Budding entrepreneur retraces journey from peddling on Mandeville’s streets
Emerging entrepreneur Nastassia Baker knows all about nos as she has got more than her fair share.
But she is also celebrating the three yeses that came her way that led to her CurlFrenz Rosemary Oil gracing the shelves of Fontana Pharmacy, Forever Young, and Johnson’s Pharmacy – all located in Mandeville.
Baker, who hails from Clarendon and is now living in Mandeville, said the change in fortunes is worlds away from the days of peddling products on the streets of the Manchester capital.
“I walked on the road and sold in the town of Mandeville. A lot of people would see me, I would pull my hair down and stuff and kind of bring it down to the side,” she said in a Gleaner interview.
In retracing her journey into the hair-growth oil industry, Baker said the first seeds were planted when her granny would playfully comment on her head that “it look like John Crow draw brakes inna it!”
“I used to perm my hair but, for some strange reason, the front part would look red and the middle part ‘picky-picky’, and I started experimenting with my own products. I would mix up stuff at home and from one formula to the next until I saw changes,” the CurlFrenz CEO said.
The former call centre worker said that, when she worked at Sutherland BPO, co-workers noticed how healthy her hair appeared. That pique in interest caused them to nudge her to experiment even more. That’s all where it all started.
Then, Baker worked as a senior quality analyst on weekdays before packing her basket with products and hitting the road.
“Foot bottom a bun mi. Mi tired! Sun a bun mi, but every Saturday I was out!” she said, recalling sales as patchy - good some days, less favourable on others.
Venturing out in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 made the challenge even more difficult. By the end of that defining year, she was even forced to pause operations.
“A whole lot of crying, as you think it is going to go a particular way when you start because, at the back of my mind, sales would be brisk and, oops, it didn’t go that way!” Baker said.
After conducting feasibility studies, she withdrew her aloe vera and castor oil products and focused on rosemary oil.
As business picked up in early 2022, Baker took a leap of faith and walked away from her job to pump more time and effort into building her brand.
She, however, encourages others who have the same vision to think carefully before making that move.
The entrepreneur believes it was just the right time for her.
“I don’t believe in you giving so much of yourself to somebody else’s business, somebody else’s company, and not putting time in your ideas … . I believe you can give one hour out of the day, if it is even half-hour.
“For me, sometimes it was just literally finishing work cutting out some labels, cutting out some business cards, labelling some bottles. As long as I put something into my business, at the end of the day that would be good for me,” she said.
Beyond Mandeville, Baker also services orders outside the parish through zip mail and couriers.
Looking ahead, Baker said she wants to see CurlFrenz Organics on the shelves of retail stores and in beauty salons, locally and internationally.
“I like to tell people, if you don’t want thick, healthy hair, stay away from my products,” Baker quipped.