ShantaQuilette Carter Williams has always been passionate about women's wellness. After her aunt and two friends passed away from breast cancer, it propelled her to start a movement to educate specifically Black women about toxic products. Even more specifically, women impacted by breast cancer or any other diseases. She has a nonprofit called the Pink Peppermint Project. A nonprofit organization helping women diagnosed with breast cancer navigate their treatment by providing programs, resources, and services using complementary therapies designed to promote physical and emotional wellness. ShantaQuilette created Glam Con, an event to educate cancer survivors and caregivers on the importance of using healthy products.
However, she ran into a major obstacle. She couldn't find natural and holistic vendors to be a part of the event. That stuck with her, however fast forward to 2012, when ShantaQuilette started to experience her own health issues, and in 2018, she had a heart attack. Then one year later, she had a stroke. She believes the stroke sent her into a premenopausal state which activated severe and uncomfortable side effects. ShantaQuiellete searched for a product that didn't require a prescription with limited side effects, which she couldn't find.
Amid her recovery, she received a four-page write-up from her neuropsychologist about the status of her returning to work. "So I read it, and it was basically like, you're not going to be able to go back to work. You need to apply for disability. You're not functioning at the level that you were functioning before being there."
This incident propelled her to research different ingredients. She then became a certified herbalist and a certified aromatherapist, and a life coach. She turned to her father, who had 40 years of experience in product manufacturing, and asked him questions about product makeup and how to create products without them expiring. ShantaQuilette's first product was a whole-body deodorant called Sweet Pits, but she wanted it to be multitasking. Like her medications, she didn't want to have an assortment of products to use. She wanted to create something that tackled the needs of sensitive skin, odor and was helpful to the immune system in one package.
Her entire life shifted. ShantaQuilette shared, "I started crying because I was going into a depression because I was like, I'm not going to be able to work. My whole life is going to be ruined. And I was like, God, what do I need to do? What do I just need to do? And he literally said, girl, you need to be natural. You know what you need to do, girl, be natural." Girl B Natural became a call to action for women everywhere. In that same year, with her cane, she entered a pitch competition. She said, "I never did a pitch competition before. So I was fumbling." She only had an idea in hand and a box of products that she wanted to shift into a subscription model.
They asked her to return and redo her pitch. She shared, "I was really embarrassed. I said, I really cannot articulate myself because I've had a stroke, and I can't remember anything. And I said, do you mind if I use my iPad to read my pitch to you? And they kind of looked at first, and they were like, sure." ShantaQuilette ended up winning that pitch competition. There was supposed to be only one winner, but the judges were so impressed by her tenacity, story, and products that they created two winners.
What are you most proud of when it comes to Girl B Natural?
ShantaQuilette said, "The advocacy part of it and the education—I want to change lives. So when we hear stories of women being impacted by our products, that is number one. And so we were not, you know, selling a product just to make a profit. We are selling a product to make a change." Girl B Natural constantly receives stories from women who have autoimmune disorders, where her product has improved their skin and immune systems. She said, "Just being able to educate, being able to advocate—I am a women's health advocate, and I just want to help women." Working alongside her daughter, her co-founder, they continue with their mission.
What were some of your biggest fears along your journey?
ShantaQuilette shared, "To be really transparent, not being able to see it come into full fruition. Because I've had so many health issues, sometimes you can't help to have those things in the back of your mind. So if it blossoms up to something beautiful, will I be able to be here to celebrate it?" She fears that she might have another stroke and at what stage of her business would she be. She said, "Would my family be able to carry on that legacy without me?" This isn't a current fear for ShantaQuilette because through meditation and prayer, she believes, whatever happens, is meant to happen, "If I'm worried about what happened yesterday, I can't live tomorrow," she said. She is focused on the here and now and not anything that's outside of her control.
Tell us about any significant setbacks that you had in your business and how did you recover?
ShantaQuilette shared that she didn't have any business acumen when it related to selling her product, creating campaigns, and when she sold out 100 deodorants, she became nervous. She didn't have a plan if there was an order for 1000. She shared, "You know, my faith is so strong. And so I said, God, you know, if I need to stop and shift, just let me know, but align me with the right people. And so that's what happened. So it was like a moment where we had to stop and realize that if we don't do it right, we will continue to do wrong." She knew that if she didn't pivot and shift her business model, her business wouldn't survive.
Describe what it was like preparing for the pitch competition?
ShantaQuilette is notorious for doing uncomfortable things. She doesn't like to remain stagnant and prefers to move around. She signed up for the pitch competition with no preparation and no plan. It wasn't until she received an email invitation to pitch that she realized the seriousness of the competition. ShantaQuilette began to research previous winners and the Black Girl Ventures organization. This heightened her nervousness, and she almost talked herself out of following through with it.
ShantaQuilette said, "I hadn't really prepared, but I was thankful for the transparency and honesty with Shelly. I did my first pitch practice. I was all over the place. I remember doing the pitch and, and literally, she said, that's wack. She's asking me all these questions, and I'm like, oh Lord, I don't know.
After she gave me the information necessary and told me, this is what you need to do. And this is what you should be doing. You know, that constructive criticism with love, that hard stuff that you need to see that you need to hear that most people won't give you.
You know, being able to do that pitch practice and also get the feedback. I loved how, even though we were competing with each other, those ladies were still saying, oh, your brand is amazing. Maybe you should do this, and you need to add this. I was just so grateful to be in a place of women who want to see women win."
ShantaQuilette's advice for those looking to enter pitch competitions is to enter them. She said, "If you don't do it, then the only answer is no." She encourages others to take the feedback because it's pivotal to your success. She further added, "Allow others to lead you and nurture you and feed into you where you can't feed into yourself in relation to business." She encourages entrepreneurs not to take anything personally and use that feedback to grow their business further.
The pitch funds were used for Girl B Natural graphics to rebrand their packaging, social media templates, inventory, supplies, and everything else that goes into relaunching the brand to get into more retail stores.
Support is not always given to Black and Brown women in business; when has this shown and hurt or disappointed you the most?
ShantaQuilette said, "I think it holds a lot of people back. When you see other people who have ideas that are not as great as you, it can be discouraging. But at the same time, I say what's for me is for me. And I never let that stop me because I think even with starting my business. Honestly, I didn't really even know about investors, so I can honestly say it didn't affect me in any kind of way because I really didn't know that there was an option that you could actually go out and ask people for money or ask people for grants to support your business.
Now, as far as my nonprofit, I always knew there were grants out there. So, I never had problems getting money, but I didn't know what was out there as far as starting a for-profit business. But then, once I started reading the statistics, it didn't surprise me. We're always on the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to things like that.
So it didn't surprise me, but I'm grateful that organizations like Black Girl Ventures are giving women access to funds and access to investors. And if we can't, you know, go through Shelly, then she's given us a way to say, hey, this is how you ask for it. This is how you do it. So I appreciate that."
How do you measure success?
ShantaQuilette measures success by impact and not by numbers or money. She said, "I feel like the more impact that I bring, the more money will come in, and the more women will come to us." When women tell her they've healed areas of their bodies because they've used Girl B Natural products, then for her, that's a success.
What's the most critical lesson you've learned about business, in general?
Many entrepreneurs (and people in general) struggle with perfection. ShantaQuilette said, "That you can't be perfect that nothing's going ever to be perfect. You might get close to perfect. But perfection is the devil in business because it causes procrastination. And so if you're trying to tailor something to get it right continuously, you will forever be stuck on that one thing." She encourages entrepreneurs to let go and let things flow by allowing everything to come together. Another piece of advice is to build a successful team. She believes that you need experts on your team to help your business grow.
What's the biggest risk that you've taken so far?
For ShantaQuilette, getting started and using her funds to fund her business was a considerable risk. At that time, she wasn't receiving a paycheck and had depleted her leave. She had a vision, but money almost kept her from moving forward. She's thankful for the support she received from her husband. They both paid off their vehicles to focus solely on Girl B Natural.
ShantaQuilette said, "So, it's just making the sacrifices to say, if I really want to go into business, I'm going to really do everything that I need to. And I think a lot of people miss that to say." To fulfill the goals of this vision, she and her husband humbled themselves and their lifestyles. She's leaned into her resilience, and she feels fortunate to have a partner that didn't make her compromise her vision.
What do you think is an important skill or asset you need to be successful in business?
ShantaQuilette said, "I think you, you definitely have to be a good leader. And you have to want it. And I think another important thing is financial acumen. I think many people don't mention that, but financial acumen is very important." As a former MBA tax accountant, she has witnessed many businesses not survive because they couldn't maintain adequate books or manage the financial side of their business. She also touched upon having self-awareness and strong communication skills as crucial traits to being successful in business.
What do you think the future holds for Black and Brown women entrepreneurs and small business owners?
ShantaQuilette said, "I think this is the year of the Black woman. The percentage of businesses owned by Black women is astronomical. And I think now, even with COVID, people see how you can't rely on jobs, or people are just inspired because they've lost income and want to start businesses. So I just see it just going up from here.
So many Black women are starting businesses, but many of them are not even able to keep them above water. So, being able to know how you get resources, how to you know, manage your books and records, and how to get access to capital for your business so it can sustain and be viable is important."
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?
ShantaQuilette has already made incredible gains with Girl B Natural in such a short amount of time. She hopes when Black women go to the hospital, Girl B Natural is accessible products in those places. ShantaQuilette said, "I'm already incredibly happy about my progress. I see our product in stores. I see our product impacting women. One of the biggest things is getting my product, not into Target, not into Walmart, but being into MD Anderson and being in John Hopkins truly in places that women really need it. So to be able to be connected in health and making an impact in health with Black women, I would feel for be fulfilled."
Running a business while balancing a personal life can be demanding and taxing. How do you take care of yourself?
After years of battling health issues, ShantaQuilette doesn't take her mental health lightly. Her self-care involves setting intentions, reciting affirmations, meditation, and putting God first. Every morning she says, "I can do anything, but I can't do everything."
As a business owner, she recognizes how easy it is to over-schedule and to overextend yourself. When that happens, it maximizes her stress levels. She further mentioned, "If you're not getting rest, if you're not taking care of yourself, you can't nurture your business, and there's no business if there's no, you, so that's the most important thing to me." ShantaQuilette encourages entrepreneurs not to focus on what everyone else is doing and how far they are in their business because if you do, it will wear and tear at you over time.
What is your favorite quote or mantra?
Every time I wake up, I'm winning. Every time I wake up, I'm winning."
What is your favorite book and podcast?
Affirmed: 365 Days of Positive Thoughts and Actions to Start Your Day by Cheryl Williamson
The Greatest Words Ever Spoken: Everything Jesus Said About You, Your Life, and Everything Else by Stephen K. Scott
The Joe Budden Podcast & The Hey Girl Podcast
What's your favorite business hack or app that you can't live without?
UpWork and Fiverr.
Name one food item that you have a hard time saying no to.
What's next for Girl B Natural?
Girl B Natural is relaunching and is excited to show the world its new packaging and messaging. The packaging and the colors represent ShantaQuilette, who is fun, glamorous, and full of life.
Her final message is, "I just want to say that, you know, for any woman that is looking to be nurtured or looking for a community of women and support, then Black Girl Ventures is it. It's an organization full of integrity.
Honesty community. So this is, you know, what Shelly has built is amazing. And I just want to convey that she's a wonderful woman. And everyone who's surrounded by her is a wonderful woman."