Meet Gwen Jimmere! She’s the 1st Black Woman to Hold a Patent for a Natural Hair Product
Welcome to the third installment of “Awesome Black entrepreneurs you should know and support” series. As you know in the United States, the Black dollar circulates only once in the Black community; while in the Asian, White and Jewish American communities their dollar circulates 17-21 times. This series aims to end that disparity. We want you know about Black owned businesses and the inspiring people behind them.
We also know, Black businesses hire Black people and Black jobs create Black wealth. Today we are focusing on mom, CEO and Founder of NATURALICIOUS Gwen Jimmere. NATURALICIOUS was featured on our list of over 70 Black owned hair and cosmetics companies you should support.
BBG: Tell us about yourself?
Gwen: Hey there! My name is Gwen Jimmere; I’m the CEO and Founder of NATURALICIOUS. As a businesswoman, I am a CEO, a business strategist, a pitch architect and a best-selling author. On a more personal note, I’m a mommy to a 4-year-old little superhero who is the light of my life. He’s actually the reason that NATURALICIOUS even exists. I love to dance and if you catch me on one of my daily Periscope videos, I’m liable to bust a move at any given, very random moment. Watch out now!
BBG: Awesome! Who or what inspires and what is your life purpose?
Gwen: Madame CJ Walker, is a huge inspiration. So many people know her for being the first female self-made millionaire. But she was also an incredibly empathetic philanthropist, who gave back tremendously. Her story is something to be inspired by.
I’m also influenced by Lauren Maillian, who at just 30 yrs old is the first women to start a venture capital firm (which she did in her 20s). She also started an award-winning winery at just 19 — before she could even legally drink. She is a fearless young women who reminds me to constantly “go for it”, and I am honored to call her a friend.
Sara Blakely, the founder of SPANX, is definitely another. Her company has been profitable from day one and she still owns 100% of her business. She had a need, couldn’t find it in the marketplace, decided to create what she needed, and turned it into a booming business. She’s only 44, and has now been self-made billionaire for a number of years. She is incredible and definitely a mentor-in-my-head.
BBG: So tell us about Naturalicious. What inspired you to start your business?
Gwen: NATURALICIOUS is the first company to develop a comprehensive hair care system specifically designed for natural hair. It does the work of 13 products in only 4 simple steps and is proven and guaranteed to get you from wash to ready-to-style in less than an hour. We call it the OooLaLocks Hair Box. Most people complete their entire wash day in about 30-40 minutes with our system, as opposed to the average 2-4+ hours that many naturals take. It’s a complete game changer for natural hair. It’s so easy to follow and use. We even created a short 6 minute video that shows exactly how it works.
I went natural while I was pregnant with my son. My wash day would take me anywhere from 2 1/2 to 4 hours. It was a long process, but this was the status quo for “washday” and everyone I knew with natural hair was taking half a day to complete their whole hair care routine. But after my son was born, I realized very quickly that babies don’t care if you need 2, 4 or 6 hours to do your hair. They just want to play, to cuddle, to eat…you know, baby stuff. You’re on their time. So I had to quickly find a way to complete my whole wash day, keep the ingredients safe and natural, but get my entire process done during his nap which was about an hour-long. And that’s exactly how the OooLaLocks system and the 1 hour wash day process came to be.
BBG: Congratulations! You’ve made history as the first Black woman with a natural hair product patent. Tell us about the process and what helped you get through it.
Gwen: Thank you!. My patent is for our Moroccan Rhassoul 5-in-1 Clay Treatment — which is a product made from super moisturizing Rhassoul Clay that allows you to wash, condition, deep condition, and detangle, while doing the work of a leave-in conditioner all at one time. It’s a major time and money saver. It truly is incredible, and as you might imagine: it’s our best seller.
Receiving this patent is very exciting and such a win not just for me, but for black entrepreneurs and for us as women literally owning (the legal rights to) our beauty. I can’t help but think about the timeliness of it all with such a large lens being on cultural appropriation right now, and others stealing what we create. I’ve been getting calls and emails from people saying “I had no clue you could get a patent on natural hair products!” Of course it’s deeper than simply applying for a hair product parent. There was a very stringent process in which I had to prove I created this myself and that it’s a brand new concept that no one else in the world has ever done before. At the end of the day, instead of us complaining about others stealing (and profiting from) our beauty creations, trends and ideas, we can legally protect our inventions and keep the financial gain within our communities.
Applying for the patent was super intimidating. It’s can be very difficult to go through the patent process, let alone to get one granted. In the 21st century, there aren’t a whole lot of literally brand new inventions being created; so they don’t just hand patents out. Many apply, but very few are granted. It’s also very scary because it’s expensive. Applying for a patent on your own can cost between $550 and $2000; using a patent attorney can cost upwards of $10,000 or more. (And get this: if you apply and don’t get the patent granted to you, you don’t get that money back! So yes, it is definitely something that should not be taken lightly). I went ahead and opted for the less expensive choice, but that also meant that I had no guidance, and it literally took me months just to finish the application. I have no legal background, so I was in this all on my own. I became best friends with the librarians near me because I spent so much time researching what I needed to do, how I needed to best present my invention, what to do if the Patent office initially denied me, etc. Once I applied, there was about a 15 month waiting period until I found out they were going to issue me the patent.
My mom was really the one who got me through the process. She pretty much hounded me about applying in the first place and then kept asking me how close I was to completing the application. If it wasn’t for her, I might not have even made an attempt. Major props to my momma!
It was also helpful knowing that Sarah Blakley (the founder of SPANX) did the same thing. She applied for and received a patent for her invention on her own with to attorney. As I mentioned, she’s a billionaire now. Knowing that I could be amongst such esteemed company gave me major motivation.
BBG: Please explain to our readers how does Naturalicious address the needs of Black women?
Gwen: NATURALICIOUS wouldn’t exist without our culture. It was solely created to solve a real problem that black women have: spending far too much money on hair products and way too much time on their hair routine. To borrow a line from Damon John, “this was literally made for us by us.” LOL! We aren’t just another hair care company or beauty company. We have literally created the solution to a major issue that exists amongst our beautiful black women. We call it “the freedom to be beautiful”…we are releasing you from the shackles of spending too much money and too much time on your beauty regimen. We give you all the tools you need to be your naturally gorgeous self without all the drama that usually comes along with it.
BBG: “The freedom to be beautiful,” YYYYYAAASSS! So what are your goals for Naturalicious?
We see ourselves as beauty innovation company. We innovate amazing, unique products that enhance your beauty, while making your life easier, and saving your time and money in the process. We are currently in select Whole Foods stores, we’re in Indonesia and we’re in Trinidad. In 3-5 years, we will be distributed nationally in all Whole Foods stores across the country. We’ll also be in at least two other major big box retailers and we’ll add an additional three international markets to our lineup.
BBG: You’re a businesswoman. What advice would you give other Black women entrepreneurs who want to start a business?
Gwen: Go for it! As millionaire business coach Marshawn Evans says, “Waiting is not a wealth strategy”. There’s rarely going to be a perfect time or a perfect scenario to make your dream a reality. As an example, NATURALICIOUS was truly started out of necessity, as was its acceleration. I was laid off from my job just a month before my divorce was final. I had no money and suddenly no job. I had NATURALICIOUS as a side hustle at the time. I figured I could either cry about my situation, or I could make something happen because there was absolutely no Plan B. I had a then-2 year old to feed, and all the same bills I had before I got divorced. Plus my mortgage was due in 15 days. The only income source I had as an option was to make NATURALICIOUS work. I had heard there was a Whole Foods store opening near me. Although I was extremely scared they’d laugh me out of the building, I was in survival mode and figured the worst they could say was “no”. So I was able to set up a meeting with the powers that be and about 10 minutes into the meeting, they said they loved it and definitely wanted to bring it in. I was floored. I had no real sales at that time and my packaging was VERY basic back then. That was 2 years ago and we started in that one store. Now were are in several Whole Foods stores and we’re also distributed throughout Trinidad, Indonesia and we are in talks to move into South Africa. God is so good!
My point is that you have to simply decide. Make a concise decision, believe that you are worth it, and know that although there are going to be some low points, the high points will more than make up for it. Trust that God won’t bring you to it unless he’s prepared to bring you through it. You were never made to be mediocre. You were made to sparkle, so go out there and shine bring like a diamond, girl! There’s nothing like seeing your company grow and knowing you are at the helm of its success.
BBG: Where can we purchase Naturalicious products?
Gwen: Online, we’re at www.naturalicious.net. By the way, we ship worldwide; there’s not a single country we do not ship to. We can also be found in select Whole Foods and several other retailers around the country, as well as in Trinidad and Indonesia. Check our site at this link for locations near you: http://naturalicious.net/pages/where-to-buy.
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BBG: Thank You!
Gwen: Thank you!!!
Isn’t Gwen amazing! As she said, “You have to simply decide.” So are you ready to decide? She did it and so can you. Tell your mom, your cousins, your siblings and even that nosy neighbor and go to NATURALICIOUS to shop today! Buy Black and love being Black.
The only limit you have is the one you have placed on yourself. Think and be limitless.