Updated: Feb 4, 2022
GaBBy Bows began as a bi-weekly trip to the beauty store. Rozalynn would buy barrettes for her daughter, but the barrettes weren't saying on her daughter's pigtails, no matter the kind or the brand. She found herself having difficulty closing the barrettes and noticed how poorly constructed they were, and most didn't have proper clasps. Rozalyn found herself going on a social media rant about the barrettes. Soon, other parents chimed in. That's when she realized she wasn't the only one.
Most parents shared that they either used rubber bands to keep them tight or stopped using them altogether. Her Pastor told her there's a market looking to solve this problem. Then she was styling her daughter's hair one day, "I must have said something like, man, somebody needs to make a bow. Gabby, was five, jumped out of the seat and said, mommy, are we going to make a bow?" Rozalynn brushed it off; however, her daughter was relentless in asking her when she would make a bow for her hair.
Never in Rozalynn's wildest dreams did she think she would start a business. She never even thought of becoming an entrepreneur. She said, "I couldn't even think about starting our own business. It just wasn't even in my purview, and it ended up being this, a full line of products. This patented invention has got three patents. The first of its kind double-faced double snapped barrettes that we call GaBBy bows, and this whole Confidence brand and movement. We've helped over 50 Black girls start their businesses, you know, never in my wildest dreams."
Rozalynn said, "That was nine years ago that that social media exchange would lead to this. It all goes back to—I just want to show my daughter that nothing was impossible if she had an idea. We would, you know, take it as far as it would go. I just didn't know it would go this far."
What are you most proud of when it comes to GaBBy Bows?
Rozalynn is most proud of watching her daughter develop confidence within herself and transform into a leader. At one point, Gabby was deathly afraid of speaking. Now she's traveling, giving keynotes, and mentoring 40 Black girls. They launched the Confidence brand to help young Black girls nationwide to help strengthen their confidence.
Gabby expressed wanting to help other girls. She said, "I want girls who look like me to be CEOs, just like me. I want them to know that I didn't start here. Like you can be at the same spot. If I can get over being that shy, that timid, that afraid any girl can get through anything that can hinder them and be who they were created to be."
What's the biggest risk you've taken so far?
Rozalynn and her husband withdrew from their retirement to fund GaBBy Bows. Despite having great relationships with the banks and excellent credit, they couldn't get any investors to invest in their dream. They risked everything financially, and thankfully it has paid off.
What fears did you have along the journey?
Fear gripped Rozalynn. She feared falling into something new to her. Her mother encouraged her to receive a "good education" to get a "good job." She was the first person in her family to go to college. She said, "This whole thing about entrepreneurship was very scary, so there were a lot of fears there about failure because we honestly just didn't know what we were doing. But you know, getting in communities like Black Girl Ventures and connecting with mentors and participating in pitch competitions to meet other people who were in your same boat, you know, all those things help to reduce those fears and build your confidence.
Tell us about any major setbacks that you had and how you recovered.
Rozalynn shared how the no's almost discouraged them. She said, "Even if you've been in it for a while, you think you're about to have a big break, and then it becomes nothing." She recalled receiving an opportunity to do a prime-time TV show and spent six months preparing for it and how it consumed her and Gabby's lives, but it never aired.
She said, "Every time you do something like that, and you think this is it like this is going to be my break. I'm going to get $50,000, or I'm going to win this, or I'm going to get this partner, who's this huge name in the business world. You know, so you record those things. They make these promises. So people don't fulfill what they told your child that they were going to do when they were eight years old, or you recorded in front of a lab studio audience with like 600 people. They lose, they cry. I mean, it was just—it has been a dramatic seven years."
Another major setback that GaBBy Bows experienced was getting their products into 30 retail stores with the hopes of expanding into 300 stores. Still, something happened on the corporate side, and it fell through. After hearing many, no's and experiencing seven years of setbacks, Rozalynn, and her daughter Gabby decided to take matters into their own hands. They decided they wouldn't leave their potential revenue in other people's hands.
Describe what it was like preparing for the pitch competition.
Rozalynn isn't unfamiliar with pitch competitions. She ensures that she and Gabby participate in a pitch competition every year. She's always looking for opportunities to pitch because pitching is a huge part of the business. Participating in the Black Girl Ventures pitch practice helped her hone in on her pitch.
Rozalynn said, "There was the preparation, there was training. We all are going to grow through this. We're all going to get better. And that's one thing I really admire about Black Girl Ventures, and how they do pitches is just totally different. Whether you win or don't win, you still win because you have learned to hone your pitch.
You've learned how to message what you are marketing. You've met other great brands that you can partner with in the future. So, that's kind of what the experience was like for me. So, while I've done other pitch competitions, you know, there are not many that are like this that are really trying to make sure we all win."
Rozalynn and Gabby used the pitch funds in their girl Boss Academy retreat. They invited 25 girls from 12 states, mainly between the ages of 5 and 7, to train in sales and marketing, including social media content planning. They had a dance party, a DJ, a spa day with a whole photo shoot, and experts presenters for the workshops.
Her advice for those looking to pitch in competitions is, "Enter first. A pitch competition with Black Girl Ventures is a perfect place to start. You got people on various levels, and it's a welcoming environment. As far as winning it is, knowing your story, you know, figuring out what your wow is. Tell me more, you know, that thing that makes people say, man, I want to know more about that. What is that five-word sentence that you can say or tell people, and they want to know more about it?
I'll work through this exercise with people I'm coaching, and I'll just keep asking why, why, why? And then they'll get to the bottom of why they do what they do. And they're like, oh my God, I've never thought about it like that."
How do you measure success?
Through creating their Girl Bosses Academy, they've shifted the definition of success. Rozalynn and Gabby believe that success is measured through courageous effort. For instance, in the girls' leadership academy, they can create simple social media posts about the products or do a video. Success isn't always a sale. It's remaining consistent and sticking with the plan.
Support isn't always given to Black and Brown women in business; when has this shown and hurt or disappointed you the most?
Rozalynn shared, "We would be pitching and sharing, and then we'd see people who look totally different from Gabby, with I thought ideas that were not as developed as hers get help, get funding, you know, receive support—and to see her have to experience that at a young age, I think it was probably most disappointing for me.
And I didn't realize she was putting it together, but we did an interview some months ago, and she articulated that, yeah, they probably got it because I didn't look like them. At 7, 8, 9 years old, she could tell. And I was like, wow, that's a really tough lesson to learn, but it's true. So, I don't regret her being exposed to that early. But it was still hard for me to see as a mom that that was her reality."
What's the most critical lesson that you've learned about business?
Rozalynn said, "The most critical lesson that I've learned in business is don't quit. You gotta keep going." Her husband pointed out that most people on the entrepreneurial journey want this type of investment or support at the beginning of their business. When they don't get it, they quit.
Rozalynn believes that her business might encourage others not to quit because it took GaBBy Bows 7-8 years to gain traction and receive the recognition and funding they've recently received.
What do you think is an important skill or asset you need to succeed in business?
Rozalynn believes the most critical skill to learn is selling and pitching yourself. She said, "I think the most important skill is the skill of selling and pitching. And when I say pitching, I'm being very general, not necessarily saying a pitch competition, but that is a great way to hone that skill. But if you're not able to sell and communicate and pitch who you are, what you do, why you do it, why you are the problem solver for the thing that ails and brings pain to your customer. You're not going to get very far. You got to be able to communicate that."
What's the most exciting part of your business?
Rozalynn loves interacting with the community the most. She loves their Mommy & Me Entrepreneurship Academy the most. They also have a Facebook group where they talk about natural hair and how young girls can increase their confidence. She calls the group, The Confidence Family. In that group, they provide educational demonstrations about natural hair care, conduct quarterly confidence challenges morning affirmations, and bring stylists to develop the community's knowledge about hair care.
What do you think the future holds for Black and Brown women entrepreneurs?
Rozalynn believes in, reach one teach one. She said," I believe the future is bright. We're taking matters into our own hands. We are lifting as we climb. Because so many of us have run into so many stumbling blocks, we're determined that it won't happen to our sisters, you know? So it's so many of us doing kind of like what we're doing with our academy. Like we're not leaving our sisters behind. So I think the future is definitely brighter for those coming after us because of that."
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?
GaBBy Bows hopes to have expanded their academy and have helped 100 young Black girls start their businesses. She hopes to see their very first girls grow in their businesses and be where Gabby is now. Some of the young girls now have become influencers, have brand partnerships, and published her second book. GaBBy Bows will be a multi-seven figure business and own a hair salon.
Running a business while balancing a personal life can be demanding and taxing. How do you take care of yourself?
Quarterly, she and her husband go on a getaway trip to focus on their marriage. They both run businesses from their homes, and as business partners, it's possible to forget that you're married unless you take the time to focus on your marriage. They don't engage in any work for 3-days. Rozalynn and her family take regular trips together and spend a lot of time with extended family. She's also intentional about spending one-on-one time with Gabby every 2-3 weeks. Recently, she's been booking hotel stays twice a year solo. She recommends that entrepreneurs plan these experiences and connections into their lives.
Rozalynn said, "I'm doing this three times a year. And when we have our family business meetings, we'll okay. It's time for the getaway. We're gone—that's an agenda. Just like the budget or the bills are, it's an agenda item." Lastly, Rozalynn goes to the gym five times a week.
What is your favorite quote or mantra?
What is a book and podcast that you would recommend?
NPR, How I Built This
Building A Story Brand by Donald Miller
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's next for GaBBy Bows?
GaBBy Bows is hiring and expanding its team to grow and scale its business.