EPISODE 026
Taking The Scientific Approach To Entrepreneurship
In this episode I share a conversation I had with Angela Ellington, a chemist turned entrepreneur speaks about going from the Corporate conveniences of being an executive to being a startup CEO. As many of us know, being an Executive at a large corporation has its perks, but when you have a calling, nothing can hold you back from fulfilling it.
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Host - Monique Mills:

Hi, everyone. Welcome back to the Unpolished MBA podcast. In this episode, Angela Ellington, a chemist turned entrepreneur speaks about going from the Corporate conveniences of being an executive to then becoming a startup CEO. As many of us know, being an executive at a large corporation certainly has its perks. But when you have a calling, nothing can hold you back from fulfilling it. Listen in as Angela shares more about this, and how your corporate network doesn't prepare you for entrepreneurship. And honestly, this is something that many people are actually surprised by. Let's jump in.


[00:51]       I want to start this conversation by asking you the same two questions I ask everybody, which is, are you an entrepreneur or a corporate employee?

Guest - Angela Ellington:
[01:00]
    An entrepreneur that used to be a corporate employee.


Host - Monique Mills:
[01:04]
         Ooh, all right. We're going to dig into that. How about this, MBA or no MBA?


Guest - Angela Ellington:
[01:09]
    No MBA.


Host - Monique Mills:
[01:11]
         Okay. So when you said you used to be a corporate employee, tell me more about that. What was your background? And as an entrepreneur, what are you doing now?


Guest - Angela Ellington:
[01:21]
    Well, prior to me becoming an entrepreneur, I spent 28 years in Corporate America, in the same category, beauty. I love beauty. My first job actually was in beauty. And I stayed there until I became an entrepreneur. So I rose through the ranks. I started as a quality control chemist and my last position at L'Oreal USA, was Assistant Vice President of Ethnic Research and Innovation. So for me, the transition from Corporate to entrepreneur has been a very interesting experience. I had to learn from this experience that the ecosystem is quite different, although the major and key parts that you need are still the same, because I'm still doing the same thing. I'm still launching innovative, quality, safe hair care products. And so I still need marketing, I still need research, I still need sales, but the ecosystem to connect or which connects all of those needs or tasks are quite different.



Host - Monique Mills:
[02:36]
         Yep. Wow. I'm so glad you brought that up because I used to hear this more often like when I was fresh from Corporate, starting out on my own, I would be like, “Okay, yeah, I know other engineers, I know other folks that I can need,” but the people that are interested in joining an entrepreneurial venture, and those in Corporate are two different mindsets, two different people, two different things. And then you don't have the same budget as Corporate, so you have to hire those people on your shoestring budget and keep them along for the ride. So how has that process been with engaging those that are interested in working with you as your own company, versus that process when it was like you're hiring someone into your Corporate role, into your Corporate support system?



Guest - Angela Ellington:
[03:33]
    To be honest, when I initially became an entrepreneur, I didn’t know it was different. When I first became an entrepreneur, the first thing I did was go and hire my former colleagues who had become an entrepreneur prior to me, but we had worked together in Corporate. And so I thought that was going to be the ideal situation because it worked before, and I thought everything was the same. But to your point, it’s not the same budget.



Host - Monique Mills:
[04:05]
         Yeah, tell me about it.


Guest - Angela Ellington:
[04:07]
    So you're getting part of what you need completed, but you're not fulfilling your requirements to really have a successful product launch. I didn't want to just move forward to say that I'm continuing to take this journey as an entrepreneur. Success is really important to me, and when I say success, it doesn't just mean a monetary rise. Success means meeting your goals, and if my goal is to actually support what I consider an underserved community by providing quality hair care products, then that's what I was determined to do. Actually, a method that I learned at Cornell University-- I had the opportunity to be a part of the Cornell University Women in Entrepreneurship certificate program. And they shared with me ACE. And ACE, first I was like, “Ace, we hear that a lot,” because you say, a lot of times when you’re talking friend to friend, “that's my ace person.” But ACE in this particular situation the “A” is standing for accomplish. You need to make certain that you are seeking individuals who have accomplished what you are needing them to do. Sometimes, as entrepreneurs, because of the budget or lack of experience as an entrepreneur, you reach out to people who tell you they can do what you need them to [but] have not necessarily accomplished it. So that's the one thing, the “A”.


[05:50]        And then the “C” is complementary, because just because they have accomplished it doesn't mean that they will be complementary to what you're trying to do. Because they may not have the same values, or their strengths may not be compatible with yours. You need someone where their strength is really your weakness, and you have to be a strong enough person to recognize that. So that's the complimentary, and then the “E” is engaged. You really want someone who believes in what you're doing, they are engaged, and they are motivated.


Host - Monique Mills:
[06:25]
         The other thing is coming from Corporate, you are still an executive now of your own company but being a Corporate executive, it has so many great perks in it, right?



Guest - Angela Ellington:
[06:39]
    Yes.



Host - Monique Mills:
[06:39]
         So many great perks. How are you managing the change? Was there a point where you were like, “Wow, I really do you miss that” or have you transitioned pretty well?



Guest - Angela Ellington:
[06:53]
    I will say, now, I have transitioned pretty well but there clearly were moments where I said, “Wow, I miss the resources.” Because a lot of times we take the resources for granted. I mean, L'Oreal is definitely a research-driven company. And as an executive, I not only had access to it, or exposure to what was going on in the United States, but I also had access to all of the other countries, whether it was in France, or whether it was in portions of Brazil. So that was something that I never had to figure out how I was going to get this data or how I was going to be able to test products on various hair types, because as we know, currently here is very unique, especially from a physical point of view. So it's extremely important that you test products on various textures and you're able to access that data and understand which chemistry is best suited for that specific hair type. And that was just a matter of writing down where you want to do that testing, where you want to see which research was being done, or consumer grooming habits for the various countries. It was all readily available. Now, that costs a lot of money, more than most entrepreneurs can do even these entrepreneurs in the early stage can pay for.



Host - Monique Mills:
[08:38]
         Can I back you up a little bit? Because you talked about some scientific stuff and so we haven't really gotten into the product yet that you invented, created from scratch, because as I can tell from your background, you're actually a scientist. And so you take in a scientific approach to creating your product line. So please explain to the audience what your product line is, and also the science behind it, and why you created it.



Guest - Angela Ellington:
[09:09]    
I'll start with why I created it. All of that research that I was just sharing with you that I had access to, I also had just as much access to consumer feedback. And it was very interesting to see that although consumers are very concerned about hair breakage and hair health, a lot of times they assess how well their hair is conditioned, or the overall condition of their hair based on how it feels. So you can have technology that has been scientifically proven to reduce the amount of breakage and that consumer choose another product based on how her hair felt to her, and that feeling is very personal. I mean, that feeling describes to them whether or not their hair is in a healthy state, and it varies from individual to individual. So when I decided to leave Corporate, I knew that that was going to be one of the things that I want to focus on along with the other identified problem for textured hair is styling options. Now, if you're wearing your hair relaxed, then you don't have much of a challenge with styling options, but we know that over 60% of consumers now are wearing a natural hairstyle so their hair is in the natural state, and styling options, or even just keeping their hair manageable is a challenge.



Host - Monique Mills:
[10:48]
         So for those who are not familiar with relaxed versus natural styles, we're talking about how chemically processed is relaxed, and those who are natural are not chemically processed. It’s the natural hair coming out their head.



Guest - Angela Ellington:
[11:04]
    That's correct. Thank you too, for clarifying that. Because the natural and relaxed that I'm speaking of is a preference of what you choose to do with your curly hair, whether you're going to leave it in the curly state, or you choose to apply a chemical to change that configuration to a straight shape. And so as we go more into this natural movement-- I'm not going to call it a trend because it's been here for a while and it is here to stay. I myself [am] now natural [as opposed to relaxed, by choice. I clearly say there's nothing wrong with individuals who choose to relax their hair, it is a preference. But it requires you to really understand the science and the differences behind the two of whether you are wearing your hair in its natural state or relaxed because both of them are prone to breakage. Relaxed hair is prone to breakage because you have weakened that bond. That bond that keeps your hair curly, once you relax it, you're creating a new bond. And that new bond is a weaker bond. And to be more specific, that new bond is lanthionine and the original bond is disulfide bonds, cysteine as we often hear of it's being spoken. So when you create this weaker bond, then with force, just by manipulation, your hair can break because this weaker.


[12:38]       Natural hair or hair that’s worn in a natural state face the same challenges, but for a different reason. It’s more so now because your hair is really so curly, that as you are combing or brushing your hair, you're getting a lot of friction. And sometimes you can hear the snapping of your hair just breaking and popping because of the friction. So when you're developing products, then you have to understand what is needed to make certain that you are increasing the manageability. Hence, with natural hair, like what is used in Moistura Silk, will be a lot of humectants and moisturizing ingredients, whether it's being used for strength, whether they are being used for shine, or whether they are being used for conditioning. Because what is really important is to understand how you smooth that hair strand so that you can have ease of manageability and you can have various styling options because now you have smooth, shiny, strong hair that is still curly.

Host - Monique Mills:
[13:49]
         So you mentioned Moistura Silk, that's the name of your product line.


Guest - Angela Ellington:
[13:53]
    Yes, that's the name of my product line.


Host - Monique Mills:
[13:55]
         Okay, so is it something that's available in Sally's, in a beauty supply? Or is it direct online where someone can come and buy it?


Guest - Angela Ellington:
[14:06]
    It is mainly direct online. We do have it in a couple of local beauty and barber supply stores, but it is mainly direct online via e-commerce.


Host - Monique Mills:
[14:20]
         So I'm wondering, can someone who has chemically processed hair, let's say relaxed, can they still use the product line?


Guest - Angela Ellington:
[14:29]
    Yes, they can. Their product choices may vary, or their system may vary. Because what I wanted to do is develop a complete styling line where each of the products complements one or the other and each of the products has multiple uses. And I always say that we cannot tell someone what to use, what's going to be best for them because it goes back to what I was saying early as far as that personal feeling of healthy hair. But we can be very visual and very detailed in recommending or sharing exactly what the product does. Because consumers know their hair better than anyone else, even if they are not exactly certain what's the best product for them, they know what they are experiencing. So if you communicate to them based on what the product does, in comparison to just saying what you're selling, but communicate what the product actually does on various hair types, and in various situations, like we talk about breakage, we talk about dryness, then it helps them make their own decision, the decision that's going to be best for them, not only about which product to use, but how they will choose to use it.



Host - Monique Mills:
[15:58]
         So back to your science background. Now, that you’ve started this company, I mean, you've used terminology related to bond types based upon if you’re natural or if you’re processed, then it definitely brings a level of enlightenment to those of us who do not have your expertise. All we know is “My hair is not shiny enough, it’s not moisturized enough.” But having you really share the scientific foundation for what your product does, how our hair is actually constructed and all of that is really enlightening. Have you found that to be a competitive advantage as you're getting this company off the ground? Number one, you're a scientist, you're a chemist, and also, you have a long history with companies like L'Oreal and launching products in this realm for them. Has that really been helpful to you in this entrepreneurial venture?



Guest - Angela Ellington:
[17:02]
    I will have to say it’s helpful to me now. Because remember when I was sharing earlier, when I started this entrepreneurship journey, I did not really focus on - as much as I should have - my inner strength. And I came into it trying to hire other marketing individuals to kind of follow the path that you see for launching beauty products. So along with me figuring out the best ecosystem for Moistura Silk and going back to the ACE, and the “C” in the ACE for the complimentary aspect of individuals just working with Moistura Silk has made me more comfortable and confident in the scientific approach. You often hear the scientific approach is a little bit too clinical and doesn't really say beauty, but it's just the opposite.



Host - Monique Mills:
[18:02]
         It makes me trust you. Can I be honest? It makes me trust you.



Guest - Angela Ellington:
[18:07]
    And that's what I'm finding now. So we're just really getting started and just really allowing me to share or putting me in a position just to talk to the consumers in a way in which I know they understand it and now know for sure it is the type of information they are seeking. So it's the beginning of the process. This is something that we are just starting to do with Moistura Silk.


Host - Monique Mills:
[18:36]
         I'm hungry for knowledge. Where can we find out and get more of your knowledge on our hair?



Guest - Angela Ellington:
[18:43]
    Yes, we're going to start doing that on some of the Moistura Silk channels, like Moistura Silk Facebook, Moistura Silk Instagram, also YouTube channel. Our Black Hair Matters is one of the YouTube channels. Yes, I partnered with a dear friend and colleague, Dr. Crystal Porter. She's the hair scientist, I'm the hair care scientist. And she created this movement, which I'm very, very grateful that she actually took this step to create this movement, and even more grateful that I have the opportunity to be a part of it. And so various platforms outside of Moistura Silk and too, also include the Association of Natural Hair Care for Professionals. What we're doing is reaching out to committed, serious organizations that have a platform that we know are very much interested and focused on educating our consumers, and we're making certain that I'm present in all of those areas to include Moistura Silk.



Host - Monique Mills:
[20:00]
         That is awesome. So one of the things that I've just heard you mention, I'm like, “That's it. That's it.” You have all the knowledge and years of experience but if people don't know you exist, then how do they find out about Moistura Silk or how your product is really different in how it has been created, and the person and the team behind it than just the average product that you may find in Target or something? Your science background really makes a huge difference, as I’ve mentioned, in me trusting the product, you, everything. So the power of branding and marketing is really strong. So I'm excited to potentially see more of you out there. You mentioned one of the organizations was for black hair. Can this product be used for other minority hair types?



Guest - Angela Ellington:
[20:52]
    Yes, Moistura Silk, ourselves, we focus on more texture, wavy hair, curly hair, and coily hair. That's why I was sharing that we are making certain that we reach out to all of the various platforms to be inclusive. So we don't want any exclusion, but we're trying to meet people where they are. But this brand was created for women of color. And it is not based on a specific race or ethnicity, but rather the texture of hair. And one thing that research has shown, even individuals will straight hair, because we often don't think about straight hair as presenting or being presented with any challenges. But they can and they are faced with challenges because a lot of consumers with straight hair choose to either bleach their hair via hair color or bleach, or they are perming their hair with chemicals such as ammonium thioglycolate. So when you introduce those types of chemicals, then you are actually altering that hair fiber from its original state, and it can be more porous than it was in a natural state. As a result, the hair can also become frizzy. We often think of frizzy just with really curly hair but that's not necessarily the case. And you have to understand the changes that occur to the hair strand or hair fiber based on your grooming habits, and your choice of products and applications that you apply to your hair.



Host - Monique Mills:
[22:41]
         Right now, if someone wanted to find your product, where would they go?


Guest - Angela Ellington:
[22:45]    
They would go to www.moisturasilk.com. And that's m-o-i-s-t-u-r-a-s-i-l-k.com.


Host - Monique Mills:
[23:01]
         Thank you so much, Angela, for spending time with us today and sharing more about your journey.


Guest - Angela Ellington:
[23:06]
    Thank you for having me, Monique. It's been great, as usual. And I do want to take this time to say that one of the individuals that I spoke of that also helped me with this ecosystem is someone very close to Unpolished MBA. And so I thank you for keeping in touch with me and continuing to provide the mentorship that you provide to so many. You're doing such a great job and it is much appreciated.



Host - Monique Mills:
[23:42]
         Thank you so much. I appreciate that.


[23:48]       Well, that's it. So what did you think? Angela is a chemist who has dozens of patents already in the beauty and hair innovation space. But since she did it while in her Corporate career, guess who gets the credit in writing? You've got that right, the company that she worked for. If you go back and listen to episode three of the Unpolished MBA podcast, I go into detail about this very topic. What's most refreshing about Angela is that she has a scientific approach to her product. And as you've heard during this interview, her solid education and years of experience in the industry breeds trust, and that trust is built and then spread and multiplied through branding and marketing. As I always say, once you have a product, everything else is sales and marketing. And I'm happy to see Angela find her way and partner with organizations that are in alignment with her business goals to educate and help people of color have healthy hair. Now, I hope one of the things you took away way from this episode is that building your network of entrepreneurial support is just as important as creating your product.

Thank you for listening to the Unpolished MBA podcast. To hear more episodes or to request to become a guest, please visit unpolishedmba.com.
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