Since her early 20’s, Vanessa Lorraine thrived in the finance industry as an executive and she continued to climb the corporate ladder. In 2014, her finance career progression came to an abrupt halt when she fell ill with blood clots in her lungs. Thankfully, she overcame the often fatal sickness, but was let go from her job shortly after. This unfortunate ordeal is what propelled her to her destiny. She decided to revisit her first love, which was hair, and in turn became an entrepreneur who established a majorly prosperous business in the hair industry, The Curl Refinery. Read on as she shares some invaluable information from her journey.
Circumstances pretty much forced you into your passion, but would you say your education and experience in finance caused you to be better equipped (than most) for entrepreneurship? Did it make the transition easier?
I can honestly say that every experience in my life lead me to where I am today. From positions in finance where I had a horrible manager that taught me how not to treat my team, to watching how my multimillionaire clients strategically allocated their money. Having a strong background in finance absolutely gave me a competitive edge in entrepreneurship. However, while the knowledge made my transition smoother, the position I left made it much harder. I was leaving a six figure career to rely solely on income from my own business.
Is that what assisted in placing you a head above the rest?
No, I believe what aided in placing me above my competition was my caring nature. I truly love and value each and every single one of my customers. This shows in everything from the quality of products that The Curl Refinery brings to the market to how we respond to customer emails. People know when they and their business are being valued and this has taken me farther than anything else.
We know that there are pros and cons to everything. In your professional opinion, what are the pros of entrepreneurship over corporate America?
Two of the largest pros of entrepreneurship over corporate America are unlimited earning capabilities and freedom to control your own schedule. While in corporate America, I made six figures, but all I could ever make was six figures. There was a cap on my income no matter how hard I worked. As an entrepreneur, I did seven figures in sales my first year alone. My income was directly related to my efforts; I fully controlled it with no ceilings. With that came the ability to control my schedule. If my son is sick, I do not have to check with my boss about leaving work or staying home. I have the freedom to be with the ones I love when I see fit.
What have been your biggest challenges as a black woman business owner? Your greatest rewards?
My biggest challenge as a black woman business owner has been trying to break and dominate in an industry that is monopolized by Asians. There are a multitude of barriers of entry into this field. I have had to come up with creative ways to make my mark and overcome obstacles. My greatest reward is knowing that as I forge my path into this industry, I will be able to make a way for others who want to do the same thing.
Hair is an extremely popular/competitive industry. I can’t tell you how many random hair companies I have following me daily on IG or even how many people I know personally who have delved into the business! What would you say to someone who’s leery about becoming an entrepreneur in what seems like an over saturated industry?
There is room for us all to eat. If this is truly your passion, purpose, and calling there is more than enough market share for you to come in and dominate. My goal is to bring as many black men and women as possible into this industry with me. That is the reason behind my coaching, consulting, and private labeling services.
How would you advise them to stand out?
I would advise them to run a customer focused business. In every decision be sure to put your customers first. Many companies put profits and sales numbers above quality. If you focus on meeting a unique need in the market and providing unparalleled service, you will surely stand out.
What should we expect from you next?
My eBook, My Million Dollar Mistakes, launched last week. It is now available on my website http://www.vanessalorraine.com. Also, in the next 3 months, customers can expect 4 new products from The Curl Refinery that are sure to take the market by storm!
Last, but not least: What’s the number one piece of advice you would give to someone thinking about going into business for themselves?
My number one piece of advice would be to find a mentor. I spent and lost millions of dollars making the wrong decisions while trying to teach myself how to walk a path I had never walked before. Connect with someone who has been where you are trying to go and genuinely wants to see you succeed. If they are in the beauty industry I am more than happy to give them guidance. They can reach me on my website www.vanessalorraine.com or directly at email@example.com.
As you can see, Vanessa is not only a force to be reckoned with, but she is also generous in sharing her wealth of knowledge. She is a true inspiration!