Local shines in hair business
Tangles and Beyond is a natural hair boutique that services hair in about every way from salon styling to homemade hair products. The business has customers in America, Canada, London, New Zealand and Australia and is based in the home of Brookhavenite Ashley Blake-Bates.
Until the end of last year Blake-Bates’s home on Myra Street housed her husband, Julian, their two children, Jia, 3, and Anthony, 14, their family pet and Tangles and Beyond. However, Blake-Bates’s said the operation became too much to headquarter inside their home. With revenue from a large Black Friday sale which brought frowns and shutters from both Blake-Bates and her assistant Brandi Stogner whenever it was mentioned, she was able to purchase a separate space for making and packaging Tangles and Beyond products.
“That was the most stressful two months of my life,” Blake-Bates said about the Black Friday sale which came during a time when her son, Anthony, who has Hunter syndrome, a genetic condition causing progressive, permanent damage was in the hospital while she had to fulfill orders. Although they managed to get everything out despite Anthony’s hospitalization, Blake-Bates said she’d never do such a sale again.
Much of Blake-Bates’s stress can be understood concerning the size of the operation, what all it involves and how she sales her materials. Started as a joint venture between she and her husband, Blake-Bates said it all started out as a hobby but became a way to make money and provide for her family.
Blake-Bates was working at Tougaloo College in Jackson but said she knew she had to quit to take care of Anthony. Using her knowledge of marketing, advertising, graphic design and hair, Blake-Bates realized a way to stay home and care for her son while still making money for her family.
She and her husband then settled down in Brookhaven buying a house in the city.
Like many African-American women who are going natural – not chemically relaxing their hair to make it straight – Blake-Bates turned to the internet and more specifically YouTube to find products for her naturally curly hair. Upon finding someone with hair similar to hers she started making the products the YouTube user made from the user’s homemade recipes. When Blake-Bates found that the homemade products were not perfect for her hair she started tweaking the recipes to fit her hair.
“I started using it on people,” Blake-Bates said after noticing how good her hair felt with her tweaked recipes.
She said her salon appointments really liked the products and started asking to purchase some of her products. From there, Blake-Bates created a brand, bought labels, bottles, containers and Tangles and Beyond became a business.
The business really grew into what it is today after Blake-Bates sent a container of her whipped shampoo to a friend from Tougaloo. The friend had a large following on Instagram and after posting one picture with the product, Blake-Bates was getting requests to sell her products nationally.
“Now I just have to say it’s drop time and people are lining up,” Blake-Bates said.
The method Blake-Bates uses to sell her more than 30 products is in the form of “drop” sales online through Instagram and her online store via her website. About every three weeks, Blake-Bates announces a drop time when she opens the website for one hour allowing customers from all over to purchase from a limited number of products. She said that she puts about 30 of each product on sale each drop.
The products usually sell out well before the hour is over leaving some customers sad and angry because they weren’t able to reserve their order fast enough. From those orders, Blake-Bates spends the next few weeks making the products from scratch. She said days and nights have been spent in the small building where she and assistant Stogner build the products.
“Drops go fast,” Blake-Bates said describing the anxiety she feels regarding the sales. “I’m always wondering am I going to sell out today.”
Blake-Bates said this method allows her to manage her time between taking care of her family and taking care of her business.
“I know how much I can handle, I know how much we can handle,” she said about she and Stogner.
Despite this rationale, she said customers in the past have complained to the point of claiming that her business was a scam and refusing to purchase her products. Blake-Bates shared an inspiring story about a comment she received from an angry customer saying that the products must have unicorn tears and other magical potions in it for Blake-Bates to be daring to charge so much. From that Blake-Bates came up with a new fragrance of her Candied Sugar body lather line called Unicorn Tears.
“We had people buying Unicorn Tears before they could even smell it,” Blake-Bates said.
She and Stogner claim the event to be a form of capitalizing on criticism and turning hate into love.
Love, health and feeling all around good seems to be engrained in Tangles and Beyond. From product names like ‘Jia’s Smile’ and ‘Julian’s Touch’ to the way Blake-Bates and Stogner interact with each other in their workspace, it’s clear to notice the cohesion and dedication to health within the business.
Blake-Bates and Stogner met at the gym working out under the same personal trainer and after Stogner offered to help, she became part of the team.
“This is my child just like Jia or Anthony,” Blake-Bates said. “There’s not many people who I can trust with this.”
Since joining, Stogner said she tests out many of the new products proving that Tangles and Beyond products aren’t confined to African-American users.
“I’ve been whipped and detangled,” Stogner said. “And with the weather here even a Caucasian girl like me needs help with moisture.”
Blake-Bates stresses with her products, marketing and through everyday conversation, the importance of having a routine for your hair. She compares hair care to taking care of your body because she said she sees the two as being uniquely intertwined.
Blake-Bates said she plans to keep Tangles and Beyond small even if faced with the option to offer the product in stores. She fears that her recipes will have to change to ensure shelf life and facilitate mass production, and she said you can’t do that with her type of products.
“I just want to be little ole Ashley, make my drops and sell out in seconds.”
Tangles and Beyond products consist of two smaller entities: Body Frenzy, a group of skincare items, and Tangles and Beyond, whose products deal primarily with hair health. The full list of products available for purchase can be found on her website, www.tanglesandbeyond.com. Other methods of contact are her Facebook page, Tangles and Beyond Natural Hair Care Boutique and Instagram handle, tanglesandbeyond.
Blake-Bates is originally from Jackson, graduated from Loyd Star Attendance Center in Brookhaven and attended Jackson State University receiving a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication with an emphasis in advertising.
Through it all, she credits her husband as monumental to the success of her business and said that having him as support has really helped her and the business.