I came across Naturally Smitten on Instagram. I was drawn to the brand because of its variety of natural hair products and the gorgeous packaging. After doing a little digging, I saw that the brand, Naturally Smitten was originally MILK + HONEY. The owner, Tasha Branham, gives a candid view of her mistakes, challenges, how she overcame them and the wins!
Naturally Smitten started as a handmade Esty shop product and is now available in major retailer, Wal-Mart. Read on for her interview. She’ll even share how she was able to get her product in Wal-Mart.
1.) Tell us about yourself. What was the motivation behind Milk+Honey?
I’m Tasha Branham. I am the mom of two boys and I am married to the best guy ever. My husband and I co-pastor a church in Columbus, Ohio. I’m a serial entrepreneur and self-proclaimed chef. I am the Founder/CEO of The Barefruit Company, which is the parent brand to Naturally Smitten. I started the road to entrepreneurship when I was still a single mother back in 2004. I’m a self-taught graphic designer and web developer. I have a very quick witted sense of humor and I’m a complete introvert.
I started making products in my kitchen back in 2009. I was a single mom at the time, and I had been natural for all of two years. Before there was a MILK + HONEY, there was a Barefruit. I decided to begin making products for my hard to moisturize type 4 hair because I had had such a rough time finding the right products that worked for my hair. My hair is coarse, wiry, and full of coils. No curl defining cream or gel produced the results that my hair needed so, enter Barefruit!
I launched with a hair butter, a moisturizing spray and a black soap shampoo. I used to sell on Etsy. After about a year of using the name Barefruit, a trademark search turned up about a company out West who was using the name for a product that they had discontinued. Since the trademark was still active, I thought that it would be best just to rebrand and change the name to MILK + HONEY.
2.) When did you make the decision to re-brand and launch Naturally Smitten?
Funny thing. You’d think that I learned my lesson after the first trademark fiasco but alas, I did not. I fell in love with the name MILK + HONEY because of what it represented. MILK + HONEY is synonymous with prosperity. One thing that most women experience when they go natural is that their hair grows thicker and longer. It’s generally healthier than it was before they started their natural hair journey. Perfect fit, right? Well, not so much. After about a year and a half to two years of having the MILK + HONEY name, I secured an attorney to begin the trademark process. I knew there was another MILK + HONEY out there in my same trademark class but for whatever weird reason, I didn’t think it mattered. Well, it did! I ended up changing the name to Naturally Smitten. After many tears and trying to come up with names, I felt that Naturally Smitten was a good fit. It took some time for me to love the name, however. The meaning behind Naturally Smitten is for women to fall back in love [or become smitten] with their natural self. I think that encapsulates our vision for the Naturally Smitten brand.
3.) What were some of your fears in both starting the product line and re-branding it and how did you overcome them?
I feared that I would essentially have to start from scratch. I had a nice following online before we entered retail on a national scale but I feared that changing the name so close to our Walmart launch would kill our brand. We have had some challenges with the name change. Some people thought that I had sold the brand or that now it was owned by Wal-mart. Neither of those assumptions are true. I am still the owner, 100%. I had to take a lot of risks with the new brand. I became even more meticulous with our social media push. I am very picky with what photos we use, our lingo, language and the type of content we post. This has helped immensely to establish our voice.
4.) Naturally Smitten is now in select Wal-Marts. Congratulations! Can you share how that opportunity came about? What advice do you have for others?
Thaaaaaank yooooou! I could write an entire book on this process and I probably should! Last summer, I learned that Walmart was looking to add new American manufactured products to their lineup. At the time, I was still filling orders and making the product myself. I went to their website, filled out our info, prayed that if it be God’s will, and then I hit submit. I pretty much went about my daily life after that. I received an email on a Wednesday night about a month later, inviting me to come to Bentonville, AR to pitch my brand to their buyers. I was numb all over! I knew this was the opportunity of a lifetime but I thought it was too good to happen to me.
God must’ve had other plans!
We raised the money to travel to Arkansas via GoFundMe. I had such a hard time even starting a fundraising campaign. I was somewhat embarrassed that I didn’t have enough money to travel to Arkansas. At the time, no one really knew the name and face behind my brand so I was like this stranger asking for money. I lost quite a bit of followers while I tried to raise the money. I almost didn’t go. A friend of mine had to talk me into it.
My advice to others is, this journey is no easy feat! There are times when you will want to give up, and with good reason. There are times when people will speak against your ideas and your vision. People will doubt you. People will tell you to change this, and change that. People will come from the left and the right feeling as if they know what’s best for your business. Truth is, some of them will. Truth is, some of them will not. It takes a lot to be able to sift out all of the jargon and take on what you and your brand will actually benefit from. You will have to remain teachable. You never know who has the next bit of info or the next connection/contact that your brand will need to move on to the next level. You will make mistakes. Mistakes are okay. Don’t look at them as setbacks, they are nothing more than learning lessons designed to grow you.
5.) What are some things that you wish you knew before starting your product line?
I wish I had known that just because your product is on retail shelves, it doesn’t mean that you will instantly see an increase of followers on social media and your product aren’t going to just sell without a good, solid marketing plan. Since being on shelf, we’ve had to work 10x harder to brand ourselves and market our product. It takes a lot to be nationally distributed. It takes capital, time, patience and a team. I have always been very driven and can start and finish a thing on my own. I’ve had to become open to the idea of allowing others to accompany me on this journey to help me. I’ve had to accept that I can’t be Super Woman all of the time. Just sometimes. When she’s needed. Because she will be. Just not every day. Follow them on Instagram