306: Latched and Hooked Founder Tiffini Gatlin Is Pioneering Synthetic Hair Without Scalp Irritation

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306: Latched and Hooked Founder Tiffini Gatlin Is Pioneering Synthetic Hair Without Scalp Irritation

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This week in the guest chair we have Tiffini Gatlin, CEO and Founder of Latched and Hooked Beauty. Tiffini is an innovator with over 15 years of experience in direct to consumer sales. Latched and Hooked Beauty has a scalp-first approach to textured hair care with a mission to diversify the hair extension space with high-performance synthetic hair fibers and clean formulas that don’t irritate or cause inflammation of the scalp.

Since her business launch five years ago,Tiffini has garnered the support of companies like Visa, Paypal and Google for Startups who awarded the brand with a $100k non-dilutive cash award to support her company’s vision to make beauty simple and accessible for Black women.

 In this episode she shares:

  • The ups and downs of her entrepreneurship journey
  • Why she started Latched and Hooked
  • Why she wasn’t afraid to reinvent herself over and over again and so much more!

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latchedandhooked.com

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Nicaila Matthews Okome 0:02

You're listening to side hustle Pro, the podcast that teaches you to build and grow your side hustle from passion project to profitable business. And I'm your host Nicaila Matthews Okome. So let's get started

Hey guys, hey, welcome. Welcome back to the show. It's Nicaila Here with another episode of side hustle Pro. And today in the guest chair, I have Tiffini Gatlin. Now, Tiffini is an innovator with over 15 years of experience in direct to consumer sales. Currently, she is the CEO and founder of Latched and Hooked ut Lashon. Hook beauty has a scalp first approach to textured hair care with a mission to diversify the hair extension space with high performance synthetic hair fibers and clean formulas that don't irritate or cause inflammation of the scalp. Since her business launched five years ago, Tiffany has garnered the support of companies like Visa, PayPal, and Google for startups who awarded the brand $100,000 to support her company's vision to make beauty simple and accessible for black women. Tiffany also holds a BA in public relations from Clark Atlanta University, and she enjoys community service with her sorority Delta Sigma Theta. And traveling with her four children and husband of 16 years, Tiffany had so much to share you guys about just how she's managing and how she's making the decision for the next stage of her business. So I can't wait for us to get into this episode. Let's get right into it. Welcome, welcome to the guest chair, it's so good to have you here.

Tiffini Gatlin 1:40

Thank you so much. I am so excited to be here. Thank you so much for inviting me.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 1:45

I'm very excited to have you here. Now, you know, as I was saying to you, before we started recording, like I am a super fan like customer, your direct target audience like black woman who loves hair synthetic care and wants to make sure it's safe. So I'm really interested to learn more about your story. So let's jump right in now you have over 15 years of experience in direct to consumer type businesses. So can you tell us a little bit more about your background? You know, what industry did you work in? And what was your career path before entrepreneurship?

Tiffini Gatlin 2:16

Yeah, so before entrepreneurship, I actually was assistant vice president of Consumer and Small Business Banking and Bank of America. I worked there for almost a decade. And I was responsible for, you know, really educating majority black community on finances and homeownership and everything that encompasses that. And then I also worked a little bit in credit, okay, for Bank of America. So I actually resigned from Bank of America to start my entrepreneurship journey in 2009.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 2:50

And did you resign with a business idea in mind? Or were you just like, You know what, I need a break from banking, there's a lot of years of my life

Tiffini Gatlin 3:01

actually resigned with a business in mind. But it was not fully thought out. None of what is readily available today was available in 2009.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 3:12

What do you mean by that? Like,

Tiffini Gatlin 3:14

there are a lot of the resources that are available today that makes entrepreneurship so attainable, and the blueprints and templates are so readily available. Now, it wasn't available back in 2009. We didn't even have a lot of these platforms that we have Instagrams, you know, Lee's podcast. Yeah, the podcast, we didn't have these Facebook groups. We just didn't have the type of community and the resources that are available today that were available in 2009. So yes, I did have a business idea in mind. But girl, we can probably get into that. But I probably should have quit my job. Let's just say that. Night. Got it all worked out.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 3:59

You probably should aside how sort of little longer? Yeah, but tell me a bit about those early business ideas. How did you go about fleshing them out to know that they weren't the ones. So anybody

Tiffini Gatlin 4:11

that knows me just a little bit if you followed my journey on social media, but I've been on social media since around that time, starting with Twitter, and if you've followed my journey from then to now you know that I am the pivot queen. That's, I put that up on myself. Because I am not afraid to pivot. I have done so many different things. So when I initially Left Bank of America to transition into entrepreneurship, I started with a concierge idea. The idea was to put you in the frame of mind it was supposed to be something similar to what Instacart if you're familiar with Instacart, but I didn't have that foresight back then. But what I want it to do is I want it to make shopping easy for busy people, celebrities, and I want it to shop For them, I wanted to create a company where people shop for them. And I did that for about a year. And realize, no, this was not a great framework, I really didn't have a fleshed out business plan and idea. And so I went from that to actually being an influencer. And at that time, I didn't really know what influencer marketing was. I didn't know what an influencer was, I didn't know what a blog was. When you're in corporate America, you're kind of in a bubble. So you don't know what all these terms and things mean.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 5:30

So how did you notice start influencing.

Tiffini Gatlin 5:33

So when I started on Twitter, that's how I got actually my first client with the Atlanta go to girl which was the concierge service that I started. And I was as I was really getting heavily in Twitter and tweeting and realizing like oh, I can like talk to people that I've never met before and celebrities I've never met before like I couldn't have direct access to them. I started understanding how valuable the Twitter tool was and how you can actually engage with people that you've never met before. And I just started watching it really just started seeing how other influencers at that time were like moving and shaking around the around the social media atmosphere, and I'm just like, okay, I can do this and I love writing have you know, writing is one of my loves, I love writing I love again, telling people about things that I that I find. So I changed the Atlanta go to girl concierge service into the Atlanta go to girl influencer so I was the Atlanta go to girl. And what I was gonna do was tell you the best places to go in Atlanta in and around Atlanta. And so I started tweeting about that this was you should do on the weekend is when these are restaurants you should eat it. You know, these are, you know, the the best places to shop in Atlanta. So if you were coming to Atlanta, or you were in Atlanta, you wanted to know something, my page, you know, my profile was going to be where you found it. And so that

Nicaila Matthews Okome 7:03

perfect name that is just an awesome name the Atlanta go to girl. I need to get a tip out and I'm going to Atlanta, I need to know what to say. Did you do that before you came up with the idea for last day?

Tiffini Gatlin 7:21

Oh my God, there's so many other things that I've done that I did. That's what I'm saying. Like I really have done a lot of things because I'm not afraid to if I feel like something is not working. I'm not afraid to reinvent myself in another way. And so I did the Atlanta go to girl for several years before I started my digital magazine, tastemaker magazine. And actually I think before that I did write a palooza which was like a, like a mobile bridal tour. It was like a unconventional way to take brides in and around the city of Atlanta and show them venues. And Kate introduced them to caterers and all of that. And so I did that, realize it's not what I wanted to do. And then I started tastemaker magazine, I really loved that that was opportunity for me to really get into the media side and really get those brand opportunities. General Motors was my first. And the first company who bought an ad from me was General Motors. So that's kind of how I started getting in on the brand side of things. Then I started working with companies like Wells Fargo and Disney, at&t, I took trips to Mexico and to loom and all these different places on media trips, and I loved it, but it wasn't paying the bills.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 8:39

So you were tapping into your savings at this point to stay afloat? Oh, wow.

Tiffini Gatlin 8:44

I was using I'm married as well. So my husband's income held, but we live in a two income family household, we have four kids. My husband definitely needed my help. And so I was really just hustling, trying to find anything that would pay money. And so I decided to start doing hair because that was something that I had learned how to do when I was 16 years old and high school. And I said, You know what, I'm gonna go back to here because it's something I can make some quick money doing. That

Nicaila Matthews Okome 9:15

is so you're literally doing other people's hair. Yes. Am I okay? Okay.

Tiffini Gatlin 9:20

And I'm sure you remember back in 2014, the whole crochet movement restart. Yes. And the girls were getting the braiding hair and they were brushing it out and rolling around Rob and get the towel, they didn't hear the hot water and they get all these beautiful curls. This is where my journey into beauty kind of came into play. So I was doing here, and I remember traveling to Mississippi for the holidays. And Mississippi is not at Lanza. So I was like, Okay, I gotta find a way to keep myself busy while I'm in Mississippi for the holidays. So I decided to put out a flyer to say like, Hey, I'm coming to the Mississippi and Want to be doing crochet braids? ad dollars hit me up a girl from Atlanta coming to Mississippians like, Okay, I want to book her because I was gonna be flat, right? So I got booked out when I was there, I was driving around doing all these heads. And so one customer that I had, I was doing her hair, I remember telling her, Okay, this water is going to be really, really hot. So don't move because it could burn you. Yeah, and she just got so nervous. She's like, okay, and I put a bunch of towels around her. And as I'm putting the cup up to her, you know, here with the rods were, I remember her jumping, and it wasn't because of the water, it was because of the steam. Well,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 10:39

because you got to stay. So still. So if you have never gotten your hair braided in a style where with synthetic hair with certain styles, when you dip it in the hot water, you can either seal it, you know, so your ends don't unravel. Or it can form a curl pattern. Once you put a roller on it, and you dip it in the hot water. So that's what we're talking about. And literally boiling hot water needs to be used to achieve this style. How are we to get certain styles like we are wild. So what happened next week?

Tiffini Gatlin 11:20

She jumped. It was like oh my gosh. And I was like, oh my god, I was so scared that I was like, did you get burned? She was like no, but that the steam was so hot. And I remember leaving that interaction and heading a few days later heading back home to Atlanta, my husband's driving, we're going back and I'm sitting there thinking like, this is not the experience that I feel black women should have when trying to do our hair like why are we going through this pain. In my head, I'm thinking I've always been a solutions oriented person, if there's a problem, I'm not have that. And I'm trying to find a solution to that problem. That's everything in life that I that I deal with. And so with this particular issue, I felt like the problem was, black women want to be able to find a hairstyle that doesn't take all day. They want to look good. But they don't want to, they really don't want to spend a lot of time trying to look good, but they will go to whatever lengths that they have to try to make it you know that way. But they also want something that's going to last for a period of time so that they don't have to do this daily manipulation of their hair. Right. So what could I how can I help in that equation. And so I was thinking to myself was like if the hair was just already curl like that would just take a major step out of the process because one as a stylist, it takes a lot of time to either free curl that hair or to roll it. Right. And then from a liability standpoint, as a hairstylist, you don't want that liability in your salon because if a customer gets burned, you get sued. Yep. So you're not even going to you know, at that time in 2014 it was a cute style. But no hairstylist, were doing it in the salon because one the time that it took to do it, and then to the liability, a lot of the salon owners was like nah, so the girls was doing it at home, they were doing the DIYs. And so I said that it would be great if the hair was already grown. I remember once I got home that next day I remember going to be supply store for up and down. I was trying to just see if there was something available because I you know, I didn't know maybe there's something already available. There was nothing available as a matter of fact, and people always like looking for anyone I say this, but back in 2014 15, even early 2016 There was not any crochet hair on the market period, no crochet line, no crochet braids, no crochet curls, only thing that you could find was the braiding hair.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 13:52

And we were just using regular braiding regular braids, shape process selection,

Tiffini Gatlin 13:57

or probably to the extent we was looking at here, because you know, when they tell you to get a certain brand, that's the gray you got to get Okay, now, but that was what you were doing you were getting the braiding hair and you were you know, manipulating this synthetic hair to look like a rocket. And so I decided that I was going to try to create some free coronal crochet here to prevent black women from hot water birds while protecting hair styling. So actually, lashing hook is actually not my first business a lot of people don't necessarily know how I got into the beauty industry and think that I just kind of popped up but I've actually been here for quite a long time. So there's actually a legend who's actually my second beauty company and my first beauty company was a company called Croco on hair collection that I started back in. I started in the idea phase in 2014. And then I launched Mother's Day weekend of 2015.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 14:51

Okay, remember I when I think of lashed and hooked I thought it was just it started with that and now it has expanded to other types of hair so They

Tiffini Gatlin 15:01

will explain it started with curl Quan and curl. Kalon was the eighth girl for crochet here it was, it was the first pre credibly crochet here on the market. And then I ended up and then I had a partnership, the partnership didn't work, and me and my partner split, and we had to end up selling the business. So we ended up selling it to another company called true glory, which is still in existence and to glory added a synthetic hair extension line to their portfolio. So that's how Kirkland is still in existence. But curriculum started by myself. Yeah, it was everything that I birthed, that I wanted it to be that I wanted us as black women to.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 15:48

So to, you know, stay on Coachella for a minute. How did you go from having this idea? To then actually creating the physical product? I mean, did you you know, take a class on curling the hair and putting it in packaging? Did you research people who make hair packaging? Like how did you actually bring it to life,

Tiffini Gatlin 16:10

girl, the class is being black. That's the class that you've left. You don't need a class. We've all figured out some stuff. We learned stuff. It's just it's just an innate thing in the black community that we just know how to braid, twist. And if you don't know how to do those things, you've been around it. So no, I didn't. I didn't go through a class or anything. It was just it was innate, it was just in me, the process went fairly quickly, I got home, I went to the beauty supply store, I literally bought the hair. And I said, You know what, I'm going to make a prototype, I made a prototype using the rods, the different color rods. I wrapped it here, I put it in a pot of boiling water, I let it cool, I took it off, I went to The Container Store got some, these little pill containers, I put each curl inside those containers. I put the color rot next to the container. I put it in a package, I sealed it up. I sent it to a manufacturer to see if they could replicate it. And they were and I sent it to three different manufacturers to see, you know, who come back with the best price. And so you were testing

Nicaila Matthews Okome 17:23

them out? Wasn't that process tough to actually find a manufacturer? Because I'm assuming you did a US based one based on how you just sent it over.

Tiffini Gatlin 17:32

Yeah, so no, I didn't do a US based I did okay, China. So actually what happened was I did some Googling, I found a basically like a liaison. So a person who was who's Asian. And they helped me to find manufacturers in China, they were experienced in finding manufacturers. And so they helped me to find a manufacturer in China. And they did the negotiation of pricing. I told them, you know where I want it to be in price. And mind you, I didn't know what I was doing. Never done this process before.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 18:09

I'm like, How did you know you could trust these people? How did you you don't?

Tiffini Gatlin 18:12

Yeah, you don't? You don't know if you can trust them? You don't know? If when you give them money? Are they gonna run you don't know, if you're gonna get a sample back. I didn't know anything. This is just me trusting the process and trusting in my mind that I wanted this to happen. And also to was just, I didn't have any obligations out there. Like I didn't, I wasn't telling anybody out there that wasn't on Instagram or Twitter telling me everybody my process. I was doing it really initially for myself, because I wanted to see if this could you know, could this be something and then I wanted to test it on my clients. And that's how it actually started. I started testing the precursor to loose hair on my on my client and my other influencer friends, I was sending hair to other influencers that I had made relationships with. And I was like, Hey, can you try this? And if it worked for you like it, can you post something and and this is what I need you to say. So really, I owe my customers who just believed in what I was trying to do, and other influencers that I had made genuine relationships with who didn't charge me any you know influencer dollars. To do this. They were just excited because I was excited. And they wanted to try it. And it ended up being great. And because Kirkland was the first company to innovate in that space. And we and there was no competition or direct competition for the first couple years. It really took off in an amazing way.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 19:46

So then at what point did you do that sale and the acquisition was that a few years in?

Tiffini Gatlin 19:52

Yeah, it took three years to actually sell Carl Klein and I must say it was you know, I Um, it was like the most difficult three years in my life. And you know, in my business life, you know, very painful, very somber, I was also pregnant at this time. So going through all of this while I was pregnant and going in out of court for three years to try to come to a resolution with this whole business. And I decided in the midst of, you know, of this of the sale, Kirkland, I was still operating. And I had always had a bigger vision for Kirkland and just the curls. I had never told anybody what that was. But in my head, I'm just like, this was just the beginning of what I wanted to do. And most people that know my story know that the cause became deeper. When my daughter suffered from scalp irritation from getting her hair braided. Yeah. And it really made me because initially, I mean, yeah, I was just, you know, I was trying to prevent black woman from hot water burns. And that was a problem, right? But then I didn't know that there was this whole community of black women who were suffering from scalp irritation, it was suffering when wearing synthetic hair, because it was causing inflammation to their scalp, I had no idea as my daughter experienced that. And most women who are mothers who their kids experience something as a mother, you're gonna figure out a solution to that issue. And that's what I'm, you know, I'm a mom, I have two daughters, and who, you know, love trends. And I was just trying to figure out a solution. So I decided to keep going. And that's why election hooks came into place, because I was like, you know, what is bigger than this curl, I want to create something that black women can not only look good, but feel good as well. And so I started lashing hooks with the same hero product, which is the precursor to Blue crochet hair. And it was crazy, because at that time, when I started lashing who I was competing against myself, with curriculum curriculum still in business, and people did not understand. They were like, Oh, you're copying off of curriculum on? You're stealing their pictures? I'm like, I got that. Like, you're still here, because I'm like, I did that. I took the picture, like it's mine, you know? And

Nicaila Matthews Okome 22:24

could you no longer associated with that you could no longer claim ownership of it.

Tiffini Gatlin 22:29

I could not I could claim ownership in terms of me being the founder. There. We didn't really establish any lines in terms of like, use of pictures. But I mean, it was clear. And I understood that in the sale of the business. I mean, I wasn't going to be taking all of the, you know, the pictures and videos that we had to start over, you know, but there were some pictures that I needed to use to kind of write the product. Yeah, I was starting all over again. So I had to kind of use what I have. But I really started from scratch all over again with lashes and hooks. And it took quite some time for people to understand that lashing hook is its own its entity. And then people kind of started to because I didn't even reveal myself, like I didn't, I didn't put a picture of myself to say like, Hey, it's Tiffany here, former founder of coke line. And I'm starting, I didn't tell I didn't say that. So people didn't know. And they didn't understand. And so

Nicaila Matthews Okome 23:31

to understand what was happening, I want to pause for a second because I think you know, you've said, some really important things that we should just take a second to acknowledge and in terms of you started with one thing, and you could have easily thought to yourself, like, you kind of just got tunnel vision because it's such a good idea, right? And like, this is me, this is my thing. But then, through doing that you stepped away and kind of looked at the bigger picture of I am a creator, I'm an entrepreneur, I'm a business minded person. If I can create one thing I can create another thing. I think that that's an underlying message here. But then also, there is a deeper need beyond just hair and synthetic hair. Like there's actually a problem within this industry. This hair has toxins in it, this hair was not created with our health in mind, how can I improve this? And that led you to the next thing during what was a really dark time that led you to the next thing. So it's just such an inspiring and positive thing to be able to see like even in your darkest moment, when you could have said wow, like, I don't know what I'm gonna do now. You were being led to something greater. So tell us a little bit more about this issue and how latching hooked solves for it.

Tiffini Gatlin 24:46

So, um, again, we talk I mean, I think it's such a great platform because not a lot of times do entrepreneurs talk about having a side hustle within their one while they're still building, you know what I mean? Because right now social media is, is so great at showing the luxuries that could come out of out of, you know, owning a business. And they're, you know, there are perks and there things that come out of it. But there are also a lot of struggles, you know, that come along with it. And, you know, I feel like I'm a very transparent person, you know, in, in my, in my journeys, I feel like, I've always been somebody that I don't talk about. And it's not necessarily because I'm not being transparent about, it's just like, it might be too soon. It's too raw. It's not the right time, you know, but, um, but I have continue to work when I need it to work while building a business. So there are several times where I've had to go back and get a job to just to take care of my family while I'm scaling this business. So one of the things that I did, and I'm answering your question, but I wanted to make this as part of it, one of the things that I did is I took a job at Delta Airlines, okay. And I worked with them on a freelance project that only lasted about like six months or so. But while I was in that freelance job, I got to have the full benefits as if I was a, you know, a full time delta employee. And so when that freelance opportunity ended, I took my flight benefits, and I flew to China, so I got to fly for free. And then I use some points that I had from like, doing some other travel, and I was able to stay at a hotel for free. So I literally had a free trip to China. And so I went to China for a week, my employee that I have in China, who's I've been working with for the past five years. She took me to my manufacturers. And so one of the things that they knew that I was coming there for was to understand the formulation of synthetic hair. Because it was really important for me if I was going to sell this product for me to really understand how the product was being made. And I understood that also to consumers were like spewing this information that they really honestly didn't know about, you know, they were you know, I heard a lot of Oh, synthetic hair has mixed in with animal here. And synthetic hair is this and synthetic hair is dead. And if you dip the hair in apple cider vinegar, you can get the toxins that like all these different things. And honestly, I didn't know we've always

Nicaila Matthews Okome 27:29

heard, yeah, we've always heard this, like, you know, these Oh, dependent apple cider vinegar, all this other stuff. Honestly, I've always been too lazy for that. I don't have any in Scotland rotation. Anyway, wasn't like vinegar. Okay, what did you find out on your trip? Because I need to know.

Tiffini Gatlin 27:51

Okay, so, okay, let me take one small step. But I also had a sorority sister who introduced me to her line sister, who is a polymer chemist. I didn't know what a polymer chemist was. And so a polymer Chem is deals with fibers that are like plastic, like, PCB fibers. And which synthetic hair happens to be. And so she put me in contact with her because she was like, I think that you should talk to her and ask her more questions about your product. And so I had time to talk with her and really ask her some of these questions that I've just been hearing around, you know, the internet, you know, so I asked her about the apple cider vinegar. And I asked her about, you know, just the properties of this fiber is synthetic hair fiber. And so she was able to debunk a lot of the myths that go that are, you know, going around. And then she also helped me with a bunch of questions to ask when I go to my manufacturer in China. So when I went to China, I was able to ask these questions, because if you go, and you kind of don't know what the answer is, you're not really getting the information that you need. So I was able to get this. One of the things that crystal that's the doctor that I spoke with, she told me to ask for a material safety data report. And the material safety data report gives you a list of the chemicals that are used to create the products that you have in production. And so we're able to go through that list, line by line, and we're able to research each chemical to see which chemical was a toxic chemical and can we replace that chemical with another chemical that is non toxic. And so a lot of times consumers get confused with this word chemical and the automatic

Nicaila Matthews Okome 30:00

he's just about to say, I'm so glad that you said replaced with a chemical that's non toxic because the word chemical is so misunderstood and the fact that we need chemicals. So, you know, what are your thoughts on that?

Tiffini Gatlin 30:12

Exactly. And that's what I was just about to say a lot of times consumers attach a negative you no connotation to the word chemical. And the fact is, almost everything that we use, uses a chemical to create him, but there's a chemical. Exactly. So but there are non toxic chemicals, and there are toxic chemicals. And so for me, it was just trying to figure out which ones could we replace with the non toxic chemicals. And that is what I was able to do when I went to China. Again, synthetic hair has been around for five decades. Okay, lashing hook has been around for six years, decades, six years. So I wasn't going to be able to fix everything or know everything in this short amount of time. But I want it to start somewhere. I wanted to give consumers consumers, specifically black women hope that there was somebody out there that was looking out for their best interest, and to at least start because honestly, you know, I don't know if this is 100% the solution. But what I do know is that since we made that change, I have gotten customers who said, Oh my god, I have not been able to use that that a care for decades. And now I'm able to confidently wear this part of it without my scalp being inflamed. So I'm like, Aha, something is working. You know, maybe there are some other tweaks that we that we will need to do. And that's why I'm so blessed to have Dr. Crystal in my life. Because, you know, she's able to help me with testing. But that cost a lot of money that I don't have. So I haven't raised money to actually do more additional testing. So we're not done. But I feel like what I've done so far on my own with the money that I had in my bank account, I've done more than most.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 32:20

So guys, I know investing and trading can seem really intimidating and complicated, but it doesn't have to be that way. Episode 301 Guest Terry Joma runs one of the top investing education programs out there. It's called trade and travel. It's an on demand course with really thorough lessons that explain everything. And it also features weekly coaching with Terry herself and a very active private Facebook community. How do I know because I'm also a trade and travel student and trade and travel is helping me to break through the intimidation that I've always felt around stocks. So Terry teaches you the difference between long versus short selling, she teaches you everything you need to know about getting set up where to invest, how to invest, she teaches you how to trade stocks as a side hustle to earn extra income and how to set concrete goals realistic goals, how to pace yourself trading and it's not something you need to do every day. You know, Terry really shows you how to do it in a realistic side hustle way so that you're trading but you're also you know having an impact and making wise choices. So go ahead and learn more and sign up for the trade and travel program at side hustle pro.co/trade and travel and I'll link to it in the show notes. To trade and travel. You can learn how to trade as a side hustle and supplement your income with training. So sign up for trade and travel at side hustle pro.co/trade and travel one more time that side hustle pro.co/trade and travel

many thanks to today's sponsor Thrive Cosmetics for sponsoring today's episode. So I really appreciate drives clean skin loving ingredients and the fact that their products have no parabens, sulfates or phthalates. Their products are certified 100% vegan and cruelty free and one of my favorite products is the lip gloss. I use it to just put on top as my last layer and I've been searching for a really good clear lip gloss and I finally found the perfect one from Thrive Cosmetics. It's not too sticky. It's not overly shiny because I'm too grown for that. It just has a nice subtle shine to it. All right. And can we talk about this liquid extensions mascara, I tried it out and it is worth the hype. It has over 15,005 star reviews and with good reason because it really is a lengthening mascara that brings out your eyes and it lasts all day without clumping, smudging or flaking plus it's easy to remove sometimes when I'm taking off mascara I would have like dark residue around my eyes but this comes off really easily. So definitely check out Thrive Cosmetics you guys and cause it is in the name for a reason, by the way, they have a bigger than beauty promise in which every single purchase supports organizations that help communities thrive, you get it. And right now you can get 15% off your first order when you visit, thrive cosmetics.com/hustle Pro that's Thrive Cosmetics. Ca us, e me tics.com/hustle Pro for 15% off your first order, enjoy I'm glad you brought up the money piece because what you're doing does require capital. And I mean, what are some of the things you've done to raise capital? So you've obviously you've used your own money, you've also applied for programs. So what are some of the ways you've access capital for this business?

Tiffini Gatlin 35:54

Sure. So just to be transparent for the, for the past six years, I have used my own money in the in the, you know, the revenue that we have, you know, the profit that we have made from from sales, I've gotten help from grants. And those came about primarily from, you know, when the whole Black Lives Matter thing happened and corporations felt like they wanted to support more black entrepreneurs, more specifically women. And so that helped. I was part of the Google for startups program. And Google funded me with $100,000. And so I was able to get that, and I have not raised any money yet. And I want to, but I'm not in a hurry to do. So I want to make sure that you know, I get the right VC, I want to make sure that the VC that is invested in investing in me and investing in my products, really understand who the who my consumer is, and understands why this money is important for all of us, you know. So, um, you know, I'm just taking my time, there's a lot that goes into it. And I really, you know, right now I retain 100% ownership in my company. And it's really important for me to retain that type of ownership being that I lost my ownership and Chloroquine. So, and that was a really painful thing. And I didn't understand how equity work back then. I was really only concerned with creating a product that worked for women, I didn't understand the minutiae of ownership, and you should never do 5050 in a in a business relationship. I understand that. And so, you know, retaining ownership is important to me really understanding

Nicaila Matthews Okome 37:56

majority ownership.

Tiffini Gatlin 37:58

Yes, just

Nicaila Matthews Okome 37:59

to be clear, okay.

Tiffini Gatlin 38:00

Yes, retaining majority ownership is really important to me. So, you know, I know in this, you know, I'm a part of a lot of communities, business communities, and I know that some people's, you know, some founders more specifically go is to build something that they can sell really quick. Because, like a game to some people, they want to, you know, create something they want to sell it. To me, this is not a game. It's my livelihood. I really, I mean, this is probably another podcast for another day, but I just,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 38:34

right, right. This is a really complex topic, especially

Tiffini Gatlin 38:39

because I've had my family go through a lot for this. And so you know, I, I want them to be able to prosper and profit off of what I'm building. And so it can be important to me to, you know, we take ownership and grow it in the right way.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 38:56

I respect that. So let's talk a little bit about just the marketing of the business. And I think that once people found out it was you especially it seems that there's this loyal customer base that you have, like people who are invested in you, Tiffany, you know, the founder. So talk to us a little bit about how you went about growing the lash to hook brand across social media platforms and really marketing this business.

Tiffini Gatlin 39:20

I think from day one, again, if you even take it back to my previous company, it's always been about the consumer and community for me, it's always also been about just me telling this just be authentic and telling the story way before story. Storytelling was cool. That was just what my foundation was. It was really important for me for people to understand why I was starting something and and really telling talking about the problem. Like I didn't even know that that's what I was doing it but I was I always talked about, hey, here's a problem and this is what I want to solve for us, for my family for you for your family. And so community has always been a thing. And I think that people also just gravitate towards me as a person. And then they're like, Oh, she has a business and I want to support it. And, you know, again, I just have to credit my customers for really, you know, there's a lot of organic marketing that goes on, you know, we don't do a lot of paid media, you know, a lot of the media that we have is earned media, and that's from our customers telling friends, you know, just people telling other people, you know, celebrities to, you know, I have celebrities that wear my hair, we don't really post about them, you know, because a lot of them, we want to respect their privacy, unless they tell us that we can do it, but a lot of them post on their own. And they mentioned us, you know, and so it just feels great to know, again, you know, that we, you know that there is a product out there that is is helping black women, and we just happen to be black, and is black, you know, black and white, we operate it. You know, I'm

Nicaila Matthews Okome 41:02

curious, though, because you exist in a unique space for us, because people are so used to go into the beauty supply store, or even now ordering, you know, online or something. So how do you make sure people are aware, like when you were start entering the market, to make sure that people are aware that this is a better option, and you should buy my this option, rather than something you might find out there, that's not as good for you.

Tiffini Gatlin 41:30

So what I realized a few years into business into beauty, not necessarily last year, but a few years into beauty, what I realized is, I wasn't going to try to convince anyone to buy lottery tickets, I wasn't going to try to tell them, you should not go to the beauty supply store, you should come here and buy my hair. Instead, what I would focus on is telling the stories of real women who had an issue with scalp irritation whose daughters dealt with something whose mom was dealing with hair loss, and, you know, was looking for a way to you know, get some hair, you know, that wasn't gonna irritate her scalp. And she could use while she was, you know, dealing with alopecia. And I was going to tell those stories. And from that, women would make up their mind if they wanted to try me. And then when they try the product, they're like, I don't really like it, I really love their customer service, I really love their packaging, all these other things that they and experiences that they couldn't get at the beauty supply store. And so that's been my focus. You know, the beauty supply store is also part of the story for black women. There's a lot of history that beauty supply stores bring to black woman and all of it is not bad. You know, there have been bad experiences, but a lot of stories and conversations in in our community and black culture exist around going to the beauty supply store. And so I realized that it wasn't, you know, hey, I have to go to the beauty supply store. Sometimes I gotta get something, you know what I mean? You know, that was it. Yeah, and I'm like, I'm not unless you're not trying to be a beauty supply store, we're not trying to carry all things that the beauty supply store carries, you know, we have a, we have a specific niche. And you know, and we are targeting, you know, synthetic hair extensions that are non toxic, you know, we have some other some other accessories available, but our main, you know, products is non toxic synthetic hair. And so I just realized that I wasn't gonna, I didn't want I didn't want to do that. I didn't want to tell people don't do something, don't go, don't buy here, we're better. That's not for me to determine. That's for the consumer to determine if we're better. So my job is just to make sure that I create the best products, the best packaging, the best consumer customer experience, and then the consumer will decide whether or not I'm better.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 43:59

Absolutely. And speaking of product and packaging. Now, of course your packaging is very beautiful. Your product is excellent. I think, you know, when I share this episode, I'll share my braids from last summer I got Nautilus braids with the Andre. Let's see here. So yes, I share that with you guys. And I want to know, as a business owner, how does that the cost of goods, you know, impact you and and a lot of people lose money starting up and especially when you're going for a higher quality right? So what has been your experience when it comes to the money and the profit and the margins? When you're you're going for a higher quality of hair and packaging.

Tiffini Gatlin 44:41

So I start out the gate with product pricing. I would venture to say that I was the first synthetic hair extension brand that was not $1.03 for five $5 We were a very expensive synthetic hair extension brand. But that was only because I knew what I was offering consumers, I knew that that I mean, number one, to be able to go and reformulate something that's been around for five decades, it was, it was expensive. So I knew that I had to give better, I had to charge more, because that's, you know, just what I had to do, you know, and people didn't understand that. And for a very long time, people were, you know, consumers were charging me up for what you want to charge. Yeah, like, this is ridiculous. One packet here is, you know, is 1499, or one box of curls is 99. Like, I got that flat for a very long time. But once people started using it, and they started realizing that, oh, this is better, this is softer, this is, you know, I don't have that problem anymore. Like every now and again, people will ask or whatever, but I don't have that problem. So, you know, doing that, and you know, we have really good margins. But doing that, it allowed me to be able to change some of the things that I had envisioned in my head a long time ago, when I started in this space, because I wanted, I said, and the truth of the matter is, I'm still not done with that, like, I there's still packaging that needs to be changed, we don't have the money to change it right now, we're just doing little by little where you know what we can, but the whole point of it was to say we deserved better we deserve, we deserve that it should feel better, it should look better, the experience should be better, all of that. And that just takes money. And just to be, you know, transparent, you know, we're still struggling with, you know, just the whole money thing, China to have more to be able to do more, you know, we can, it's really even hard for us just even keep up with the demand. You know, it's like, as soon as we restock a product, we're selling out. And you know, and so there are still challenges that we have with that.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 47:06

And I believe that you will get through these growing pains. Because as you're speaking, you know, I'm not in the same industry. But what it reminds me of is how hard it can be to gauge when it's time to increase, for example, right, like if your projections, and these last two years have been so wonky, with getting stuff on time from overseas. So if you're projections, you're trying to project a man, and a very unstable time, and that projection requires you to put up money. And it's like, when do you based on what you have done in the past, decide when it's time to double that triple that? And how scary is that to invest more not knowing for sure, if you'll sell it all, you know, because you don't want access to inventory. So how do you navigate that?

Tiffini Gatlin 48:02

Yeah, I mean, luckily, you know, I have years of data, you know, to be able to say like, Hey, this is what we've done here. I mean, we did really good during COVID. You know, um, it's actually one of our best, you know, years. And, you know, which told us a lot about what was going on like that we were definitely we're definitely a recession proof business, it doesn't matter what's going on black women want to get their hair done? Oh, yes.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 48:36

is how we get through.

Tiffini Gatlin 48:39

And so if anything, if, you know, I feel like it would prove to investors that, again, we are recession proof, and that women are still gonna buy no matter what's going on in the economy or what have you. And so I think for us, it's not, it's not as scary to think about if, you know, if we buy if we buy more, are we going to actually sell it? We know we're going to sell it, I think it would be more about strategy, and What channels do we use to like, promote more so we can get more customer acquisition so that we can sell you know, more of that. But I don't think for us, it's a matter of, you know, if we buy more, are we going to sell it for us? It's just more like, Okay, we we bought more, we're selling to the customer, and we already have we need more customers. So it's like we need more money for customer acquisition. We need people that don't know about us, we need the Friends of people who are already buying to buy from us. And so it's more about from from at that point is more about strategy on how do we increase our customer acquisition,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 49:48

and that's very real, which is it's interesting that you said you don't do much paid media, is that something you're looking at doing more of? Because immediately when I think of customer acquisition, I think as you No, and I think let's just go out and pay for them.

Tiffini Gatlin 50:04

And you know what, it's funny because I have a different way of thinking like, I've always because I didn't have a lot of money for paid media. For me, it was always thinking of strategies to get, you know, that earned media so like, you know, affiliate programs, you know, how do we come up with, you know, a reward program for our customers, where we can reward them for telling other people, old school email marketing, of course, you know, and getting really good at not just telling people to buy, but really just appealing to their struggles that they're having every day and showing them how your product is the solution to many of their struggles that they have. Paid media is usually the last day that I'm thinking of, because I don't really have a lot of money for it. So I'm really, you know, during, like, COVID times, and a little bit after, because I did get that funding from Google, I was able to invest a lot more. And so I was spending about $5,000 a month on paid media, and attorney ish. And that and that was good that I did that. Because what it did is, again, as we're having these conversations with investors, we can actually show the difference between this is what happens when we have paid media. And this is what happens when we don't. So you can actually see, like, if we get more money to be able to do paid media, this is how you know this how much much this is how much more money we could bring in. It's just a slower grind when you have to do organic, but I like to stretch that organic muscle because a lot of times, I feel like founders don't realize if you get into a situation where Facebook changes, Instagram changes, all these platform changes their algorithms change. Yeah.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 52:04

And that's what we're in now. Yeah, we're all exhausted.

Tiffini Gatlin 52:09

Right, and it's harder to acquire a customer, what you're gonna do, right? So I think that it's, I think that it's good to really work that organic muscle and figure out what are some other organic ways that you could do that. I mean, festivals are opening back up, you know, it's good to be able to get out in front of the customer. We haven't done that in a very long time. That's something that I'm looking forward to doing next year. I mean, I haven't done it this year, but probably next year is us getting back out to some of these shows where we can get in front of customers, and they can meet me and I can talk to them. Because, you know, I think it's really good that customers can really see who's behind the brand. You know,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 52:52

so you talked about the challenges of, well, you need money to do more paid, but then also you can't rely on any one channel. And so being able to be comfortable flexing the organic muscle, the hit the ground, you know, guerilla marketing muscle is just as important as knowing that when you do have more money you will invest in hiring. Well, first of all, understanding paid marketing yourself, but then also being able to hire the right person to scale that up even more. I think that is another that's another. Yeah, that's because topic.

Tiffini Gatlin 53:31

Yeah. You can't just you can't have that insight into it. Yeah, hire Oh, my God. Yes. And I didn't know that before, either. And now I have a lot more experience with that. And so yeah, I was actually just talking about that to somebody today. But you definitely need to, you don't have to know all the nuts and bolts, but you definitely need to high level know what to ask for. You need to know what you should be looking for and your your data. Your analytics, yeah, is really important. Otherwise, you're just, you know, throwing money out the window.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 54:05

I've seen on your Instagram page, you've recently gone through a health journey, you've also so you've been revitalizing yourself as a person. And, and I'm curious to know how that all relates to you. Being a business owner, you know, did you find that you got burned out and now you're, you're making sure that you put you first how was that come about?

Tiffini Gatlin 54:26

I believe that I was a very unhealthy workaholic. And that although you know most people when they look at my Instagram, oh, oh, you know, she's traveled a lot. She does this. I really wasn't doing a lot for myself. You know, and looking back at my pictures, I'm like me and like I was I had gained so much weight. I was just eating I wasn't working out. I was just like letting my you know, kind of feel like I was letting myself go. I don't know like I just didn't feel 100% Who I felt like I needed to be, you know, and I think it started with, you know, cutting my hair off and doing something bold, like dye my hair blonde. You know, losing, you know, losing the weight working out and just really doing what Tiffany wants to do. Someone asked me the other day like, Oh, are you you know, are you do you still have kind of like that? That Instagram, you saw that little business? They didn't say? They say little, but they just said it was like a hair business. I was like, oh, yeah, I do. Because I don't see you post a lot about it. And I said, Well, that's because my page says Tiffany gallon. Actually a whole nother page. It says last night. So I'm like, you know, I started last to hook for the people. For the for the girls, for the women for the black woman. And it's not about Tiffany. That's the thing about it. Like it's not about me, like I'm a whole different individual with other likes, and loves and things like that. And I really want people to come to my page on Instagram, Tiffany Gatlin to know about Tiffany Gatlin, what is Tiffany? What is Tiffany getting? Like? What does she like to do? Who is she? Because if I'm just posting about lashes hook, and I'm just telling you to buy my product, are you really getting to know the founder behind the brand? No, like, if you really want to get to know me, then you'll see my pages like, okay, she's funny, she likes to do this. She likes it, she likes to you know, you can't you you kind of get a sense of who I am. I've never deleted a single picture from my Instagram page. So you could take it all the way back to whenever. And you could formulate a story about who I am and what I like to do, you know, and so, I just think for me, I just think that's important, you know? And I tried to think like that, too. Yeah, I tried to separate the two,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 56:54

it's always so helpful. I mean, for me, because I'm just the stalker like that. But I think in general, when you can see, like, a founder also has their individual page, and you can see who they are as a person. So I love that. And you mentioned, you know, what is definitely want to do so what does Tiffany wants to do next? What is your focus, I know that I know that you were not into five year plans, and having it all laid out perfectly over here. But I'm curious, you know, in this season, given all you've done in your business, and everything you've done in the hair industry, so far hair and beauty, what your focus is, you know, what do you find yourself being drawn to, to develop and bring about next,

Tiffini Gatlin 57:36

personally or professionally, both.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 57:41

While we're on the topic,

Tiffini Gatlin 57:43

um, you know, professionally, I would love to see, latched and hooked more accessible. And what I mean by that is, I would love to see it on some type of national platform shelf ish type of thing. I don't know, if I'm ready, and I'm not gonna, like, you're not gonna force it, you know, I really want it to come organically or what have you. But access is important to me, you know. And so I love for black women to be able to walk into a store and have the option to get lashes. And so that is important to me. And then it's also important for me to have some more freedom in business. And what that looks like is being able to develop a more robust team, where I can take some of the responsibilities that I've been doing over the last five years off my plate. And, you know, just again, really create a robust team who's able to implement a lot of the things that I feel like latching hook needs to do. But there's so much that I've been wanting to do, and, you know, I'm just again, I hope to be able to scale to that next level, so that I can do a lot of those things that I want to do professionally, personally. Um, you know, I just really, I love spending time with my family, you know, and so, I want more opportunity to do that to spend more time with my husband spend more time you know, traveling with my kids, and I am having fun you know, exploring things that just never explored before I'm thinking about you know, Microblading my eyebrows I've never I've never done that before. I'm getting more into skincare which I've never had a skin issue but I'm realizing you know, I'm over 40 And so I'm realizing that you know, I need to take have a more specialized regimen for like skin, stuff like that. So, I don't know, it's funny because like over 40, I'm starting to get curious about things that I've never done before. So I'm just like taking chances and doing that. I love seeing that. Yeah, I think that's what life and living is about is trying things that you've never tried before going places you've never gone and just dreaming bigger.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 1:00:19

And if you're not following Tiffany, like, definitely check out her Instagram page. And you could drop all of that in a second after lightning round. But yeah, just find that when you share your process, even just as simple as saying, you know, here's what I'm thinking. I'm thinking about microphones in my eyebrows, or I'm thinking I'm losing weight. Here's before and after pictures like that transparency. I've heard you mentioned that word a few times in the interview. And I think it is just your word. I think that's who you are. I think you don't realize how many people you're inspiring or reminding to just be like these platforms, social media, they make you feel like you have to show up as a thing as a, you know, like, create this persona. But you just have to be That's it. Because when you're being and you're sharing, I don't even like saying authentic self because like what are the self should you be? Or could you work when you truly are just been? That's when you're helping people the most. So I thank you, and I want to publicly give you those flowers for being because i think i It has really served me and I hope it serves everyone else who you know, hasn't been following you before this episode. We're gonna do a quick lightning round, and they will give you guys all that info. All right, you ready? Just answer the first thing that comes to mind. Okay, all right. So number one, what is a resource that has helped you in your business that you can share with a side hustle pro audience,

Tiffini Gatlin 1:01:42

just getting into a business program, like, you know, like a bill brand launch, like on Facebook, it's a great resource, because there's a lot of founders in there a lot of emerging founders who can help you, you know, when you're just when you're just starting out, and they can give you that place to start.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 1:02:02

All right. Number two, who is a non celebrity black woman, entrepreneur that you admire and why? Oh,

Tiffini Gatlin 1:02:09

Sharise Jones of sassy Jones, I absolutely love her. I absolutely love what she stands for how she started her business. She is just amazing. And I love watching her journey in entrepreneurship.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 1:02:23

Number three, what is a non negotiable part of your day eating?

Tiffini Gatlin 1:02:30

A lot of people take that for granted, but is non negotiable, I have to stop and eat lunch.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 1:02:36

Number four, what's a personal habit that has helped you significantly in your business,

Tiffini Gatlin 1:02:42

being able to have the ability to talk to anybody no matter what their background is, and like, you know what business they may be in. Because I've learned that being open to talking to people will lead to other relationships. It just really has helped my network helped me grow my network. I

Nicaila Matthews Okome 1:03:02

love that. And then finally, what is your parting advice for fellow women entrepreneurs who want to be their own boss, but are afraid of losing that steady paycheck?

Tiffini Gatlin 1:03:11

Um, my advice is to and I give this a lot is start with a problem. If you can identify a problem and that you can create a solution for then you're probably likely going to not only love it, because you're you know, you're in this process of finding a solution. But you also have a meaning for other consumers. And so, yeah, start with with the problem. It could be anything. There's lots of problems that we go through, just in everyday life, and if you can find a solution for your well being your way.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 1:03:50

I like that. And so Tiffany, where can people connect with you? And lastly, hook after this episode?

Tiffini Gatlin 1:03:55

Yeah, I mean, follow me on social media Tiffany Gatlin, I spelled Tiffany T i FFINI. Gatling, GA T li n, that's my Instagram. That's where you can find me most active and sociable and latched and hooked. L A, T CH, E. D, the letter in and then hooked. H O ke D, follow us there for all of your protective style trends and inspiration.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 1:04:24

Of course, I will link to all of that you guys. Tiffany, thank you so much for being in the guest here. It's been an honor to have you here. And you guys go out and listen by watch us on YouTube because remember, this is on YouTube as well and I will talk to you next week. Hey guys, thanks for listening to side hustle Pro. If you like the show, be sure to subscribe rate and review on Apple podcasts. It helps other side hustlers just like you to find the show. And if you want to hear more from me, you can follow me on Instagram at side hustle Pro. Plus sign up for my six bullet Saturday newsletter. Under at side hustle Pro, that CO slash newsletter. When you sign up, you will receive weekly nuggets from me, including what I'm up to personal lessons and my business tip of the week. Again that side hustle pro.co/newsletter to sign up, talk to you soon

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Meet the host:

Nicaila Matthews-Okome

Hi! I’m Nicaila, the Creator and Host of the Side Hustle Pro Podcast. I started Side Hustle Pro when I was a side hustler myself. I was a digital marketer at NPR by day, side hustler by night. Through the powerful stories shared on this show and the courage to launch my own initiatives, I was able to quit my own job and go full time with Side Hustle Pro.

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