Just when you thought your life was busy you read a story of another amazing woman and think to yourself, wow I really need to step up my game! From Harvard lawyer to successful author of Amazon’s #1 bestseller Thank God I’m Natural, to CEO of flourishing hair care brand tgin (Thank God It’s Natural), Chris-Tia Donaldson wears several hats. And although there are many products on the market right now targeting naturally curly hair, tgin stands out for a special reason. Majority of the products are hand-made in small batches fulfilling Target orders for 250 stores nation-wide. Upon reading this and doing a little more research on Chris-Tia I definitely wanted to tell her “hair-story” for Textured Talk and I am more than excited to speak with her for this feature.
Textured Talk With Chris-Tia Donaldson
Textured Talk (TT): Tell us a little about yourself and your hair-story? In your book you discuss childhood experiences, which eventually spilled over into adult life affecting the long-lasting relationship you had with hair. I feel a lot of women can definitely relate to that.
Chris-Tia Donaldson (CD): I completely agree. Hair is such a personal and sometimes difficult thing for many women. I became interested in natural hair care back in 2002 when there were very few products on the market designed for kinky, curly and wavy textures. This was before YouTube, Facebook and Instagram, so there wasn’t really a lot of information on the topic. Moreover, there was a pervasive belief amongst black women, that long straight hair was something that we should strive to attain, and that kinky, curly or wavy hair was a curse of sorts or something to be ashamed of. As a result, I decided to write a book, Thank God I’m Natural: The Ultimate Guide to Caring for Natural Hair, to help dispel some of the most common myths and misconceptions associated with this hair texture.
TT: I love that you started in a field completely opposite of hair care and your passion enabled you to transition from law to best-selling author to CEO of your own hair care line. What key things helped you transition into these different avenues successfully?
CD: Well being a good lawyer means paying attention to the details and asking a lot of questions. You’re also required to figure out when/how to work with different subject matter experts, how to prioritize limited time and resources, and how to delegate in order to get a job done. Being a good manufacturer also requires the same skill set. There is actually a lot more overlap than I thought, so moving between the two words is pretty seamless. Instead of talking about the properties of freeware and source code, we talk about honey and olive oil.
TT: After the release of the book Thank God I’m Natural and being declared the “Natural Hair Bible” by Essence Magazine was your plan to always create a hair care line?
CD: It sure was. I always struggled with the book though, because I was so excited to get started on the hair care line. I thought the book required so much time and that I should be devoting my energies to launching the product line, but God had a different idea. It turns out the book was one of the primary things to help set me apart and has worked in my favor ever since.
TT: The tgin products launched 2 years ago during the emergence of several other natural hair care brands. What key ingredients were a must have for you in order to set tgin apart from other brands in this booming market?
CD: I think the key to our success were three things 1) our authenticity 2) our attention to detail and 3) patience. When I say authenticity, I mean we never promised you we would turn 4c curls into 3a curls or that we would grow your hair down your back. We promised softer, moisturized and manageable hair and we delivered on those promises.
In regards to attention to detail, people love our packing and our products. When designing and choosing our labels/packaging, we made sure the copy was reviewed multiple times, that the fonts were consistent, and that the packaging was durable. In regards to the product, we never released anything that we felt we couldn’t stand behind. And even to this day, we’re constantly working to improve and better our existing products.
Finally, patience. Like I said above, we have had to wait our turn. I always felt like we were falling behind when it came to releasing our products, but there were tests that needed to be passed, people I needed to meet, and assignments I had to complete in order to be ready for such a huge opportunity. I’m glad we waited.
TT: Tgin officially hit the Target shelves in March. In addition, you all launched the “Shelfie” initiative to increase brand awareness. What was your first reaction to seeing your product on the shelves at Target?
CD: Disbelief! When you work so hard for something so big, it’s like this can’t be happening. After the shock and assignment wore off, I realized we had a lot more work to do.
TT: Currently you still practice law, serving as corporate counsel for a software company in addition to running the business of tgin. Amazing! I’m sure several women with entrepreneurial spirits are reading this, wondering how you achieve work-life balance. What’s your “secret”?
CD: Delegate. I have a great team that I assign tasks to and I lead the strategic direction. You also have to figure out what works for you, what you like to do and what you don’t like to do. I get a lot of email so it was taking away a lot of my personal time, so now I have a system whereby my assistant helps me to answer most requests. It works super well. The more I give other people responsibility, the more we get done.
TT: You also speak candidly about the hesitation to embrace your natural hair in Corporate America back in 2003. Do you think the acceptance of natural hair in Corporate America has changed with the increasing popularity of the natural hair movement? What advice would you give to women also struggling with this?
CD: After graduating from Harvard Law School in 2003, I wore a wig for over two years at my first job primarily to hide the fact that my hair was nappy. At the time, I felt like I had to look like the 21st century version of Claire Huxtable (complete with flowing hair) in order to be accepted by my white colleagues, gain better assignments, appease my clients, etc. In the end, I failed miserably when it came to pleasing others, and came very very very close to being fired. My preoccupation with my having “good hair” and my rejection of my inherent qualities as a black woman were largely part of my performance related issues.
Today, I am a successful lawyer, thanks to embracing my true and natural self and abandoning mainstream notions of what it means to be beautiful. At this point in my career, I don’t think twice about wearing my hair natural and have finally come to fully appreciate the beauty and uniqueness of my kinky mane. I think the world is completely different place especially given the fact that we have a black President. I think the world is very different, and people are far more accepting of what they consider to be “different” be it hair or sexuality. Still, please don’t take my comments to mean that acceptance equals the end of racism, sexism or bigotry. It’s just things are different.
Finally, I will say that, I think we as black women are far more consumed with what other people think about our hair than what we need to be. I really don’t think non-blacks are thinking as hard about our hair as we would like to believe they are. In this economy, people are worried about keeping their job and their house, not how nappy your hair is.
TT: Now this interview wouldn’t be complete without asking about your personal hair care regime. What’s your normal regime and what are you top 3 golden rules for healthy hair?
CD: Right now, I’m in faux locs and life is so wonderful. But when I’m rocking my natural hair, I usually co-wash every day with our Green Tea Super Moist Leave in Conditioner and deep condition once a week with our Honey Miracle Hair Mask. If I’m trying to rock a twist out, then I’ll twist with our Twist & Define Cream and Butter Cream Daily Moisturizer for a super soft and defined curl pattern.
- Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize. Keeping your hair moisturized and conditioned is critical to having soft, moisturized and manageable hair. I would suggest spritzing your hair with water every day just to give it a drink and deep conditioning weekly to help restore moisture to your hair.
- Get regular trims – getting your hair trimmed regularly is an absolute must for preventing breakage and minimizing split ends.
- Protective styles – Rocking protective styles whether it be buns, twist, crochet braids is great for helping your hair to maintain length, but stay healthy. I wish had the chance to rock more protective styles, but I’ve been in a product development wonderland for the last 6 years so I didn’t really have the freedom to go extended period of times without having my hair out, because I always needed to try something.
TT: Last but not least, what has been the most important factor in your success as an entrepreneur in the beauty industry?
CD: My faith in God. Period. Running this company has humbled me. It has showed me that God is so much bigger than me.
Thank you so much Chris-Tia for chatting with me! Did you guys catch all of that? The key take-away for me from this interview is patience. So many of us, including myself, have aspirations and are eager to get the ball rolling but sometimes we just have to take things one step at a time.
What did you enjoy about my talk with Chris-Tia? Comment and let me know!
Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to never miss a post!