Sometimes when life gives you lemons, you MUST make lemonade. That’s what single mom, Chaundra Smith, originally from the south side of Chicago, did in 2008 when she took her passion and turned it into a profession after being laid off. The Wake Technical Community College graduate didn’t let a miserable situation keep her down. But rather looking at the situation as one door closing and another one opening to a new opportunity, Chaundra created Naturally Me, a certified vegan beauty line.
Passionate about her new business, but not formally trained in Natural Body Care, Smith painstakingly researches and tests each ingredient ensuring the highest quality of products. Chaundra uses this passion for her craft along with her inspiration and motivation to help others, to provide affordable, luxury beauty products to the world.
Naturally Me makes products for bath and body for the entire family….including pets! The collection of products are still handmade with the finest natural and vegan ingredients with a touch of love by Chaundra and her staff.
But more than a new beauty line, Naturally Me is all about giving back to the community. With promotions like To Soldiers With Love where toiletries are sent to active duty members of our Armed Forces; and the Naturally Me Scholarships benefiting students participating in the Single Parent Program at Durham Technical Community College (which Chaundra herself benefited from when she first started her education), Naturally Me is a company with a big heart—just like its founder Chaundra Smith.
Q&A With Chaundra Smith
BS: When and What triggered you to begin “Naturally Me”?
Chaundra Smith: My daughter had acne and my son suffered from severely dry skin. Just about everything that I tried over the counter didn’t work. My son would put on lotion, and hours later his skin was dry and ashy. The popular acne formulas either didn’t work for my daughter or they were too expensive. I started doing research and found out that a lot of the ingredients were harmful to your skin and some were even known carcinogens. So I started researching natural ingredients and came up with formulas that were healthy alternatives and effective at treating their skin conditions.
BS: How has this decision defined as a life changing decision?
Chaundra Smith: It has changed my life in a positive way. To think that this all started out with me trying to find a product that would make my children’s skin healthy to now being a part of so many people’s daily body care regiment still amazes me.
BS: How do you empower yourself and others?
Chaundra Smith: I empower myself by never forgetting where I came from while also remembering how far I have to go. Through prayer & support from family & friends, I’m daily encouraged to strive to better myself & my community. In turn, I encourage others to set goals & to strive to reach them. I started a facebook group to inspire other entrepreneurs such as myself. Its called SBA 101: Successful Business Acumen.
BS: In which ways have you given back to the community?
Chaundra Smith: I created a Pay It Forward initiative through Naturally Me which supports three groups that are near and dear to my heart: men and women of the military, single parents, and teen moms. Through conversations with a friend, I have learned a lot about how important it is to for our deployed troops to feel supported from the homefront. I learned that a lot of the soldiers don’t have family and friends to support them stateside. Once every quarter, we send To Soldiers With Love care packages consisting of Naturally Me products, treats and a handwritten note. Our first care package was sent in December 2010 to the 3/5 Marines Lima Company.
As a single mom who worked full time while going to school, I benefited from scholarships earmarked for single parents. From the point where Naturally Me officially became a business, I knew that I wanted to do something to help single parents who are in situations similar to the one I was in while going to school. I’m excited to say that we will reward our 1st Annual Single Parent Scholarship May 2011.
Teen moms have a special place in my heart as my sister was one & lived in foster care for several months. Although she had shelter, she had very little else. Those months were filled with depression & proved to be very difficult for her. Whatever the choices made that lead a young lady to becoming a single parent, it is impossible to ignore the fact that she is still a teenager. I don’t want to see another young mother lose hope. Naturally Me is currently working with a NC charity to provide basic personal need items to the young mothers they serve just to show our support of the effort to better their lives & those of their children.
BS: How important is the black community to you? What role do you play within it?
Chaundra Smith: Being that I am a black women from the inner city of Chicago, the black community is very important to me. It’s extremely important for me to support other black owned businesses. That is why I am a huge fan of The Empowerment Experiment. Maggie Anderson and her husband are doing a wonderful job brining awareness to the African American community about supporting other black owned establishments. We have to support each other as much as possible. Whenever possible, Naturally Me purchases bulk supplies from black owned businesses. My shea butter comes directly from a company owned by women in West Africa. I purchase my bulk oils from a black owned supplier in New York. I want to see small businesses thrive, and I do my part as a small business owner to help others build their business clientele.
BS: What advice can you give to future business owners?
Chaundra Smith: The best piece of advice I have is to have patience and do lots of research. Success does not happen overnight. It may seem like a business just popped up overnight, but believe me when I say that they have been working hard at it for years before it became a big hit. Research is crucial. You have to research your industry to know the trends and more importantly, you must also research your target market AND competitors. People are looking to have their wants and needs met. You have to know what they are before you can meet, and hopefully exceed, their expectations. You also have to know how your competitors are already attempting to do so to ensure what you offer will set you apart from the rest.
BS: What are your future endeavors and/or aspirations?
Chaundra Smith: In the past year, we’ve had successful Meet & Greets in Raleigh & Chicago, and I’d like to see that expanded to cities like Charlotte, Atlanta & New York. Within the next year, I would like to increase our number of wholesale clients and in-store offerings.
Naturally Me products can be purchased online at www.naturallyme.us or at the following locations:
The Honeybun Boutique in Greensboro, NC
Hollywood Stylz Unisex in Durham, NC
Green Mother Goods in Boone, NC available in April 2011
The Red Door Studio in Wardorf, MD
Vegan Freak in Denton, TX