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Greetings, listeners! Welcome to another insightful episode of Founder Hustle, hosted by Melissa Bradley. Today she’s joined by the visionary Ceata Lash, the founder of PuffCuff. Join us as we uncover the story behind the creation of PuffCuff, a groundbreaking hair clamp designed for those with textured hair. Ceata’s journey from the initial spark of an idea to the fruition of a product demonstrates her unwavering determination and resilience. Tune in to learn about Ceata’s inspiring entrepreneurial journey, her commitment to diversity and representation, and her invaluable lessons for aspiring business creators. Discover the art of developing a product that not only meets a need but transforms an industry.

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0:00:04.8 Melissa Bradley: From New Majority Ventures and Kinetic Energy Entertainment, this is Founder Hustle.

0:00:10.2 Ceata Lash: I decided that the way that I liked to look at myself with my natural hair, was it up in a puff. And the way I could get that look was either to take a headband, ouchless, whatever they call it, headband.

0:00:24.2 MB: If such a thing.

0:00:25.8 CL: Right. Wrap it around my head and neck several times and try to pull it up.

0:00:31.5 MB: Oh wow. That don’t even sound right.

0:00:32.0 CL: It’s not.

0:00:33.6 MB: Welcome to Founder Hustle, a podcast series by, for and about the New Majority entrepreneur. I’m your host, Melissa Bradley, founder of 1863 Ventures and co-founder of New Majority Ventures. The road from founder to CEO can be both hard and rewarding. In each episode of Founder Hustle, I interview a new majority entrepreneur to find out what their journey really looks like. As a CEO, founder, professor, and general partner of a venture fund, I know how valuable good information and resources are for the new majority. Through share tools, strategies, and life lessons, we’re here to enlighten, uplift, and educate anyone interested in this entrepreneurial ecosystem so that you too can go From founder to CEO. Ceata Lash is founder and CEO of PuffCuff. She is a mother and holder of multiple patents. She shares the highs and lows of being in the business of making products. Listen to her story of perseverance and faith and how she learned that black people can actually sell businesses.

0:01:44.4 MB: Hi. I am here with Ceata Lash, who is the founder of PuffCuff, a amazing hair product. You are a entrepreneur, you are a mother, but most importantly, you’re one of the few black women to have multiple patents in this space. I’m excited about this conversation, but before we dive in, tell us about PuffCuff.

0:02:17.6 CL: So, PuffCuff is the only hair clamp specifically designed for those with thick, curly, or textured hair that will not give a headache and not cause hair damage. The way the PuffCuff works is you gather the hair first, you clamp it around, and then the hair thickness and texture acts opposite on the clip and pushes outward, which keeps the hook closed. So then there’s no cinching, there’s, it’s just holding your hair in place. It’s kind of a hug, giving your hair a hug basically.

0:02:35.4 MB: I like that.

0:02:37.4 CL: There’s different sizes because it works with different thicknesses, different lengths. The longer your hair is, you can gather it in a smaller circle. The Shorter your hair is, you don’t wanna gather it in a smaller circle because that’s gonna create, stress and tension and pulling and traction, alopecia and all that. And it’s like we have to kind of abandon everything that we’ve been taught. Because anything, it was like, oh, my hair is short, I need the smallest one. No boo.

0:03:03.7 MB: Right. Because you gotta make it tight.

0:03:06.3 CL: Right. No, we don’t have to. You have to, you should use something that’s just holding, grasping it on the sides and all of this, you’ll still have the fullness because it’s not being cinched down.

0:03:19.1 MB: Got it. I love it.

0:03:21.3 CL: We have five sizes. The original’s five inch, the junior’s like right around three and a quarter. The mini, it’s a little over two inches. This is the microbe one and a half. And then we have the teeny, which is one and a quarter. And these, literally, every single one of these were developed from fan response. What they would use is they buy the big one when they’re starting their natural journey or growing out their curly hair. And it would give you a nice, full puff. But once your hair gets longer, it starts to droop because it’s not cinching. So then you move to the smaller sizes or…

0:03:52.7 MB: You’re actually graduating down.

0:03:52.8 CL: You’re graduating down or think out of the box, like I’m wearing one right now in the back just to hold my bun up. And I’ve been wearing it all week since my… You sleep in the PuffCuff You don’t have to take it in and out because it’s not…

0:04:08.1 MB: I didn’t even know you had one on.

0:04:09.0 CL: Snatching the shit out of your head.

0:04:10.9 MB: Wow.

0:04:11.5 CL: And you could wear multiple ones, I stack them everything else. You can do a fro hawk, do three of them, double puffs, think outside. Because everybody’s like, okay, I can’t get all of my hair in this one. Well, no one wrote the rule that you have to put all of your hair.

0:04:34.5 MB: I love that.

0:04:34.6 CL: You could do half up, half down. Most of the different inspirations I get in terms of styling, my fans have posted a video on how they figured out to do a new style with the PuffCuff.

0:04:44.0 MB: I love it. So beyond people who have curls or fros, can anybody else use it?

0:04:47.4 CL: Yes. The puff, first of all, it’s a unisex hair tool.

0:04:51.2 MB: Love it.

0:04:51.2 CL: We do have a brand totally for men called PCM, the PuffCuff Male. But it works definitely for braids, locks, and twists. As long as you have texture or you have a massive amount of thickness, it will work.

0:05:12.3 MB: I love it. This is amazing. How did you come up with the idea for PuffCuff?

0:05:12.4 CL: I invented. I Didn’t know that I was going to be an inventor. I invented PuffCuff back in, I would say 2009. But I had the idea for it like in 2006.

0:05:28.1 MB: Gotcha.

0:05:28.6 CL: It Took me a while to get past the, I can’t do that, I don’t know how to do that, I don’t have any money to do that. This is something beyond me type of thing. I’m too little and that’s too big. But I had had the idea and I had the idea because I stopped chemically straightening my hair back in 2006. And it wasn’t like I was having this aha moment, discovering my inner self love.

0:06:06.4 MB: That we all did during Covid because we were like…

0:06:09.6 CL: Right. No I had been… No, that was not me. Nothing against that, but that was not me. What literally happened to me was I couldn’t get in for a touch up. I just went longer between touch ups. And the word touch up, just in case, between treatments.

0:06:18.6 MB: That’s right.

0:06:19.5 CL: When I did that, I had always been suffering from dandruff and dermatitis, like bad, like corn flake sized flakes.

0:06:26.4 MB: Oh, wow.

0:06:27.2 CL: And I just thought it was my body makeup. And I’m using prescriptions over the counter, steroids, all this stuff. And it would kind of make the symptoms subside but it’d never go away.

0:06:39.0 MB: Gotcha.

0:06:39.5 CL: But when I went longer between touch ups.

0:06:41.9 MB: It went away.

0:06:43.2 CL: Gone. And my body was like…

0:06:45.4 MB: Your scalp was like, oh my God, I can breathe.

0:06:47.0 CL: Right. I’ve been waiting.

0:06:47.5 MB: She stopped trying to burn me I’m chilling, okay.

0:06:49.5 CL: Right. Remember, ’cause it don’t work unless it’s burning.

0:06:51.4 MB: That’s right.

0:06:51.7 CL: Right. Here here. Right here. Right exactly. You’re right over here on your path and you know?

0:06:57.4 MB: We all know that’s the language, right. That’s right.

0:07:00.6 CL: It was like, all right, I’ve had way too much relief. My body exhaled. And I was like, I never was one like a beauty shop person anyway. It was like a necessary evil for me.

0:07:14.4 MB: Gotcha. ‘

0:07:14.6 CL: ‘Cause y’all know that’s a whole nother podcast about that.

0:07:16.1 MB: That’s a day’s experience. And it’s not always a spy experience.

0:07:21.4 CL: Right. It’s most likely not. But I refused to go back and with that, this is when we were and we’re still living in Chicago land area. I am a graphic designer by career. I worked at a junior college at the time. Only black in my department, only black in the building. Here I am growing out my natural hair. I Didn’t know what was gonna come out of my scalp ’cause I had been having my hair relaxed or since I was 10. And I was getting pressing curl before then. I had no…

0:07:54.9 MB: The typical black women’s journey of pain in their hair, yes.

0:08:00.5 CL: The rites of passage.

0:08:00.5 MB: That’s right. That’s right.

0:08:02.0 CL: With that I was like, I have to prepare myself for what’s gonna…

0:08:07.4 MB: Sure.

0:08:07.7 CL: And you know your hair is such a part of your whole personality.

0:08:12.3 MB: Of course.

0:08:12.6 CL: All of that.

0:08:13.4 MB: You’re thinking, wait, A, how’s it gonna come out? B, what’s it gonna look like? C, what’s everybody else gonna say?

0:08:20.8 CL: D, Am I even gonna like it?

0:08:21.8 MB: There you go.

0:08:24.2 CL: And I was, I did the big chop. I did the TWA. And…

0:08:29.5 MB: And what is TWA?

0:08:31.6 CL: You don’t know? You are a member.

0:08:34.1 MB: Oh, okay. Wait.

0:08:35.0 CL: Teeny Weeny Afro.

0:08:36.2 MB: Oh, okay. Gotcha.

0:08:37.2 CL: Yes.

0:08:37.4 MB: I didn’t know. Nobody told me.

0:08:38.8 CL: Acronyms. We’re both gonna help each other out.

0:08:40.7 MB: See? There you go. There you go.

0:08:42.1 CL: I did the TWA, which is the big chop. I have twins. My oldest two are twins. They were three. We all went to the barbershop and I got my hair cut off. And I liked it but I looked exactly like my mother from the ’70s. Exactly. And my mother is a beautiful person.

0:09:01.5 MB: I was about to say was that doesn’t sound so bad.

0:09:03.1 CL: It was not, but just, I was not ready for that.

0:09:06.3 MB: Gotcha. [laughter] Okay. Gotcha.

0:09:09.2 CL: I was like I’m gonna have to grow this out. Plus at the same time I didn’t know what my curl pattern was gonna look like, I didn’t know any of that. And I’m like how do I even maintain the way I want my curls to look? You get all this feedback from what you see on TV and what you think you want your curls to look like. But you do n’t know until first of all, your body detoxed which I didn’t even know that was a thing. When you’re growing out that relaxer which the first hairs that come out, the new growth is not your normal texture.

0:09:46.0 MB: That’s right.

0:09:46.3 CL: It’s, they call it scab hair.

0:09:47.8 MB: Yep.

0:09:48.3 CL: And I was like, what? I wish somebody had told me that. ’cause…

0:09:51.0 MB: I did learn that, when I grew mine out, I learned that. I was like, is this what it’s gonna be? ‘Cause we may have to go back to that, be patient, if that’s not it.

0:09:57.3 CL: Right. That’s not it.

0:09:58.4 MB: A couple of layers to go.

0:10:00.2 CL: Who knew… You’re right. And it hurt. Who knew you could feel your hair growing? [laughter] And that’s what it was. After you get past that part I’m like, I’m not ready for the responsibility of an Afro in a majority white environment. I do not want the questions.

0:10:22.6 MB: Sure.

0:10:22.8 CL: I do not want people looking at me like I’m starting a revolution. The curly hair thing was not…

0:10:27.5 MB: Popular. That’s Right.

0:10:27.9 CL: There was no curly hair popular. There was no YouTube, no influencers that… It was me and it was me. And like even most black people were like, what are you doing?

0:10:37.5 MB: Right. ‘Cause they’re like, wait, you’ve got a job, girl, you better comb that down or you could put that under something.

0:10:41.5 CL: It’s like, “Oh, that’s cute. You’re going out your hair. Now, What are you gonna do with it?”

0:10:44.7 MB: That’s right.

0:10:45.5 CL: What do you mean what am I gonna do with it?

0:10:46.7 MB: This is it.

0:10:48.4 CL: What I’m doing is what I’m doing with it. I even had close friends, I’ll say a close friend come to me and literally at church whisper in my ear, “I don’t like your hair like that.” But who never said anything negative was my husband.

0:11:07.6 MB: Well, that’s because he’s a smart man.

0:11:10.0 CL: Right. So smart. He’s still, just, He knows. And that was the main thing. And I was like I told him, and it was a man, I told him, I was like, “You know what, as long as my husband don’t, then you’re not really right, whatever.”

0:11:19.7 MB: You don’t really matter.

0:11:20.6 CL: When I grew it out and did all my experimentation with it, with color and all, thinking that your hair is so much stronger ’cause it’s not relaxed and finding out no, it’ll still end up in the sink.

0:11:37.6 MB: That’s right.

0:11:39.2 CL: I decided that the way that I liked to look at myself with my natural hair was it up in a puff. And the way I could get that look was either to take a headband, ouchless, whatever they call it, headband.

0:11:57.9 MB: If such a thing.

0:11:58.9 CL: Right. Wrap it around my head and neck several times and try to pull it up.

0:12:03.4 MB: Oh, wow. That don’t even sound right.

0:12:06.1 CL: It’s not. And when you do get it up you’re praying that it doesn’t move ’cause that elastic…

0:12:12.2 MB: You are watching the slide of the head, oh my gosh, there it goes.

0:12:14.8 CL: Right. Exactly, exactly, exactly. Or okay, that really wasn’t like the best go-to for me and my go-to was to get a boot sized shoestring from Walmart packs and packs, tie it around my neck and then take it and pull it till it cinched my hair all the way up. Still even then it was not guaranteed to be in place the whole day.

0:12:37.7 MB: Sure, sure.

0:12:38.2 CL: But I suffered from migraines and sinus issues and at that time I had a hour commute to and from work.

0:12:47.7 MB: So you were done before you got to the office?

0:12:51.1 CL: And then my hair just exacerbating the ugliness. The angry black woman showed up back at home, trying to be somewhat a resemblance of a decent wife and mother. And I’m like, this is ridiculous that I have to suffer to wear my hair and it’s the way God gave me. And then I would look and see, like I had the idea of what the PuffCuff should look like and it was based on a little clip that everybody’s grandmama and mama had. They had it in the Caribbean and everything, but it’s about this big. And it had teeth all the way through and it’s either, it was by Goody in the United States. In the Caribbean and Jamaica or whatever they called it a pony comb. And You are like, yeah, it’s the same thing as a pony comb. No, because we don’t look like ponies. So the pony comb was not meant for you. It even got a little white girl.

0:13:39.8 MB: Oh wow. There you go.

0:13:41.3 CL: Right. And I try to people, that’s one of my one of my trigger words, Pony comb, ponytail. ’cause black people don’t walk around…

0:13:54.9 MB: Acting like a pony.

0:13:55.0 CL: Naturally looking like ponies. That right there is hidden racism.

0:13:55.4 MB: It’s true.

0:13:56.3 CL: We were getting, I don’t know, probably you had, if you had pigtails as a little girl.

0:14:02.1 MB: I did.

0:14:02.4 CL: They were pigtails. Did you?

0:14:04.1 MB: Right up my pig. Right.

0:14:06.3 CL: Yeah. I’mma need to learn better and do better.

0:14:10.6 MB: Then ultimately when my mom stopped with the hot comb and burning my ear off the stove then I would get, what do they call them? They call them, they were puff braids, that’s what they called them. Because like they would just do the two trim but then you step outside the humid, and it’d be poof.

0:14:31.2 CL: They used to call them dookie. Dookie twists. All of it, just terrible. It’s so wrong.

0:14:35.1 MB: It’s all wrong. It is over with. It’s is angry confidence.

0:14:36.1 CL: And we wonder why we all got issues. With that I was like, okay, this clamp, if I could figure out something on a much larger scale that didn’t have teeth, or that, ’cause only straight hair is getting through something…

0:14:55.7 MB: That’s Right.

0:14:55.9 CL: It was like I just need the teeth to hold my hair, kind of like fingers.

0:15:01.1 MB: Yeah. But when you took it out, your hair didn’t come with it.

0:15:02.8 CL: Right. Exactly. I searched for years, online, this is when Alibaba, there only was Alibaba.

0:15:10.8 MB: Gotcha.

0:15:11.5 CL: The Google was very…

0:15:13.6 MB: And we weren’t in it.

0:15:14.4 CL: Right. And I was like, there’s gotta be something. I know I’m not the only one looking for something like this and it, I would go to Walmart or Walgreens and go down the hair accessory aisle just thinking somebody’s gotta think of this. And nobody ever did, knowing I’d have been pissed if somebody had a thought of it. So I was like, okay, I’ve got this idea, I think it’ll work. It makes sense that it would work, but what do I do with it? Then in 2011, I was charged with taking care of my 99 year old grandmother.

0:15:53.2 MB: Wow. God bless her.

0:15:54.1 CL: Yes. Independent woman drove up until maybe about 10 years before. 100% in her right mind. Viola was her name. And Viola, she is grandma to me and mama to my kids, she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. And my father is an only child. She was like, I love your daddy, but I am not going to go live with him ’cause they, it was at the point where the doctors was, she can’t live by herself.

0:16:27.3 MB: Gotcha.

0:16:27.9 CL: She lived in Indianapolis. I lived in Chicago. I was like, okay, she’s my heart. I’ll do whatever it takes for my grandmother. Oh, I should say we were also on the list to be adoptive parents.

0:16:40.9 MB: Oh geez.

0:16:42.1 CL: Right. And we had been on the adoption list for almost 18 months. Anyway, grandma’s still in Indianapolis ’cause she had like doctor appointments and stuff we needed to take care of. But I’m setting up her room and I’m at Kohl’s picking out bedding for her that next day and I get a phone call from my adoption counselor from her personal cell phone. I see the phone number, I look at the cashier at Kohl’s and I said, we just got chosen. Sure enough, answered the phone. The short of it you got chosen. You’ll meet the birth mother tomorrow. She will spend the last day with the baby on Wednesday. You will be at the baby on Thursday. You’re taking the baby home on Friday. Grandma was to be delivered on Saturday.

0:17:27.7 MB: Oh my god. My head hurts for you. Okay.

0:17:34.2 CL: And I was like, Lord, you sure didn’t ask about how much I could bear. ’cause I’d have been like what? I’m not the one, I’m not, you got a little bit more confidence in me than I have in me. That’s what happened. I Got them all in the same weekend. And at that time, I’ve always been close with my grandmother, but when you’re in those stages, I don’t know if you’ve dealt with…

0:17:57.5 MB: My mom is 94.

0:17:58.5 CL: Okay. When they get in those, when they, she knew she was about to transition. And then that process, ’cause we didn’t… Hospice was in my house. There are moments that you’re, you see the line between here and there. And you know, even you, it’s very clear when she’s talking with the Lord or she’s talking with her ancestors and when she’s talking to you.

0:18:24.5 MB: To you. Right.

0:18:26.0 CL: I would spend time in her room until she fell asleep every night. But we would just talk about intimate conversations. That’s when I say I got to know my grandmother intimately as a woman, not just as my grandma. And one of the things that we talked about was, “Are you ready?” ’cause you know like, it’s your time. Are you ready? And she was like, “I’ve been ready. If Jesus had have showed up last night, I’d have been fine, but he didn’t.”

0:19:01.3 MB: “He would’ve saved me this long ass trip from Indiana to Chicago.”

0:19:02.3 CL: She was like, no. And I said, have you done everything that you think you… Is there anything that you wish you had it done or something? She was like, no, I’ve done everything that the Lord has asked me to do. And I’m ready. And I thought to myself, okay, you’ve got this idea.

0:19:18.3 MB: If you got that question, you know already.

0:19:19.5 CL: If I got that question, I don’t wanna be like, well, I wish I should have, could, have. It was just like, that’s what I wanted, I want to be able…

0:19:29.6 MB: That place of peace.

0:19:31.8 CL: I want that peace.

0:19:32.1 MB: There’s nothing you didn’t do or, nope. Not too many regrets you didn’t resolve.

0:19:38.5 CL: Right. Right. Right. And that’s when I was like, let’s just make it happen. And my husband was like, cool.

0:19:42.0 MB: Did you quit your job?

0:19:43.9 CL: No.

0:19:45.3 MB: Oh. Okay.

0:19:45.4 CL: What I did was…

0:19:47.0 MB: Now, let me just be clear, so now you have a newborn, relatively newborn, You’re still working. And then your husband says, yeah, sure, go ahead. Okay.

0:19:55.0 CL: I can say this, I did take a leave, ’cause I’ve always been a freelancer, I can say, I’ve never really worked full-time, I wasn’t the whole corporate person.

0:20:03.3 MB: Gotcha.

0:20:03.4 CL: I’m like, I’m a consultant. I’m there because you need me there. I don’t have to deal with all the foolishness.

0:20:08.3 MB: Gotcha. And if you wanna roll, you can roll? Got it.

0:20:12.5 CL: Right, I’m out. I did, I was working there as a freelance capacity, after my grandmother transitioned, and we had that new baby. I’m like, okay, a stay-at-home mom is not my ministry. This, I can’t do this. I actually went to the woman who I worked under, which we had been friends since I graduated college. And I told her, I was like, look, I need a full-time job because I need a nanny for my baby, and I need to be able to bring this product to life. And, I didn’t have that father that could lend me $2 million to start my…

0:20:49.1 MB: There was no trust fund.

0:20:52.1 CL: Right. I had to go to work. And that’s what I did. So I worked at that junior college and worked on it, worked for them during the day and at night, worked on my passion. And then would network with different professors that were always, adjunct professors, that were professionals by day. And I’d catalog stock before everything was online where you can… The book, until an engineering professor would meet with me to talk to me about my idea. And one did. I could still remember his face, I don’t remember his name. But he was like, I remember he was like, “This is really good, but I want you to talk to another guy, another friend of mine who does products,” He walked me over to his department, looked at it, and he was like, “You’re gonna be rich.” And I’m like, okay.

0:21:45.1 MB: I’ll believe it when I see it.

0:21:45.6 CL: All right, I’ll believe it when I see it. And what got me is, they got it, even though they had no real concept of our hair, but they were like, “This makes sense.”

0:21:55.6 MB: But they understood there was a problem.

0:21:56.6 CL: They understood it was a problem. It was a fixable problem. Between one person or another, within that atmosphere, I got introduced to my CAD drawer. And my CAD drawer introduced me to my manufacturer, my CAD drawer, his name is Richard Schmitt. My dad’s name is Richard Smith. It was stuff like that to where the guy was like…

0:22:19.7 MB: Little thing, he knew like, I’m pushing you. I love that.

0:22:23.2 CL: That’s how it all started. That’s how it all started.

0:22:26.1 MB: And what was that? A period of a year? Maybe a little bit more than that?

0:22:29.9 CL: I would say that was probably, that was two years. Two years.

0:22:35.4 MB: Let me pause on that for a second, ’cause that’s a long time. Two years to kind of get your, and that was your idea too, actually a product in hand, right? Talk about some of the ups and downs and how did you find the patience? ‘Cause I know you a little bit.

0:22:51.0 CL: I don’t have patience.

0:22:51.4 MB: That’s why I was like, I know you a little bit, I’m not really, I can only imagine, I just feel like I should be talking to your husband, like what was she like during those two years?

0:23:00.0 CL: Crazy. I don’t think it’s like I’m any less crazy. I just, now, I’m on the other side of, oh, that’s why I just got told no. Oh. That’s why I didn’t get… There was, I often say, I wish I had started this when I was in my 30s.

0:23:20.4 MB: Why?

0:23:22.5 CL: ‘Cause I have some more time left. But I also know that in my 30s I was not at the maturity level to handle what I needed to handle.

0:23:32.9 MB: And how old were you, if you don’t mind sharing generally, were you when you started PuffCuff, or you started this design process, I should say?

0:23:39.3 CL: I was 39. ‘Cause I remember my son’s birth mother and I are the same age. And it was like, okay, that it all happened in time the way it was supposed to.

0:23:54.1 MB: Sure. And for a reason it sounds like.

0:23:55.2 CL: Right. Totally for a reason.

0:23:56.3 MB: So for people out there, ’cause, again, we are not very often as Black entrepreneurs in particular, but entrepreneurs of color in products, often because it’s hard. The blessing and resource you had of academia, to have those people to help you. If you could do it again, ’cause it sounds like there was a lot of criss-crossing campus and some NOs and lots of Sherlock Holmes investigation. What would you say to somebody now in hindsight, like, “Hey, if you wanna do a product, this is what you should be doing.”

0:24:30.2 CL: Go in eyes wide open that products are not easy. And they’re expensive as hell. I did not know tooling.

0:24:38.8 MB: And what is tooling?

0:24:40.2 CL: The tooling is the mold.

0:24:41.6 MB: Gotcha.

0:24:43.5 CL: The mold, itself, my first mold cost $20,000. And that was for one size of the PuffCuff. Yeah. And that’s not, that’s just…

0:25:00.7 MB: That’s the beginning.

0:25:00.7 MB: And that’s the cheap mold. And it was because I didn’t buy my own mold base. My manufacturer swapped it out. So I borrowed a mold base from other products that he was doing. When you, like everything in here that’s plastic comes from some type of mold, which they call it a tool. The itch, I got my first loan from a non-for-profit that I had to have my husband co-sign for. Yeah. Axion. Have you heard Axion?

0:25:31.7 MB: Oh yeah, sure, absolutely.

0:25:33.7 CL: They gave me my first one for $16,000 And I was like, “Whoo.”

0:25:35.6 MB: “I’m rich.”

0:25:36.2 CL: I’m rich, I could do a lot with this.

0:25:44.6 MB: I can get almost three quarters of the mold.

0:25:44.7 CL: And I was like, okay, and that’s just one size, so between the price, ’cause, now, you gotta pay the CAD drawer, you gotta pay the tool maker, you gotta, all of this, totally blind to what it was gonna cost. And I’m glad I didn’t know, ’cause I would have talked myself out of it, I would have been like, mm-hmm.

0:26:21.8 MB: Okay, maybe I won’t be like grandma. And I will have some things I don’t accomplish. [chuckle]

0:26:31.5 CL: I’m gonna do just like her, I must say it right here.

0:26:44.6 MB: Got you. It sounds like you gotta have the idea, you’ve gotta figure out if you are not technically oriented, it sounds like you’re trusting a lot of people.

0:26:47.0 CL: You are, you are.

0:26:47.9 MB: And a lot of iterations to get that product right, and then I wanna move into this patent piece, and so then you’re like, well, I got this product of which you had already done your research, nobody else was doing, so then what did you do?

0:26:50.7 CL: I actually, people probably don’t know much, it is called, Google has Google patent search.

0:27:00.3 MB: ‘Cause usually people try to go into the trademark office, which is painful at best, but, okay.

0:27:00.8 CL: Yeah, it’s… Start Google patent search it’s way user-friendly. Started there, found out that Goody, they did not patent that original clip. And just to show how curly hair and African hair has been discounted, there were no other apparatuses…

0:27:30.3 MB: Interesting.

0:27:33.9 CL: That had been patented. There were some that were close, but all of them had that teeth going all the way through.

0:27:36.3 MB: Gotcha, gotcha.

0:27:42.6 CL: That in mind was not meant… That was only meant for straight hair.

0:27:44.6 MB: Gotcha. And since we’re on a podcast, I wanna pause for a second, ’cause you keep putting your hands together. If you have a comb, if you have a skinny comb where the teeth that are really close together, that’s not gonna go through curly here no matter what colour you are. It’s not gonna happen.

0:27:50.9 CL: No, or it’s gonna struggle and hurt.

0:27:51.6 MB: Or it’s gonna be hanging out there. Thinking about how do you expand the width of those teeth so it comfortably cuddles as opposed to stabs.

0:27:56.4 CL: Exactly, exactly, exactly.

0:28:00.7 MB: Okay, all right, got you. Okay, I’m with you.

0:28:01.1 CL: And I searched and searched and searched from my, what do you call it? Amateur knowledge of patents. I’m like, “I don’t think anything is out there like this.” Again, I learned or I’ve always been a word of mouth person.

0:28:31.1 MB: Gotcha.

0:28:31.7 CL: I tried going through the, at that point, the yellow pages.

0:28:31.8 MB: I know what you talking about. I know what you’re talking about. I know exactly what you’re talking about.

0:28:34.9 CL: To look through and see if I could find injection moulders and thing… But I would call and they would totally ignore me.

0:28:42.1 MB: Sure.

0:28:42.5 CL: I said, “You know what, let me just go back to my network of these men from the college.” So my CAD drawer introduced to me, to my manufacturer, my manufacturer introduced me to my patent lawyer, and I went to him, being the most amazing patent lawyer, and I will not give his name because he’s mine. The most amazing patent lawyer that I could have ever asked for and just, I very much say that God has put the right people in my path, he’s also put people in my path that I had to discern.

0:29:27.6 MB: Should not have been there.

0:29:32.8 CL: Should not be there, but this man, he helped me get all of my patents and fought for me and I didn’t go broke. My patents have been…

0:29:35.1 MB: How many patents do you have?

0:29:36.5 CL: I have four at this point. I have two design and utility patent on the original design, and then I have a design patent on a third version of the PuffCuff.

0:29:39.4 MB: Got you.

0:29:42.4 CL: And then I just got my fourth patent on a edge brush tool.

0:29:42.6 MB: Congratulations.

0:29:43.8 CL: Thank you.

0:29:44.5 MB: We’ll be back with more of my conversation with Ceata Lash right after the break.

0:29:54.4 MB: Welcome back. Here’s more of my conversation with Ceata Lash. You are in Sally’s, you’re in Target.

0:30:00.6 CL: I’m in Sally’s, I’m on, which is not Target retail. That’s a whole different ball game. And just even learning that…

0:30:11.4 MB: Right, what’s the difference? Give me some of the differences, because there’s a lot of people out there who are like, “I wanna be on those shelves.” But there is pros and cons to being on those shelves.

0:30:24.3 CL: Pros and serious cons. Target, getting on any retail shelf, your margin, what you’re taking home is gonna be so much less.

0:30:26.6 MB: That’s right.

0:30:27.4 CL: In the very beginning, we started on Amazon, we started on because we were a bit, a new technology, a new company, a new face in the hair space, I didn’t even put my, no, that’s a lie, I did put my face up front, which that was another learning story, learning experience, we’ll go back to that. But our thought was use Amazon’s customer service as a way to get the customer to be more willing to purchase, ’cause if they don’t like it, they can fall back on Amazon’s policies and everything, so we did that and we were…

0:31:23.4 MB: Okay smart.

0:31:27.7 CL: And it worked once we got past all of the, “It’s a banana clip and da, da.” Maybe it’s not a banana clip because bananas aren’t around. PuffCuffs are shaped like this. And in the very beginning, there were a lot of limitations to what Amazon would let you communicate to their customer.

0:31:41.1 MB: Gotcha. Gotcha.

0:31:41.1 CL: Because Amazon customers are not my customers, they’re Amazon’s customers, I don’t own any of their data.

0:31:41.1 MB: Who are just searching for cheapest, fastest, best, highest-rated.

0:31:41.1 CL: Whatever. Yeah. Exactly, but I get none of the… I can’t communicate just directly to them ’cause they’re not my customers.

0:31:41.8 MB: That’s right.

0:31:41.8 CL: Once we figured out that lay of the land and how we could communicate directly to our customers, it was basically follow us on social media, let me do videos on social media, how to do it, how to… Then that information slowly started getting to Amazon, because what happens on Amazon, if you love the product, you don’t leave a review. If you hate the product, you blast them a new one.

0:32:03.9 MB: That’s right. As always.

0:32:05.5 CL: I was getting blasted. Girl, they was whooping me up.

0:32:08.2 MB: They were like, “What is this? What am I supposed to do with this?”

0:32:10.0 CL: Right. “You promised,” ’cause I had done it.

0:32:11.6 MB: “It doesn’t hold my hair.”

0:32:12.8 CL: Right, right. “I can’t get my hair around it.” Well, the key to the PuffCuff is you gather the hair first, then you clamp it, and the density and thickness of your hair push outward on the clip.

0:32:26.5 MB: Expands. Got it.

0:32:26.7 CL: To keep the hook closed, so there’s no cinching. So people would try to use it like a banana clip, and try to take it and pull all of their hair into it. And first of all, banana clip was never meant for your hair.

0:32:37.9 MB: That’s right.

0:32:38.8 CL: And still that’s not, just because that’s the way that worked doesn’t mean that this is the way this product works. So there was a lot of…

0:32:46.7 MB: Misconceptions.

0:32:47.2 CL: Misconceptions and product education that I had to do.

0:32:50.4 MB: Gotcha. So social media was the best place.

0:32:51.9 CL: Social media was the best blessed place, and the least expensive place to do it.

0:32:56.5 MB: Gotcha. How many followers do you have?

0:32:58.3 CL: Right now, in total, we have about 300,000 followers. We’ve got 80,000 on Instagram. I think about 60,000, 70,000 on Facebook. TikTok has been one of those things where I’m not on it like I need to be.

0:33:14.1 MB: Gotcha.

0:33:14.9 CL: But I’ve got other fires I’m trying to put out. [laughter]

0:33:16.8 MB: Sure. And I hear you. I hear you. I hear you.

0:33:18.5 CL: But one thing I can say is I’ve never bought a follower. Never, ever, ever.

0:33:22.6 MB: That’s huge.

0:33:22.9 CL: All of my followers are organic.

0:33:26.0 MB: That’s huge.

0:33:26.6 CL: And we sell in over 176 countries. I’ve never marketed to any of those countries.

0:33:30.6 MB: I wanted to touch upon that, so thank you for jumping us there. How did you get international?

0:33:36.9 CL: Word of mouth.

0:33:37.6 MB: Word of mouth?

0:33:38.3 CL: It’s straight social media. Straight social media. There were two influencers, which are still my influencers to this day. One her name is Curly Lou. And the other one is Honest Liz. Curly Lou is American, but she lived in Germany for a long time. Honest Liz is in India. They both got the PuffCuff, I think from a friend that said, “I think you would like this.” They opened up the non-African American audience to the PuffCuff. I’ve always made sure that all of my marketing and branding represented real people. So I got church members, sisters, cousins.

0:34:22.6 MB: I know that’s right.

0:34:24.2 CL: Anybody you see on my website, I know them personally.

0:34:27.7 MB: Gotcha.

0:34:28.0 CL: They did not come from an agency.

0:34:30.2 MB: ‘Cause you’re like, “Who’s that person that lower left hair hand corner.” Oh, okay. That’s uncle… Right. Okay.

0:34:33.8 CL: You know that’s Pokie? You know that’s Ray Ray? But I always, my whole thought was I’ve never felt like I wanted to be compared to somebody who was technically beautiful. Not that I’m not beautiful, but it’s, I didn’t wanna set a standard that…

0:34:54.7 MB: Didn’t resonate with you direct.

0:34:55.3 CL: You can not relate to.

0:34:56.1 MB: Yeah. Got it. Makes sense. Makes sense.

0:34:57.3 CL: I need all shades of people. I need somebody that has a big gap in their teeth. I need…

0:35:04.1 MB: Everybody.

0:35:04.7 CL: I don’t want that perfect representation because I don’t buy into that. I’ve always made sure that all ethnicities were represented, I got some clap back too.

0:35:19.0 MB: Gotcha.

0:35:19.7 CL: ‘Cause there’s too many White chicks in a row in Instagram, I’m thinking about it…

0:35:21.9 MB: Right, they get upset, I’m sure. Don’t look to everybody. We saw that with Honey Pot. We see with everybody. Yeah.

0:35:28.1 CL: But we have to understand that it’s more of a thing in the United States, we don’t talk about our issues across color lines.

0:35:35.6 MB: Right. No, we don’t.

0:35:36.1 CL: Unless y’all are real good girlfriends from way back.

0:35:38.4 MB: That’s right.

0:35:39.1 CL: But we all have the same issues. We all equally hate, equally like, but we don’t discuss it. My whole thing was opening up the conversation to be like…

0:35:48.4 MB: Sure. Sure. And it’s the only way your business is gonna grow.

0:35:50.4 CL: Yeah.

0:35:50.8 MB: Think about the dry bar you, roll up in there, sisters are up in there getting their hair blow dried but that was developed by a Jewish woman who had frizzy curly hair and she was like, “I was tired of going to places and watching it fall out.” Yeah.

0:36:03.3 CL: I introduced her at the last Goldman Sachs Summit.

0:36:05.7 MB: Oh, love it. Love it. All right, how are we gonna get the PuffCuff in and the dry bar? Okay, we gonna work on that. All right, I’m gonna follow up on that. I’m gonna follow up on that. Okay. I’m gonna follow up on that, but let’s go back to the social media for a second, because I feel like every year we get a new platform, I probably don’t even know all the ones that are out there. I listen to my kids, I’m like, whatever, hopefully that goes away. What are some tips that you’ve learned that work in kind of getting people to engage? Because they’re clearly doing more than just watching. When you made the comment that your followers told you what was happening out there, how do you get them and how do then convert them to be kind of like active marketers, but also active intelligence, customer intelligence gatherers for you?

0:36:52.1 CL: I would say I think it happened without me really knowing that that’s what was happening. What I do is, I’m me. I do not put on a new, I don’t morph into this other person.

0:37:06.4 MB: No new identity.

0:37:08.0 CL: When I’m talking to my customers or when I… And I realize that, people just wanna be talked to from like, as if I’m one of their girlfriends.

0:37:17.1 MB: Sure. Sure.

0:37:17.7 CL: So that’s how I talk to them.

0:37:18.3 MB: They wanna be able to relate to you.

0:37:20.1 CL: Right. You can tell when I’m responding to something, but I did, I very much had to realize that I needed to put a little space between myself and social media. Because there was some folks whooping me up on different things. And I’m gonna say ignorance breeds other ignorance. And it’s very easy for that…

0:37:47.9 MB: But once you get one, they all…

0:37:49.3 CL: Oh yeah. Then it’s like, yeah, everybody, I was wanting to say it too.

0:37:52.6 MB: They jump on the bandwagon.

0:37:52.6 CL: And then I go into my black girl voice when I, even though, [laughter] when I read the stuff, [laughter] but you know, you hear it in that black girl’s voice.

0:38:01.5 MB: Of course.

0:38:02.0 CL: I was like, you know what, I am, like I said, no patience. And I realized that’s not my ministry. Because I will say something that will get repeated. [laughter]

0:38:16.5 MB: And made out of context.

0:38:16.6 CL: Or screenshot. And then then it’s… Meet me in the publics and say that to me in my face. [laughter] Again it’s like…

0:38:25.0 MB: I hear you.

0:38:25.5 CL: No, no. And I’m like, yes, because this is not my ministry. Let me hire someone to put in between. I’m still the voice of the brand and the product. But I know…

0:38:35.9 MB: But Depersonalize it so that you have to have some of this personal space, and some safe space. Right.

0:38:37.2 CL: I have to because it’s like what you doing. You ain’t been…

0:38:43.6 MB: You haven’t been through my journey.

0:38:43.6 CL: But you haven’t been through my journey. And how are you going to tell me what I need to do and what… You need to make one out of this? Really?

0:38:50.2 MB: Right. Well, you go ahead.

0:38:52.2 CL: Because I’m doing these. I’m carving these out of my dining room table. Right? [laughter]

0:38:58.0 MB: See, that’s the problem with all these shows, people think Oh, it just happens overnight.

0:39:01.1 CL: Oh everything, right, Add water and stir, No.

0:39:02.9 MB: Yeah. So let’s let me go on that, because there’s lots of stats about founders. More and more are coming on about black founders. But you have this stat that within five years, over 50% of all businesses fail. But that’s not you.

0:39:19.3 CL: Girl.

0:39:19.4 MB: And you’ve been here. Well, you told us the journey.

0:39:22.0 CL: Nothing but God. Nothing but God. [laughter]

0:39:23.4 MB: But you, officially, you started in 2013. And the study…

0:39:28.4 CL: The study’s 10 years.

0:39:29.5 MB: Right. The study we just did, it said black entrepreneurs survive at least 8.5 years. So You’re way past that. But the challenge is that longevity does not correlate to access to capital. So talk about other than God, how, ’cause I know that was important, how do you think you’ve been able to be here for 10 years? ‘Cause this is an important opportunity, like change this narrative like that We can’t make it.

0:40:04.4 CL: I have been able to be here 10 years because I didn’t know what I was in for. I literally say I take stuff one moment at a time, not even one minute, one moment at a time. And I do believe I have his favor. And when I get into my head and get nervous and get anxiety and anxious and all that, I’m like, you know what? Let me bring it down. The sun will still rise tomorrow. I’m not saving lives. I’m not curing cancer.

0:40:39.2 MB: Right. Let’s put it in context.

0:40:40.9 CL: Let’s put it in context, right. But I do believe a key strategy of mine. Back in 2020, I realized I was working in a silo. I’m still working in the business rather than on the business, but I’m learning that I have to put people and agencies in places to do what I don’t have the bandwidth to do.

0:41:17.6 MB: That’s right.

0:41:17.6 CL: I started 2020 with the whole goal of I’ve got to get my name in the mouths of people that are in conversations that I’m not in. So I applied for every incubator, accelerator, cohort, whatever, weekend webinar. [laughter] I did it.

0:41:35.8 MB: You were in it.

0:41:35.8 CL: I was there. I was in it. And it worked. It worked. ‘Cause I wouldn’t be here right now talking to you.

0:41:41.2 MB: That’s right. I wouldn’t have heard of you. Yeah. I wouldn’t have heard of you guys.

0:41:44.1 CL: That was it. And I achieved that. But at the same time, I kind of took my eyes off of the everyday business. Not realizing, I know I’m a major part of it, but I didn’t have that second-in-command, because I handle a lot of the marketing and creative side, that second-in-command that could just roll with it, even in my absence.

0:42:15.2 MB: Right. And that’s important.

0:42:17.4 CL: That’s hugely important.

0:42:17.8 MB: You’ve got to find somebody, A, just for your own mental and well-being and balance, because you just can’t do it all. So finding that person that you trust and you know is gonna deliver the way you would.

0:42:28.5 CL: Exactly. Exactly. And that comes with money.

0:42:31.8 MB: That’s right. Yes.

0:42:32.4 CL: I’ve got to be able to pay that person to do that, to get that talent, that level of talent, and to keep them happy. And that’s always been a struggle, because you can get somebody out of college, and they’re really super talented. But by the time you train them in your business, in your brand and everything else, I think the longevity that they’re gonna stay with you is about two years. Two years is their season.

0:42:58.9 MB: Gotcha.

0:43:00.4 CL: And then they’re moving on, because, they’re young. They’ve only been out of school. They cut their teeth on you. Everybody else is always gonna be like, is the grass greener somewhere? And then people have this, they glorify and fantasize that small business is…

0:43:18.9 MB: It’s fun everyday. Hey. Money’s just being printed in a bag. I’m just gonna go back to the safe.

0:43:27.5 CL: Right. And just pull out, yeah, I can just I’m gonna plan an event that’s $10,000 just for one day. And we’re gonna spend that $10,000 on the influencer that I think. And it’s like, no…

0:43:39.0 MB: Right. That’s not how it goes.

0:43:40.9 CL: That’s not how it works. So, my goal, I mean, the end goal is to sell.

0:43:44.8 MB: Gotcha. Okay.

0:43:45.1 CL: I want to sell this business. So, it is positioning ourselves to get that…

0:43:52.1 MB: Acquisition.

0:43:52.2 CL: Acquisition at the value that.

0:43:54.6 MB: You want.

0:43:55.7 CL: I believe is worth, that I want.

0:43:58.7 MB: Yeah. So, as we wind down, you started to answer one of them, but I’m gonna come back in terms of what’s next for PuffCuff. But in your journey, you’ve talked about the opportunity you’ve had to have various people in your life. Some you had to put out the way, but most, it sounds like were helpful. Out of all that, what was the best advice you’ve ever received?

0:44:24.2 CL: Oh, I’ve received so many. I don’t know if I can say the best.

0:44:27.3 MB: Okay. Top two. Top three.

0:44:29.4 CL: Okay. Knock yourself off. All money is not good money. Fast money is bad money. Don’t feel less than because venture capitalists and angel investors are not knocking on your door. Oh, no. And I’ll say one, I’ll end up… This is one that really opened my eyes. I did the Cornell Women in Entrepreneurial Leadership program, with Bank of America. That was my first cohort that I did. And it was so eye-opening to say, they were like, honey, yes, you didn’t get that loan because you are female and not only yet, you’re Black. It’s not that you’re less than they had already said no to you before you walked in the door.

0:45:21.9 MB: That’s right. That’s right.

0:45:23.7 CL: And I was like, well, I was…

0:45:27.0 MB: Thank you for telling me.

0:45:28.3 CL: Thank you for telling me.

0:45:30.0 MB: Somebody’s finally honest with you.

0:45:30.1 CL: Right. Finally, just and if I hadn’t known that going, there were so many things that I learned in that process from the point of view of Yes. The gatekeepers are most likely 60, 70-year-old White men.

0:45:42.7 MB: Absolutely. Absolutely. And generationally, culturally, they’re not there.

0:45:47.9 CL: No. It’s like speaking a different language. Totally, they don’t know that they’re in the minority.

0:45:52.0 MB: That’s right.

0:45:52.4 CL: Let alone that, I’ve had some of them be like, so you mean I’m in the minority in terms of my hair type? Yeah.

0:46:03.3 MB: Right. I Hate to break it to you.

0:46:04.8 CL: But the fact this is just now dawning on you.

0:46:06.7 MB: Right. [laughter] Have you looked around the world?

0:46:09.7 CL: Right. Have you? And then they’re like, after you said that, then I started visually seeing that that’s really the case. Yes. That’s the case. The fact that you told me no when I just wanted to get $250,000 that you cannot see how many people…

0:46:27.6 MB: Have you missed the opportunity to support. Yeah. But that’s the importance of data. Of being able to bring that. This is somewhat of a data point, but we said we’d go back, so I don’t wanna forget. So Whatcha gonna tell me about your face on the product?

0:46:43.2 CL: Oh, what was interesting. Okay. I was in there…

0:46:48.1 MB: ’cause you decided to put your face on the packaging.

0:46:52.2 CL: On, yes.

0:46:52.4 MB: Okay. It was your design, your face.

0:46:53.6 CL: Yes. I had a caricature of me, and she still looks exactly like me.

0:46:56.9 MB: It was like you were the early emoji.

0:46:58.8 CL: Yes. No, I was.

0:47:00.0 MB: A Bitmoji, whatever they call it.

0:47:01.2 CL: What? Yeah. Whatever they call it [laughter], but…

0:47:02.9 MB: Avatar.

0:47:04.5 CL: Because of Sarah Blakely of Spanx, every single package had her little blonde hair caricature on everything. That didn’t mean that only White blonde-haired women could wear Spanx. Beyonce put her on. Right? But I noticed that when I had my caricature on the front of the package, that meant this product was only for Black people.

0:47:35.4 MB: People couldn’t see beyond what was in front of them.

0:47:38.3 CL: Even though it made sense in their mind, the whole concept of it.

0:47:42.0 MB: Sure. Right. But all the commonality was lost as soon as they could see you.

0:47:44.5 CL: Soon as they saw that Black caricature, then it was like, oh, this is, and I would watch them, they wouldn’t know it was me. I’d be in the parking lot and I had, on the back of my car, it was like a PuffCuff for thick, curly, and textured hair. And White women would stop and look at it, but soon as they saw the word and it was like, oh, that’s not for me. So I had to change it to or. You don’t have to be all three. And then, I would get emails from different customers that ran across it and they would say, I’m not Black. Can I still use it? And I’m like, who told you you couldn’t? Why does that even…

0:48:34.2 MB: Right. It’s not race based. It’s hair texture type.

0:48:35.8 CL: No, it not race based. It’s a curly hair product. And then I had to also fight for not being put…

0:48:39.8 MB: In the Black hair care section.

0:48:46.8 CL: And I still have to do that. Because anybody that is not African-American will not shop in the ethnic…

0:48:57.4 MB: Hair line.

0:48:57.9 CL: Multicultural textured section.

0:49:00.4 MB: It’s funny you say that. ’cause anytime I’ve gone down, I’m like, oh yeah. It’s just us going, Hey, what’s up? Hey, what’s up? What do you recommend? Oh I tried that. Don’t touch that.

0:49:07.1 CL: Right. The White people will not go into that.

0:49:10.7 MB: Well, We only get one aisle too.

0:49:12.3 CL: Right, a section. Which I think all of that is, that hidden racism in society that… And then I’ve had clap back from Black people too, and it’s like, but this is a curly hair product that was invented by a Black woman.

0:49:28.3 MB: Talk about that. Because we had the story of Bea Dixon, Honey Pot, getting blasted because she put White people in her commercials, but it’s a feminine hair care, I mean a feminine hygiene product.

0:49:41.7 CL: All right. We’re all women coming in all different colors.

0:49:44.1 MB: It didn’t say Black Feminine hygiene product. What do you say to Black folks about that? Like what do you say to customers? ‘Cause I will share what Bea said, you probably know, but what do you say to that?

0:49:56.3 CL: I would say for me, curly hair comes in all ethnicities. I just happen to be a Black that recognized it. I can’t, you know I’m not gonna restrict.

0:50:11.2 MB: And by the grace of God, ’cause we’re the majority.

0:50:13.3 CL: Right. Yes, and when I first started this company or this product, I thought I was making it for people that look like me. Because I’m like, if I’m suffering with it.

0:50:24.2 MB: Somebody else is.

0:50:24.7 CL: My sisters are probably suffering with it too. But what I found is, Our sisters are still struggling with that whole straight weave relaxer. They’re still struggling with that. And we just started a series this year that we’re, it’s called the Hairitage Stories.

0:50:45.9 MB: H-A-I-R, or just traditional heritage, H-E-R-I.

0:50:52.4 CL: HA… You know black folks.

0:50:52.5 MB: Hairitage. I know. Okay. Gotcha. Alright.

0:50:53.6 CL: Change that spelling. We’re soliciting stories from the fans to say, what is your hairitage story? And we give them an option to pick a, there’s a line, It’s like I blank my hairitage. Whether it’s love, conflicted, encourage, evolve, whatever. You pick a word and you can even do, I don’t know or whatever. Just whatever your… We sent it out to several emails. It almost is book worthy.

0:51:25.0 MB: Sounds like it.

0:51:25.9 CL: The responses that we’ve gotten has been, it’s so much heaviness that people are feel… I feel like it was unspoken, but this gave them a chance to speak about it. And our whole premises, it’s okay to not be okay. But we’ll never get to that point if we don’t openly talk about it.

0:51:53.5 MB: Yep. Yep. It’s funny, I, my journey to going natural was a big deal. And I remember saying to my hairdressers, I was like, “I don’t even know what it does. I had locks and then once I took the locks out, I was like, That was the only time that it was natural. But even then, I don’t know what it does. And she was going back and forth, and I said, you know what, I said, “One of the things that that I realized is that black women, the weight of our hair is not about our hair, it’s about the weight of the burden we carry because of what we were raised by and what we think other people are expecting.”

0:52:27.8 CL: Exactly.

0:52:29.6 MB: And she was like, okay, well let’s just wash all that out now, and let it go ’cause that’s just a whole lot of stress to be carrying. But…

0:52:34.2 CL: It is.

0:52:34.4 MB: It’s real.

0:52:35.0 CL: It’s very real.

0:52:36.4 MB: It’s real.

0:52:36.5 CL: And it’s real for people on a daily basis. I thank God that it was a health issue for me that was like, you know what, I’m, gonna do better for me. It made it an easier transition for me. ’cause I was like, I’m not going back to the way I was. I’ve found now I have more versatility in my hair. Yeah. And it is a struggle because you have to think how many generations have we come from of straight hair is how it’s supposed to be. They did what they thought they knew to be better.

0:53:12.5 MB: That’s right.

0:53:14.5 CL: And I understand, you know, the Madam CJ Walker and all of that, making us more palatable on the white man.

0:53:19.0 MB: ’cause it was, they were trying to survive.

0:53:20.4 CL: Right. Trying to survive. Exactly. I get that. I totally understand and appreciate that. But now we’re not in that place anymore. And I’ve been saying for years there has got to be a connection between relaxers and uterine fibroids. There is no way that majority of black women, including myself, we’re all like, when’s your turn? Of a certain age with…

0:53:45.1 MB: We all know those chemicals are dangerous.

0:53:46.7 CL: Right, All those chemicals putting on our body.

0:53:48.5 MB: ’cause they’re being washed out, but they’re also sipping.

0:53:52.9 CL: Right. That’s not just sit, anything that’s burning through your hair.

0:53:55.8 MB: That’s for sure.

0:53:56.5 CL: And we sat up there and was like, let it all stay a little bit longer because…

0:54:00.0 MB: It gotta be straight.

0:54:01.1 CL: Right. It gotta be straight.

0:54:01.3 MB: I don’t wanna come back for another three months now. I got you.

0:54:04.3 CL: Exactly.

0:54:05.9 MB: That’s real.

0:54:07.2 CL: That’s not rocket science to figure out that there’s a correlation with that. And now all of a sudden now, the lawyers and stuff are jumping on the bandwagon.

0:54:14.2 MB: That’s right.

0:54:14.8 CL: If you’ve experienced…

0:54:16.8 MB: That’s right. Class action suits are coming.

0:54:17.6 CL: Right. Class action suits. And I’m looking at one of the lawyers and they don’t even get it ’cause they had a picture of a white girl.

0:54:22.8 MB: Oh Lord. Well, she might have been trying the products, she might have been trying, she might have been trying the products. She Might have been trying the products. But before we end, I have to ask you, you talked about the, the ultimate goal. What’s next in the next few months for PuffCuff?

0:54:37.4 CL: The next few months for PuffCuff, we are trying to raise, we are getting to, we know we are at the point where in order for us to move this needle forward we’re gonna have to take on a in-venture capital gain. We have maximized the, we thought we get $100,000, we get $200,000, That would…

0:55:02.6 MB: You could piece it together.

0:55:03.1 CL: Yeah. What happens is it helps you grow, but then the walls start coming in.

0:55:08.3 MB: Sure, sure. It can’t sustain the growth.

0:55:09.1 CL: It can’t sustain.

0:55:09.9 MB: Yeah. It gives you spurts, but then that doesn’t take you to the marathon.

0:55:10.9 CL: It gives you spurts but it doesn’t… Right. And with the Apple iOS updates And the changes in Facebook and Instagram, digital ads and all that, that just knocked us out at the knees. I never really had to focus on retail placement. Because my direct to consumer game, I was killing it.

0:55:31.8 MB: That’s Right. And your fans were rallying for you.

0:55:33.9 CL: And I have the social proof, so you can go on any social media channel and you got, it’s not me saying how great the PuffCuff is, it’s fans that look like you that you can identify with saying Yes, this works. Like I said, we know that this is a point where we need…

0:55:48.9 MB: Some money. Real venture capital. Real growth capital.

0:55:58.6 CL: Right. Real Growth capital.

0:55:58.6 MB: Not just debt capital, You need growth capital.

0:56:00.7 CL: Right. Real growth capital. And then understanding the difference between debt financing and equity, and that black people can sell businesses successfully.

0:56:13.1 MB: That’s right.

0:56:14.5 CL: I didn’t even know that was a thing. Prior to, the black people I knew that had businesses, they died at their chair, at their desk, at the barber chair, there was no legacy.

0:56:23.9 MB: They were doing the work.

0:56:30.3 CL: You just survived. But I’m like, no, this is something that God has given us to have, that generational wealth can be a real thing for people that look like us. And I want to be that person. My ultimate passion is to be that person where I don’t have to worry about money, but I can do things like this to let those people that look like me, like you can do this, this is a real thing.

0:56:54.6 MB: It’s possible.

0:56:56.0 CL: It’s possible. It’s possible. But you can’t work with just you.

0:57:00.8 MB: Right. Well, I’m looking forward to the next phase. I’m Looking forward to seeing the rays. Looking forward to seeing you in more stores. Maybe even some more products and some more patents.

0:57:13.5 CL: Oh, yes. Yes.

0:57:15.0 MB: I’m ready. And by then I may have enough to put in the Cuff, I don’t know We’ll see.

0:57:17.6 CL: But You got some children or something though?

0:57:19.1 MB: We do. I got a lot. I got six kids. We can get some cuffs up in there. But thank you.

0:57:25.8 CL: Thank you.

0:57:26.3 MB: I appreciate you very much.

0:57:28.3 CL: I appreciate you.

0:57:28.8 MB: This has been great. And this has been funny. I’m excited. Thank you. Ceata gave a word to all founders go in with your eyes wide open. She reminds us that you should never give up on your dreams. She shared how customers need to see themselves in your marketing strategy and how important it is to get them engaged in the story of your business. Finally, Ceata was very clear on how important it is to hire well and put people in places in spaces where you know your bandwidth is limited. I hope you enjoyed my discussion with Ceata Lash. Be sure to check out PuffCuff. Thank you for listening to Founder Hustle. If you enjoyed this conversation, please subscribe and tell a friend. For more information about our guests, check out our website There you’ll find all kinds of information, tools, and resources for the new Majority entrepreneur To stay connected, follow us on social media @wearenmv or Search hashtag founder Hussle.

0:58:30.9 MB: Founder Hustle is a production of Kinetic Energy entertainment and New Majority ventures. Our producer is Anne Kane. Our social media producer is Misako Envela. The intro theme is Vuelta al Sol by Tomás Novoa. The credit theme is Glide by Columbia Knights and the yays are from Ratata by Curtis Cole. I’m Melissa Bradley. See you next time. Good.

0:58:57.8 MB: That’s good Okay. Anyway. Alright. I am here with Ceata. Well, I was supposed to say Ceata kash. I’m trying to put it out there for you, girl.

0:59:15.0 CL: Okay, I’ll take that too.

0:59:15.0 MB: I am here with Ceata Lash, who is the founder of PuffCuff.

Melissa Bradley

Melissa Bradley

Melissa L. Bradley is the Founder and Managing Partner of 1863 Ventures, a business development program that accelerates New Majority entrepreneurs from high potential to high growth and Co-founder of New Majority Ventures, a purpose-driven media brand featuring content that is entertaining, inspirational and actionable so that these entrepreneurs and their businesses survive and thrive.