In the 2010 East Liberty Community Plan, residents and community members shared their vision of a vibrant, mixed-income neighborhood. As East Liberty continues to benefit from new investment, we are working hard at ELDI to preserve this vision and ensure everyone is included in the community’s revitalization. One way we’re doing this is by intentionally fostering minority homeownership and entrepreneurship opportunities across the neighborhood. Catapult Greater Pittsburgh and their Startup to Storefront entrepreneurship program is our key partner in this work. This small business incubator program gives minority business owners the skills they need to level up their businesses and succeed.
Today’s Catapult spotlight is LaShesia Holliday. LaShesia is the proud owner of Naptural Beauty Supply, an all-natural beauty company she started in 2017. In 2018, she joined Catapult’s first cohort and became a member of the Gallery on Penn, Catapult’s retail space on Penn Avenue. Read on for LaShesia’s journey from corporate layoff to beauty guru, and find out how she’s navigated the transition from an almost entirely offline business to 100% digital during the pandemic.
Can you give us a quick introduction to your business and what you do?
Naptural Beauty Supply emerged from my needs as a busy single mother. I had always been unhappy with the quality and contents of commercial hair and beauty products. I could never determine the ingredients and always felt that beauty suppliers didn’t have hair and skin that looked like mine. When my infant daughter needed an all-natural hair growth treatment, I developed a successful, homemade hair oil—the Holy Grail—which helped solve her unique haircare needs. Over the years, I’ve continued to study and experiment with natural treatments for hair and body, and after a corporate layoff in 2017, I went out on my own to officially establish Naptural Beauty Supply.
Today, Naptural Beauty Supply offers a complete line of over 50 all-natural beauty products, including body butters, hair oils, sugar scrubs, soaps, facial treatments, and more. Each item is developed with natural hair and customer input in mind and made from carefully selected and sourced ingredients, some specially formulated for men and children. Naptural is really for busy moms and their families who still like to take a few minutes out of each day for self-care.
How did you get involved with the Catapult program? Why did you think it was a good fit for you?
I became involved in 2018. I was in college and one of the other students mentioned it to the class. I went to an informational session, and it was exactly what I was looking for. I thought it was a good fit because they met me where I was and helped me build from there.
The pandemic has put a massive strain on small businesses across Pittsburgh and the country. Can you talk about the challenges you’ve faced and how you’ve adapted?
The Gallery on Penn storefront was forced to close due to COVID-19. Prior to the closing, over 99% of our sales were in-person transactions. Naptural now operates 100% online. Our products are made in our Naptural Lab in the basement of my home, but we are currently creating a lab space that is fully functional as we adapt to this new normal. Now that we are an online-only business, we’re also in the process of a full website revamp, which is quite costly.
How has Catapult helped you develop your business?
I found the one-on-one mentoring to be the most helpful aspect of the program. I was able to turn my jumbled thoughts into clear actions. Catapult also helped with our online transition in a few ways. They did a QVC-style livestream interview with me on their Facebook page and created the virtual Gallery on Penn on the URA’s website, which has given us some additional exposure. Lastly, they also paused our store rent at the Gallery on Penn when the pandemic shut us down in March.
What’s been the most rewarding part of being an entrepreneur? What keeps you going?
The flexibility has been a game-changer. I can attend classes and seminars while also having the ability to stay home during a pandemic with my three children. Being a single mom, this was crucial to their needs. My kids are what keeps me going, as well as knowing that I am helping others learn the importance of self-care and actually practice it.