Minority-owned businesses in Broward County now have a new way to gain access to capital.
The Capital Access Fund (CAF) is a lending initiative which provides capital and business education for minority entrepreneurs. It’s available through a partnership between Morgan Stanley, National Urban League Urban Empowerment Fund, National Development Council, and the Urban League of Broward County.
Conchita Pleasant is using CAF to grow her line of beauty products across the Southeast.
Here is how the model-turned-entrepreneur plans to expand her business – and help others along the way.
In the showcase window of one of the fanciest beauty salons in Broward County, a locally produced hair and skin care brand called Nefertiti’s Secrets is featured prominently among rows of global cosmetic giants.
Getting such front-and-center placement for a relatively little-known brand is a testament to the hard work and determination of the company’s founder, Conchita Pleasant.
“This is amazing,” she says, standing next to the display on a recent afternoon. “This has been a lifetime dream and it’s finally coming true.”
Nefertiti’s Secrets’ products, in fact, are in the display windows and stands of dozens of other fine salons in South Florida and far beyond. The former Miami teen model who is now an entrepreneur is experiencing the beginning successes of her products (conditioners, shampoos, and other hair treatments) that have many customers raving about their quality in nurturing hair, moisturizing scalps, and fighting off dandruff and split ends.
Some of those customers are tennis greats Venus and Serena Williams.
“They love it,” Conchita says. “The feedback I’m getting is really good from my customers. I’m so happy that my products are making women feel empowered. Think about it, I’m making products for their hair – their crown. It’s so important. It plays a big role in their self-esteem.”
The magic in her products, she says: “It’s all in the oil.”
Indeed, the oil in all of Conchita’s products is moringa oil, which comes from the seeds of the Moringa Oleifera Tree. The oil is rich in phytonutrients and contains Vitamin B, biotin and folic acid, which is ideal for those with hair loss.
The products – and the brand’s name – are inspired by ancient Egyptian Queen Nefertiti and beauty rituals practiced during her reign. Conchita was especially fascinated with the discovery of jars of moringa oil in the tombs of King Tutankhamun (Nefertiti is believed to be his mother) and other ancient Egyptians -- a belief that the oil was deemed valuable and needed in the next life.
So far, Conchita, who is 53, says she has sold more than 40,000 containers of Nefertiti’s Secrets products since launching her brand nearly five years ago. Her goal is to grow her business from $60,000 in revenue this year to $500,000 in revenue in the next two to three years. She expects to meet her goal by expanding her line of products from five to 10 by the end of the year, and by hiring a distributor to make her products available across the nation.
To grow her business, Conchita needed help. She turned to the Urban League of Broward County’s new Capital Access Fund (CAF), not only for a loan but also to learn business strategies from experts in the field. She’s using CAF’s financial assistance to expand her brand’s marketing across the region and operations to meet the demands of her products.
For Conchita, her path to success wasn’t so clear just a few years ago. In 2011, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and, later on, she went through a divorce with her husband.
It was her family, particularly her mother, who kept her focused on her ambitions. During those stressful times, Conchita reflected back to her modest upbringing in the neighborhood of Brownsville where her mother instilled in her the importance of exploring all of her gifts.
“My mom always taught me to follow my dreams,” Conchita says, adding that she spent a few years learning the beauty industry as a merchandiser and distributor for several major brands. “By working in the industry, I knew I wanted to create my own line of products. I wanted to create something really special.”
As she worked with a chemist to produce Nefertiti’s Secrets products, she tested everything on herself. This was around the time when she had lost much of her hair due to chemotherapy. Shortly after using her own products, her hair started to grow back. Today, she remains cancer-free.
Looking ahead, Conchita hopes to one day create a foundation for young girls to explore ways to become entrepreneurs and accomplish their dreams.
“I did it. And I want other girls to do the same,” she says.
To learn more about the Urban League of Broward County’s CAF and other entrepreneur programs, click here.