This nurse shared haircare routine on YouTube and turned it into a $100 million business

BY Preta Peace Namasaba March 20, 2024 11:10 AM EDT
Courtney Adeleye. Photo credit: Authority Magazine

When a hair coloring experience went wrong, Courtney Adeleye tried to find the best way to fix it. She was a registered nurse at the time and sought a more natural solution. After researching ingredients and hair products, Adeleye made her own deep conditioner by blending natural ingredients. She then started a YouTube channel to document her journey to healthy, waist-length hair. This – and $500 in savings – was the start of her multimillion dollar haircare company.

“I started out on YouTube chronicling my journey to natural hair. I was in my kitchen literally mixing ingredients together to use on my own hair and just sharing the results. The OG followers remember these videos, and I’m grateful for them because they were the first customers as well when I launched my first line of products. While that was a personal product for myself, the people demanded to know what I was using, so I decided to bring it to market, and the rest is history,” Adeleye said of her journey building a haircare company.

Growing up in Detroit, Adeleye constantly struggled with “untamable’ hair. Her mother applied generic chemical products to straighten it and for years she didn’t see her natural hair. She went on to train as a nurse, earn a bachelor’s degree, and fall in love with science. Adeleye says she became a nurse because she wanted everyone to live healthier lives. And for that same reason, she founded a beauty and wellness business so that everyone could have healthy hair.

Adeleye began by documenting her journey to strong, healthy, waist-length hair on YouTube. She used her science background to create products for natural hair in her home kitchen. She did tons of research, sought natural ingredients to care for her hair and shared her discoveries on the video platform. Along the way, Adeleye acquired thousands of followers who wanted to know her hair solution. But most importantly, they wanted to purchase products from her directly and replicate her routine.

“I became the typical mad scientist. I wanted to get rid of all the chemicals and see my hair just as it came out of my scalp. By the time my hair was growing all the way down my back, I knew I was onto something,” Adeleye said of her innovation process.

With only $500 that she’d saved up, Adeleye developed a few deep conditioning treatments called The Mane Choice and sold them to her fans. She generated $180,000 in sales in the first year from making the products at home and selling them to her online audience. Adeleye then collaborated with her husband, a medical doctor, to develop a nutritional supplement to support hair health. This meant that the hair products were addressing beauty on both the inside and outside. While the supplement was produced by a certified manufacturer, the hair products were still being made at home.

In the second year of operations, sales rose to $2.5 million. Adeleye was using almost all space in the house, had 10 food mixers running, and an assistant to help with packaging and shipping. As sales increased, she used the profits to reinvest into the business. She consequently organically expanded the business and never had to take out a loan. Adeleye also mastered the art of free marketing by speaking, connecting, and marketing to consumers via social media. She did not have to spend resources on advertising and related costs.

However, e-commerce proved to be unsustainable as the business grew. The Mane Choice had gone from one product to 100 and advanced beyond topical hair products to a holistic approach for what she called the Manetabolism vitamin. Adeleye envisioned bringing that hair vitamin to the hair-care aisle. She wanted The Mane Choice to be available at retail locations her customers visited regularly as she did not want them to have to search for products. Consequently, Adeleye looked for retail partners who already had great track records selling in the haircare space and were go-to spots for customers. Within 24 months, the products were on the shelves of 60,000 retailers such as Walmart, CVS, Target, and other stores across the United States.

By 2019, The Mane Choice had achieved $100 million in sales and an IPO. Adeleye was curious as to how much her company was worth and consulted a business valuation firm. They contacted their network and she had 90 potential buyers within a short time. Adeleye eventually sold her haircare business to MAV Beauty Brands in 2019. She has since launched Foolproof Body, a line of science-based supplements for probiotics, detox and weight loss and her own direct-selling company, Olbali.

In 2019, Adeleye partnered with MAV Beauty Brands to launch a $30 million fund to support business capital, mentorship programs and scholarships, among other initiatives.