Born and raised in Newark, New Jersey, Atiyah [uh-tee-yuh] McDaniels, is the CEO of Intense Beauté [pronounced Intense Beauty] by MtrlGirl®, a virgin hair extensions & lifestyle company, Founder & Business Coach for A Boss Academy, an Author of 4 books, and a mother to her daughter, Nahla. From a young age, Atiyah has always embodied an entrepreneurial spirit, dreaming of owning her own business, but never knew exactly what type of business it would be. This changed the moment she decided to go natural with her hair.
How did you get started working in the beauty industry?
I actually stumbled my way into the industry as far as business goes. I may have been destined to have a beauty brand as though I grew up first hand around an Aunt who is a licensed cosmetologist. My interest in owning my own hair extensions company did not present itself until I was forced to cut all of my hair off in 2010 and go natural (that’s another story lol). To combat my fear of being out in public rocking a small afro I opted for hair extension, preferably wigs. Women would ask me all the time where I was buying my extensions from and after referring so many people to buy from other business owners I told myself I need to be getting some of this coin lol. Thus, Intense Beauté was born in 2016.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I did not know I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I also love fashion. From middle school to sophomore year of highschool I wanted to go to the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York to major in fashion merchandising. I worked in a retail store at sixteen and saw first hand what all went into working in the industry and quickly ditched the idea of working retail again. I hated being around the clothes and a messy store and always having to fold clothes that customers rumbled through as they looked for their size. Needless to say, I discovered retail was not for me! I even quit the job and never went back! After graduating highschool, I lande a corporate job through a workforce program where the agreement was I would work for them full time and they would pay for my schooling part time. So I decided to go to a community college for business because at this point was when I discovered hair extensions and looked to go into business for myself. I took a couple business courses, learned nothing and changed majors. At this point my new major is communications because I figured I could learn some marketing tips. Even in the new major I felt I was wasting my time so I dropped out (if you can’t tell by now I don’t like to waste time lol). When I dropped out of school this time I launched Intense Beaute in the same month!
Was there anyone along your way that you considered a mentor? Or anyone you were inspired by as you developed your strategies?
I looked up to many people in the industry, whether they know it or not. Ultimately, I really learned everything as I traveled on my journey. I am a very great observer. I would observe the big brands I aspired to be one day and study their marketing techniques, recreate ideas with my own spin and then apply them to my brand. This actually worked and my business began to take off! In year one my business brought in over $100k. It’s like I was subconsciously born for this lifestyle because I pick up quickly and everything just comes easy to me when it comes to business. I love what I do!
What have been some of your scariest moments along the way? — Tell us about how you worked/are working through that!
One scary moment would be the actual beginning of not knowing if people were going to like and support my brand. You know the beginning is always the scariest and hardest part when you start anything new. You invest so much money into product, marketing, branding materials, shipping products- it’s really a lot of time and money you put into creating the business not even knowing if it will be successful. Your anxiety is really through the roof at this point because you’re stepping into the unknown. How I got through this fear at the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey was training my mind to see the positive. I did the math, it’s over a million people in the world which means it’s very unlikely that not one person will support my friend and then tell a friend who will tell another friend. Once I looked at the positive and did the math I was good and motivated to keep going. Being able to get through this hurdle and overcome this fear inspired me to write my book Change Your Mindset Change Your Life. The entire book is dedicated to opening your mind, tapping into your dreams and becoming the best entrepreneur you can be! Definitely a great read. I still read it myself when I’m feeling a little weary. It’s available on my website.
When did you decide you want to teach others the ropes on what you built for yourself?
This opportunity was actually presented to me. I’m really big on spirituality and guidance from the universe and I believe our steps are already ordained; we just have to make the first step. I say all this to say, my following on instagram began to grow once I started to share that I was the owner of Intense Beaute. Women would begin to send me private messages asking me for business advice and tips. I got so many redundant questions that I started to think how can I answer everyone’s question without getting tired of answering the same question over and over. Then it dawned on me to maybe write a book and each chapter would be a different question. And so I did just that and my first book Boss Up or Sit Down was created. Since then I’ve written 3 more books.
Did you consider or think about the “competitive” factors in starting a business on teaching the business?
Honestly, I never think about competition. Reason being there is always going to be a competitor in everything you do. I stay focused and in my own lane. Only time I look at competition is to see what’s trending so that I make sure my business stays up to date. I teach inside A Boss Academy the most important thing that can ruin the success and your motivation is comparing yourself to your competition. You should always remain focused on your own.
What have been some of your proudest moments to date?
My proudest moment is being able to grow my brand to a quarter million business. I’ve been in business since 2016 and all that I’ve learned I’ve learned from my own research and trial and error. So that was BIG for me.
What was your support system like when you started and did it change as you became more successful?
In the beginning when I had the brilliant idea to start a business my family was hesitant because they do not have any experience being a business owner either but nonetheless, they backed me 1000%. My family and friends have always been supportive. I mean they don’t quite understand the concept of business so when I explain different business ideas I have they just say things like “oooh ok” lol but they support everything I do. Throughout my success in business they’ve become more supportive and when I do have my moments of anxiety or worry they are always there to push me to keep going, especially my mom.
Can you Tell us a story about a time when you didn’t know what to do but you figured it out and came out on top!
In the very beginning of my entrepreneurial journey I had a really big launch party. I ordered tons of packaging for customers who attended to store their items while they were at the event but the packaging was shipped via sea. I had no idea that by sea shipping can literally take 3 months before it reaches the US from China. So as the day of my event was approaching I was panicking and had to opt to buy generic shopping bags and researched and brought a personalized logo stamp that I used to stamp my logo onto the shopping bags. I HATED IT! It did not look professional, it looked cheap in my eyes but I had to do what I had to do. Everyone at the event did not even realize those weren’t the right bags and the night went on like nothing was wrong.
Do you have any events coming up or new updates you’d like our readers to look out for?
Actually I do! I am currently in the process of launching my coaching platform called A Boss Academy. A Boss Academy is an online course that teaches aspiring entrepreneurs how to start their own business from the very beginning to the very end. Inside of the academy students have one on one access to me, my knowledge and my experience! I wanted to create this course because it’s really not another one out there like it. Everyone else creates courses that help with the process once you’ve already started but not one that actually teaches you the basics and the beginning of business and a lot of people actually need the beginning help most important. I’m very proud of this course. It’s going to be AMAZING! Your viewers can grab more information on how to join A Boss Academy at www.abossacademy.com
What is your favorite thing about being a woman of color and what would you like to see more of within the WOC Community?
My favorite attribute of myself, a black woman, is my strength, my resilience and my “make it happen” attitude. Since I was a little girl I’ve watched my mom “make it happen” all by herself. Not because she wanted but because she was forced to. These characteristics are instilled within us as black women because for generations the black women in our family always had to work 10x harder to “make things happen”. I love that about us! We always persevere and come out on top of any obstacle.
Within the black community I would love to see more knowledge being shared and classes within the community teaching about entrepreneurship so that people are educated about the opportunities that are available. Knowledge relieves a lot of the stress that fails many new businesses.