Today we’d like to introduce you to LaLa J.
LaLa, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
It was my freshman year of college at the University of West Georgia. The winter semester was just about to begin, I was out of work due to my school hours always interfering, and my mother called me right when I got back to campus and told me that she was done paying my car note because she personally felt I had completely let myself go. I was in a relationship that was reflecting a side of me that I did not notice but everyone around me picked up on. Alongside from the relationship; my ambition, my hustle, my grind, everything that I had always told myself I wanted to do and wanted to be was put on hold. I think a lot of it had to do with going from such a structured environment at home to having to adjust to such a free space with no one telling me what’s right, what’s wrong, what I should do, and what I shouldn’t do.
After I got off the phone with my mother, and this was no typical conversation of ours, I sat for hours to take in everything she said. She gave me the idea of starting a business. She told me to start my days earlier, spend my time more wisely, pay attention to what I give my attention and my time to, think about my purpose, and then get back to her. But no matter what, she was done paying my car note.
After I sat in silence for hours, I started to think about the demographics of my university. As a woman, I wanted to start a business that was catered to women. I would always see women promote their business services and products on social sites likes Twitter and in the universities group messages, so I took a few hours just scrolling and getting a feel for what was already being sold and who had already mastered their market on campus.
While doing my research, I saw that no one on campus sold hair extensions. Ironically, in 2013, my mother and aunt created an entire blueprint for a hair company that neither of them ever used. I called my mom, told her I was coming home to overlook the outline, and I set my mind on starting a hair business.
At the time, I only had $113 to my name, which was certainly not enough money to invest into a billion dollar industry. I used $30 of my $113 to create a website after I made it home to review the outline, used another $10 to purchase my business name, and used the remainder to sample the hair from the hair vendor.
I sat on the website maybe five-seven days because I had no clue how I was going to sell hair without having the hair and without having the money to get it. After a long night of thinking and noticing that my car note was due ONCE AGAIN and I didn’t have the money ONCE AGAIN, something told me to just post the hair as if it was in stock, and to use the money that I hoped I made from an order to then purchase the hair. I did just that, and before I knew it, I had not only mastered a sales tactic called drop-shipping but I had also made over $8,000 within that first week without touching a single bundle of hair and with using my very own marketing strategies.
I continued the steps I took in marketing, branding, strategizing, and by the end of the semester, my $113 turned into $25,000+ in profit.
At that time, I wanted a new start, I wanted a new reach, a different crowd. I was needing a fresh start because I had finally felt like I was getting back to the “me” that I always said I wanted to be. THE BOSS. THE HUSTLER. My focus was back, my energy was at an all-time high, and moving schools was going to put me exactly at the point I wanted to be.
The road has definitely been a bumpy one. I personally think the bumps are something you can’t avoid unless you play it small and play it safe. Some of the struggles I experience along the way was opening up, getting people to trust me, getting people to see the value in what I was offering, not seeing the fruits of my labor as quickly as I would have working for someone else, not knowing where to go next at times, not having a lot of people to talk and connect with about ideas because everyone doesn’t always relate or can relate, there were and still is a lot of bumps, I could go on forever.
But to the women who are just starting their journey, I would like to say it all starts with you and has to do with you every step of the way. DO NOT GIVE UP.
I believe what sets me apart from others is the “real” that I give everyone. And when I say “real,” I don’t mean the bluntness and open book that I feel everyone is trying to give nowadays, the “this is me, this what you get, take it or leave it”, but the “real” when it comes to how entrepreneurship works, how success is really met, how money is really made, how hard the journey can really be, how much work has to be put in, and all the things I feel people really want to know. There are a lot of people and influencers giving out the food, but not a lot of them are giving out the recipe so that their supporters could learn how to feast for a life time without them having to constantly feed off what they post on Instagram or when the boss moves their hand and I think that I provide the recipe.
Do you feel like there was something about the experiences you had growing up that played an outsized role in setting you up for success later in life?
I think I’ve made it this far because my childhood was very structured.
My mother and all of the adults who were apart of my life were really big on grades, on being the best, on giving everything your all, and not conforming to what is “normal.” Everything was pretty set and stone for me as child growing up. I had a set schedule for everything, I was an athlete, so I didn’t have too much free time to partake in anything other than school work and traveling for competitions. Grades and remaining focused were very important, so anything that could have possibly been a distraction or was causing distractions such as cellphones, guys, and social media weren’t allowed.
And at a point, I felt doubt from a lot of “friends” and people who felt they just knew what path I would take being that they watched a lot of young women around me take a turning path. So apart of it was also wanting to show a lot of people what I was made of and what I could do. I’ve always had a thirst for knowledge, high achievement, and always wanting to be the difference in my community and to others but growing up and in grade school I didn’t know how to fully tap into it. I was still in the stage of learning and adapting to myself and everything I was taking in. I unintentionally dimmed my own light a lot, and would place myself behind others. I had a lot to say, just hadn’t established my voice or platform to say it.. my surroundings had a lot to do with it. I felt too ahead of my time often, felt like an OutKast often because I always had interest in the things no one else cared about. my 10th grade year of high school my mother moved me from my high school and neighborhood.. it was a brand new performing arts school but she wanted better and always knew what was best. Going into a completely new setting and knowing no one is what made it all click for me. It was just the focus I needed. Right after we moved, I remember telling myself by 21 I would make a huge impact on everyone around me and everyone I connect with, didn’t know how, but I knew I would. Once I started to focus in more on it, it happened.
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LalaJ Mass Marketing Media Team