Small Business Interview: Abby and Ivie Omoruyi, Catherine Marion
Meet Abby and Ivie two gorgeous sisters and founders of the brand Catherine Marion, a successful business which provides organic products for kinky haired girls, hair growth books and handmade protective style wigs. They also own their own factory where these products are produced. They have been in business for over 5 years and in that time have built a tremendous following on YouTube (I'm taking videos with over 500k views) and other social media platforms. In this interview Abby and Ivie share how their business has grown, how they defined their product pricing model, their successes and challenges as well as provide some really awesome advice for all the aspiring girl bosses who would like to follow in their foot steps. Enjoy!
"There will be good times and there will be rough times but you must stay consistent in order to move on to the next level."
Please introduce yourself and tell us about your business. What is it called and what services / products do you offer?
We are Nigerian-Born, American raised sisters. Together we share a desire to encourage natural hair growth by creating Organic Products for Kinky girls, Hair Growth Books, and Handmade Protective Style Wigs. Our goal is to empower women of color to love and embrace their natural hair in all of its beauty! In developing our flower child curls line of natural hair products the goal was not just to make it natural, but to go the step further and create products that actually incorporate the earth.
Yes, the earth you can dig up with your hands and sift through your fingers! We set out to replace the function of certain common harmful chemicals found in commercial products with natural earth-based ingredients that can actually do the same work but at a significantly healthier capacity.
Our goal was to create products specifically for Kinky hair girls like ourselves that are organic but also effective.
Can you share a bit about how you choose this line of business? What transition did you make to owning your own business?
Many people don't know this but Catherine Marion was once a clothing line, which we started in college but later closed down because it was just too difficult to keep up.
We reopened Catherine Marion a couple of years ago as a wig company after going natural and discovering we had a talent of creating protective style wigs that people actually wanted to buy. But to be honest we were never satisfied with Catherine Marion as a wig company because quite frankly it just wasn't where our passion lied. Pause! Depending on which part of the story you are reading, "WE" doesn't always represent both of us (Abby and Ivie) but we will refer to we to keep this simple.
Back to the story... so where did our passion lie? Well at that time we definitely had no idea but we knew we wanted a company that just represented things we liked. When we went natural it honestly was more of just a fun hobby at first, but we got to a point where we wanted to see some real progress with our natural hair. In order to see some drastic progress you have to put in a little research. Through research we discovered that we have a passion for natural hair and having an overall healthy organic lifestyle. That eventually led us to see that there was still a need for organic products especially ones that cater to kinkier girls like us. Eventually Ivie's background in Biology and Abby's background in business lead us to where we are today.
We soon realized that many natural hair women do not know which direction to go in their hair journey, so we decided to open a one-stop shop for women of color interested in joining the natural hair movement. It’s a store that provides natural hair women with everything they need on their hair journey, from natural homemade products with real ingredients beneficial to hair growth, to natural hair wigs catering to coarser textures, which are very useful for protective styling. Finally, this informative book contains all the necessary information for growing hair. In this book, you can find a detailed hair regimen (for both short and long hair). Our goal is to bring to the market a well-rounded source of products and information to help women participating in the natural hair movement.
Do you have any special training?
Abby Omoruyi studied Business Administration with a concentration in Finance at Northeastern University, later deferring her purist of an MBA to focus on running Catherine Marion full time. Ivie Omoruyi attended Temple University and received a degree in Biology also deciding to forgo graduate school in order to concentrate on Catherine Marion full time. Our background in Business and Science definitely contributes to managing our company. But apart from that any additional training such as proficiency in excel and other necessary programs probably comes from our work experience over the years.
What are some of your biggest accomplishments as a business owner?
Probably has to be publishing our first book, launching our product line and building our youtube audience tremendously over the years.
How soon after you started did you start seeing profits? Or when do you project to begin earning a profit?
We have now been open for about 5 years but it took us a little over 2 years before earning profit.
How did you decide how to price your services? How did you determine what your services were worth?
We decided on our price point after factoring in overhead cost, the current market price for our industry, in addition to what our target market was willing to pay for our services. In the beginning, we started lower than our competitors in order to have an edge which allowed us to build up our brand name first before being able to match our competitor's prices in order to increase our profit.
What mistake(s), if any, have you made with your business? What have some of your biggest challenges been? What did you learn from the experience and how did you bounce back?
There were some little mistakes made in the beginning, such as deciding the right price for our services, e.t.c. Another mistake was focusing on the wrong social media platform, our audience is largely on youtube, our most popular videos have up to half a million views but we naturally would like to grow our Instagram audience. But in doing that we discovered it is best to meet our audience where ever they find us (whether its the newest platform or not) or risk losing our current audience.
What do you consider the most important elements of running a successful business?
Stay consistent! There will be good times and there will be rough times but you must stay consistent in order to move on to the next level.
Do you have any start-up advice you can share with women reading this who would like to launch their own businesses?
One advice we have for you (based on our experience), when opening a new company is to try and focus on things you are actually passionate about. When you do so you will find that you don't have to look too hard for a product or service to offer. It almost begins to come to you organically through your passion for it. Whether your passion lies in technology, art, fashion, finance, etc. focus on that and go from there. Keep at it, stay consistent and look to things that interest you for ideas on where to start.
Do you have any advice on managing your small business finances?
Manage your money smartly because there will be good months but there might also be slow months, so you must plan ahead for those slow months.
How do you balance work and life owning a small business?
You have to know when to take a break from work and give your personal life the attention it also needs.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Finally opening our factory, kicking up production to a more mass audience.
Please share a fun fact about yourself
Ivie: “Abby is a little obsessed with dancing and knows all the current Instagram dance challenges but won't let me record her."
Abby: “Ivie is forever deciding whether she should go Vegan or not, but the Nigerian in her loves pepper soup and goat meat."
How can readers find you?
You can follow our blog on www.CatherineMarion.com
Thank you so much Ivie and Abby! We have really enjoyed learning more about your business and look forward to watching your success!