scarves fell off, which in return ruined the styles they spent money and time on. "Right then and there, I knew it was a good idea for me to solve that problem, not just for me but for everybody else," said Peach. She did what we all usually do when looking to solve a problem; she headed to Google, YouTube, and Facebook. Did a product like this already exist? She couldn't find anything, so she created it. Peach wants all women to have their edges "slayed, " so she made Sledge Scarves by combining the two words.
What are you most proud of when it comes to Sledge Scarves?
Peach is proud that she's committed to her business. In the past, her excitement would dwindle after a month when she had a new idea. But with her latest venture, it's something that she's passionate about that still excites her. Peach said, "I'm still moving forward. And also, I keep proving to myself every day that I can actually do this because I enter pitch competitions. I win pitch competitions. I meet new people, and new people are so very willing to help me. So, I've proved a lot to myself over the course of these past couple of years of designing the scarf and working on ways to improve the scarf."
What's the biggest fear you had during your business journey?
Peach's biggest fear has been social media. She hasn't been on social media for an entire decade. She didn't know how to use it or what the trends were, so she was unsure how to apply it to her business. Not only that, she was afraid of putting herself and her company out into the world.
But most importantly, she feared that someone would reach out to her and say she stole their idea. "I was also fearful of people judging me or thinking that the scarf was stupid. Or even people who've known me since I was little just saying, 'Oh Peach, she's never going to be able to do that.' Just fearful of judgment and somebody coming at me saying that's my idea you stole it," shared Peach.
Tell us about any major setbacks that you had in your business and how did you recover?
Peach has experienced a sudden stall in her business. She was in the process of launching a new style of scarves. However, her patent lawyer has been unresponsive. She cannot move forward until she has him review her documents to ensure that her new product falls under the current patent specifications already created. Not only that, she's working with a manufacturer that has also gone radio silent. She's already spent money out of her pockets, and they have details of her scarf's dimensions. "It's nerve-wracking because you trust people with your ideas, especially when it's in the patent phase and you make them sign NDA's but NDA's don't stop people from creating a product. Even patents don't stop people from creating a product." This is a common issue for entrepreneurs who have to use manufacturers for their products.
Describe what it was like preparing for the pitch competition?
Although this isn't Peach's first time pitching, she has never competed in high stakes with sizable pitch winnings and bonuses, and she never had to put together a pitch deck. Like how she began her research when she started her company, Peach went to work dissecting what a pitch was, what information she needed for her pitch and how to talk about her product in three minutes.
Peach said, "But once we started working together as a group, my co-pitchers gave feedback to each other. It was really, really helpful. It then let me know that oh, I'm not the only one who's kind of confused or who kind of doesn't know what they're doing." After the first meeting, she felt a bit out of place because the other business owners knew their ideal customers inside and out. They were making a tremendous amount of revenue in their businesses. They also knew their numbers inside and out.
Peach said, "I'm still learning how to do all of that stuff. I was kind of intimidated off of that, but once I, you know, kept participating in the group and we had more sessions, I realized sometimes people just know things that you don't know at that time. And likewise, for them, you may know things at that moment that they don't know. So, it was helpful to be able to learn from other people." Through this process, Peach became more confident because she shared her skill sets with the pitch practice group, which made her feel less alone in the process. She learned that just because someone is ahead of you in their business doesn't make them any better than you. You're just on a different journey in your business.
Peach approached strangers with a mask during the pitch competition, asked them to watch her pitch video, and asked them to donate. She was nervous, but she knew she had to do something to push the votes in her favor. Peach used her pitch funds for inventory, the manufacturer, marketing, packaging and saved the rest for a rainy day. In the future, she hopes to hire a social media manager.
Peach's advice is, "Be confident. Don't give up. If you have questions, just ask. Everybody is so willing to help, even Shelly. Just keep trying. Even if you feel like you bombed your pitch, take it as a learning experience and do better the next time. Sometimes you have to fail a couple of times to learn the lesson that you're supposed to learn from it. Don't be intimidated."
How do you measure success?
"I measure success off of happiness. People measure success in different ways. Some people think success is having a lot of money. Some people think success is having freedom. I choose happiness because at the end of the day if you're happy in your life, everything else will just seem great. If you don't have happiness, everything will go down because you're not in that present state of being joyful, or feeling loved, or feeling confident. So as long as I can keep myself happy in whatever it is that I'm doing, I'm successful," shared Peach.
Support is not always given to Black and Brown women in business; when has this shown and hurt or disappointed you the most?
Funding is what Peach sees as the most significant lack of support on her business journey. Finding funding wasn't easy and not being able to tap into her family members to help fund her venture was impossible. Peach has had to learn new ways to manage her finances and what to do with her money. "No matter how much money you get, if you don't learn a different way to manage it or to spend it, then it's just going to be a revolving door of the same negative things that previously happened with the money," said Peach.
What's the most critical lesson you've learned about business, in general?
"Stay consistent. If you're not consistent, you're not going go anywhere," shared Peach. Starting a business, working on it a few times here and there didn't help her grow. When you're not working on your business consistently, you might even forget the things you were doing previously because there's no routine. The other lesson that Peach learned was social media and marketing. Peach said, "You have to be in everybody's face constantly, every single day. You have to do these things daily. Otherwise, people forget about you." When you remain consistent, she further adds, you educate yourself, you grasp what you're learning to bring those skills right back into your business.
What's the biggest risk that you've taken so far?
The biggest risk Peach has taken so far is giving her manufacturer the design dimensions of the scarves. She shared the designs of the scarves, and now the manufacturer knows how to create them—giving her manufacturer secrets to the scarves with the potential of selling them as their own. "It's telling someone exactly how I made it, why I make something the way it does, she's getting sales on my design," Peach laughed, "It's inevitable, you know most companies, people are copying what they're doing. But I feel like with me at such an early stage, it's even more of a risk because I'm so small because as a manufacturer, she has what she needs to create 100 scarves on site. I'm going to her because I can't do that."
What's the most exciting part of your business?
Peach enjoys proving something new to herself every day. She never used to be confident in the things that she did. She shared, "I used to think I wasn't smart, 'cause I was horrible at school. Horrible! I mean, I've been actually kicked out of university because I failed so badly." Peach was hard on herself when she received the letter in the mail that said she couldn't return unless she went to a community college.
"I really used to think that I was stupid like I couldn't retain information," she shared. When she started her business, she learned something incredible about herself. It wasn't that she couldn't retain information. She wasn't interested and was quickly bored with the things that weren't of interest to her. Part of learning for Peach is she has to enjoy what she's doing, or she can't be involved with it.
What do you think the future holds for Black and Brown women entrepreneurs and small business owners?
Peach said, "I think it holds a lot. We're growing so quickly; as far as starting up businesses, there are so many people making sure that we're getting the money that we need to fund our businesses. And because of that, it's able to be seen by little girls. When I was younger, I really didn't see many women with their own businesses. Actually, I didn't see any Black women with their businesses. It was always Black men."
Peach's dad is an entrepreneur, and her mother is a creative that works with her hands. She believes she received many of these characteristics from them, which have enabled her to start her business. She further added, "As long as you know Black women continue to be as powerful and as strong as we are, you know to make sure we stand our ground, we'll go far. We'll be doing big things, and it won't be out of the norm to see a Black woman riding around in luxury cars buying million-dollar homes. It will look normal."
What do you think is an important skill or asset you need to be successful in business?
"Taking things with a grain of salt, I think, is good. And being able to bounce back quickly without getting too emotional," said Peach. There's a lot that can go wrong in your business, plus you're constantly meeting and working with various personalities. Despite those differences, she suggests remaining pleasant and positively handling yourself. She also says be mindful of the comparison trap because you are where you are because that's where you're supposed to be. "You don't have to do what everybody is doing. And actually, you shouldn't be doing what everybody else is doing because you need to be different," said Peach.
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?
Peach hopes not to be where she currently is three years from now. She hopes to be further along on her business journey. Her goal is always to be better than where she was the day before. But most importantly, she hopes to help young girls realize their creativity and let them know that they don't have to sell something that someone else owns or created if they want to start a business. She hopes in the next few years. She can inspire young girls to create something from their imaginations and monetize it.
Running a business while balancing a personal life can be demanding and taxing. How do you take care of yourself?
Peach enjoys being outdoors and makes sure she works outside, spends time being around nature because it grounds her. During the wintertime, she needs to be by a window that has a lot of sunlight. She works out and practices gratitude meditation. In addition, Peach keeps her body healthy by drinking water and eating healthily. She maintains her relationships with her loved ones. But most importantly, she holds a strict schedule where there are open and closed hours that allow her to separate herself from her business. Lastly, she doesn't answer emails or look at her phone during the first hour of the day.
What is your favorite quote or mantra?
What would you do if you weren't afraid? Just because you're afraid doesn't mean you shouldn't do it.
What is your favorite book and podcast?
Book: Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer by Spencer Johnson
Podcast: How I Built This
What's your favorite business hack or app that you can't live without?
Name one food item that you have a hard time saying no to.
What's next for Sledge Scarves?
Peach is designing the baby Sledge and redesigning the current Sledge. She is working on new products with new fabrics and add-on items so people can protect their hair. Peach would like to provide her customers with more than scarves but tools to better care for their hair. She is looking to create pillowcases, scrunchies and further broadening her inventory.
"I'm just so thankful to have been chosen for the pitch competition. It really brought me and my business to an entirely new level that I never thought I'd be able to get to so quickly. I just love being able to watch Black Girl Ventures grow in itself. While I'm growing, they're growing themselves. Just saw on Twitter there's a Black Man's Venture. I'm just so honored to have been a part of this. It's exciting to be a part of something like that."