The latest #myBOBstory is one that will surely inspire and empower you. This myBOB story introduces you to Owner and Creator of Nubian Hue Non-Brew, LaJoyce Waajid. You can listen to the full interview with LaJoyce, as well as read the abridged version below.
You may have noticed that Nubian Hue Non-Brew was featured on our Instagram. If you’re interested in being featured in the #myBOBstory, reach out via email. This series brings awareness to Black businesses from the owner's perspective. At myblackbox co it's important to know the vision and purpose behind a business.
LaJoyce has been an entrepreneur for 20 years, supporting herself and three children. A vegan, natural hair cosmetologist, and colon therapist, LaJoyce has always cared about her customers and community from their heads to their souls. When she couldn’t find non-addictive, healthy, and cost effective alternatives to her coffee cravings LaJoyce did what many Black women do: made her own option.
Tell me a little bit about why you started your business.
I started my business out of need and necessity. I was a vegan for many years before it got popular. Before there was a Slutty Vegan, I was vegan. But I was a vegan addicted to coffee, which was an oxymoron. The whole purpose of going vegan is to live a healthy, happy life. The coffee was a bit addictive. It was costing me a lot of money and I needed an opportunity to wean myself off of it. I found myself struggling with the addiction to coffee. I had to find a way to get myself off of the coffee so I created my own way.
That's amazing. I don't think I've ever been exposed to a vegan [faux coffee]. But that's such an ingenious idea. What inspired you to pursue the entrepreneurial aspect of introducing your vegan [faux coffee] to market?
Well after looking for an opportunity to have a ready made coffee alternative, there weren't any; going into grocery stores; going to my local markets, like the outdoor farmer's markets that were popping up just a little bit. I didn't see anything. I'm like, OK I'm a mommy, I'm on the go. At the time, I was a natural hair care cultivator. I owned one of the first full service natural hair salons in Henry County, Georgia. In my search and in my quest I didn't find anything, so I of course had to create my own. I kind of took the concept based off of how in the medicine world they would take an addict who was addicted to crack cocaine or heroin, and they would use morphine which was another drug to win them off. In my thought process I was like, oh wow wouldn't it be great to create a coffee alternatives that looked and felt like coffee, but it wasn't coffee. It's giving you something healthy; weaning you off of the bad stuff onto some good stuff. I started playing around with some herbs and spices and I created it, then I started presenting it to markets.
I love that you mentioned how you didn't see it, So you created it. That's very much something that I believe Black women are used to—like there's nothing out there for me that's doing what I need it to do or doing what I know it should do I'm gonna make it myself. Why should consumers purchase with your business? What is the reason that they should buy from you with this alternative to coffee, as well as being something applicable to their vegan lifestyle?
Well for one, again, what a coffee is going to do it's going to at some point exasperate a woman's fibroids; it helps to agitate and create acid reflux. After a period of time I know our coffee drinkers say, I just have one cup a day. Well one cup a day, 365 days a year could totally screw you over health wise. Even if you're not a vegan—but of course [even] a vegan—you can have the [faux] coffee lattes and get some effects that are going to be good for you. As opposed to having some adverse effects like coffee would do, the vegan [faux] coffee is going to work on a holistic level. It's going to give you natural energy. So it's working internally to help revitalize you.
For those who aren't vegan and aren't as aware of the benefits of veganism—especially with finding this alternative coffee that you provide—what would you say have been challenges in getting non-vegans to be interested in this alternative from their favorite Starbucks or their local coffee shop?
To be honest, I really haven't had a challenge. What I love most about it is it's not only good for you, but it's good to you. Even my non-vegan people when they come—I always offer samples because I want you to try it—I just don't want to sell something you're not able to try it. People who are not vegan, it's the majority of them that's drinking it. They're like, 'Wow, I can't believe this is vegan!' That's why I deemed it a vegan dessert in a bottle. I've created all of these wonderful flavors to throw people off from "Oh this is vegan" because they're thinking 'vegan bland.' No, this is vegan wow! We have flavors like Pecan Pie—that has fresh pecans in it. We have Lavish, which has fresh lavender flowers and cocoa with it; Banana Almond Joy. It's like I'm introducing non-vegan people [to] an opportunity to have a healthy alternative. They don't have to go completely vegan; take some small steps into the right direction to health.
I'm glad that you brought up some of the different flavors. Of those, which is your favorite?
Because I make them all through me and then I sell them to everybody else. My favorite is the Sweet Potato Faux, of which I use a real sweet potato in it. My next best favorite is my Banana Almond Joy. It's made with real banana, I have almond butter in it. Our basis in all of them is chicory root. My next best favorite is our Tasty Tu, which is our turmeric latte. And then Eden's Garden, which is Matcha green Moringa latte.
I would probably want to try that turmeric one. To circle back in talking about like Black entrepreneurship. What inspiration do you use to fuel your journey as a Black entrepreneur?
One, my children. As a mother it is imperative that I teach my children the importance of entrepreneurship. Of course when they see me out here working and doing what I need to do for our best interest, it sparks something in them. So bringing them along and letting them see the ins and outs of business; the highs and the lows. The rewards at the end, you know being your own boss and empowering yourself as well as being able to empower others; having that true power in the palm of your hand is my inspiration. I want to be an example to my children.
What you're describing, as far as your inspiration for your entrepreneurial journey, is important from my perspective. I hope our audience understands the importance of doing this too—including their family, their children in it because hopefully that inspires them to continue entrepreneurship in their life too.
My biggest thing is there's always this dialect of what we should do. I'm a Gemini. My birthday was last week. So I'm a doer. Conversation is great, but when we're done conversing what next? There has to be a ‘what next.’ To me I'm the living example of the what next. Now I've had many businesses. I'm 45 and in my journey for the last 20 years I've worked for myself and employed my people. I am a divorcee and a mother of three. To carry that weight on my back, when people see me I want them to say she is a living example of what we should be doing; if she could do it—with no startup capital, no bank has given me big money. None. Off of brilliance, muscle, and determination. You know every day I get out here; it's like I want to make certain that I do my part. If everybody takes the initiative to do their part, I think collectively as a Black unit we'd be better off.
100 percent agree with that, especially on the point of doing. There's a lot of talk and a lot of ideating, but there's not a lot of doing. I think a lot of people fail to do. What advice do you have for Black girls and women who struggle finding their place in society?
I think that it's important to go within. There is this inner standing that we have to be comfortable with in terms of self. Oftentimes there is this stigmas that Black women and our black girls allow themselves to be crippled by; which I believe creates a fear factor. It cripples them from wanting to move forward. I think that if they go inward and listen to their inner voice, and try to elevate some of their inner power they'll have the power to kind of push some of those stigmas away and it'll empower them. Sometimes it's OK to isolate yourself. Be selfish with yourself so that you can journey within; so that you can hear those inner voices; so that you can move. Oftentimes it's too much, with society and people in your ear. Let all those people go! Sometimes you have to step away from your mother, your aunts, your uncles, and your friends. Go on a retreat within yourself. Find yourself and then make some moves; listen to yourself. It's key. You shouldn't lie to yourself.
I think the peace and the finding yourself that you're talking about, I've also had to go through that. How would you suggest that women, whether they can travel or not, find that retreat and then sustain what they gain from that retreat after returning to all the noise? Because we do get bombarded with the noise.
It's almost like you have to gangster your time. Time management is key. We understand in order to live in this society that we have to work; we have to contribute something in order to get our financial contribution, in order to live. Well, if you pace yourselves you know that there's 24 hours in a day, you work eight to 10 cut that off. But you also have to work on yourself. So you, yourself deserve some time alone. For me, having my three children—my oldest is grown now she graduated from Spelman, she's working on a master's. She's in Seattle. I have [a 15 year old 13 year old]—every day I go in my room and I lock my door; I turn off everything. I don't want to hear any noise. If they get too loud, I'm like please be quiet. I need this time. I stress to them the importance of that time. I think that even inside of your home, women and people in general, if you live with other people teach them the importance of meditating and being quiet and still. The noise is too distracting and so you're going to miss a lot of the things that you're supposed to have in terms of your connection with the most high and your ancestors. Teach everybody to be quiet around you. Your home is your safe haven. And there you should find your refuge and your solace.
I saw a quote recently that completely resonates with what you've just said it was, "Make space in silence." Thank you for those suggestions to our listeners and our readers so that they can figure out how best to reconnect with themselves and find that retreat with themselves in order to build their mental strength.
It heightens your mental capacity when you are able to be quiet and still.
Who do you consider a great example of Black entrepreneurship?
I have watched and I have been a part, firsthand, of the Black Earth product movement. Taliah Waajid and her family—actually I was married to her brother. Just the way that they worked tirelessly and effortlessly to give back and to build up for their family. It's impeccable. They ran their course and they stuck with it. Every day it was a challenge. I've seen them change, evolve, and take some steps back and ten steps forward. They are the epitome of a beautiful Black Mecca. As well as when I was younger, Dudley's I was always into hair. The Dudley family; of course the Bronners. I've seen these companies over the past year stick with it and change with the times. They keep family first and they keep their family employed. I think that in itself shows strength.
What would you say to those who have the goal of scaling their business, but being bought by a large conglomerate?
I wouldn't do it. I'd say don't do it. What will your family have? Stick with your company. It's OK. Go ahead and let it build and change; usher in the newer people; teach—extend your hand and teach the younger generation in your family how to run and maintain that business. That business that you've created, which should be your empire and your legacy, should be sending your children in your family to college so that they can get the training. Or send them to the workshops, the same training that the larger corporations send their people out to or they hire out to get, send your children and your family out to get that same education; then make certain that they have a place to work. Don't sell. We need our companies. So my advice is no, keep your company.
I'm glad that we're able to talk about both sides of this. How did you financially start your business? I know you mentioned earlier how you didn't have any funding from like a bank or anyone putting in capital. How did you make do or make it start in the realm of finances?
It was funny. I started when my oldest was in her last year of college. Spelman is a private college. It was killing my pockets. I had a mortgage. I had a child in college. I had a natural hair care salon, with seven people that were depending on me. I had to make the decision to scale back financially so that I could make some adjustments to do some other things. It seemed like even though natural hair is growing, the products it's a plethora of products out here. A lot of people do their own hair and people don't go to the salon as much. This is Atlanta, so it's a bazillion natural hair and salons out here. I decided to close the salon; that saved me about $1,800 a month. With that little by little I started to work on formulas, recipes, and trademarks—things of that nature. After my daughter graduated I took my income tax check and I bought a pushcart so that I can get into the pushcart business. From that, I've been self-funding.
It's amazing how one seed sowed another and so forth and so on, which we hear it and I'm sure people are like ‘oh, that cliche.’ But when you actually do it and then you start to reap the benefits, and then you can do again. It's amazing to see it happen and I'm sure you felt it as you were going through that process too.
Oh yes! I had three [children]—a child who had just graduated college and two small ones I was homeschooling at the time and it was strenuous. I'm like, 'Oh God, what am I doing?' Even though I closed my salon I'm a homeowner. I took a small room and turned it into a small workspace where I would still service clients. As I would service my clients doing my natural hair services—I'm a colon therapist also—so my clients love me because I'm able to mesh the two. As I'm doing hair, I would go in and make drinks. As I'd sit under the dryer I'd say good try this. What do think? They'd say, 'Oh my God, this is good!' I would do my own survey, my own market research as well. I would create these formulas. I worked it that way and I had of course some bumps in the road. It was like Oh Lord what am I going to do with this. I don't know what to do. I was able to sit down with [my children's father and we discussed some ways that I could do certain things. The first thing was of course making so that everything with my business was in place. I was on the brink of something that no one had done. No one was making vegan lattes. From there it soared. It was very, very difficult trying to do everything by myself financially. It was challenging, but I believed. I still believe and nothing can stop me.
That's one of the highest, I would say, currencies to have as an entrepreneur, the belief that you will make it and that you can do. I love that had your own focus group, market research going on while servicing your clients. Absolutely brilliant! I also love that you're talking about the proper formation of your business, because you want to protect yourself against anyone being able to trying to copyright or trademark or take your idea and then run with it because you didn't properly set your business up.
Oftentimes in business I think we are afraid, Black businesses, we're afraid to step out. We're afraid to walk in the opposite direction of the masses. It's OK. To me, the mere fact that an idea was planted, that idea to me is divine. If you listen to that inner voice that idea, that idea is coming from the most high telling you can do this. You have to listen to it and be obedient. You have to trust the process. You have to know that everything that you need and you require to help support that idea is right there. All you have to do is seek it. Don't let fear cripple you. Seek it and you'll find.
That's a great segue to my [next question]. What advice would you give to someone like you who has an idea but is afraid, as you're just talking about, to take the first step to launch?
Never let fear cripple you. Start from where you are. If you have an idea and all you have is $10, think about how that $10 could help fund and help support your idea—just start right where you are. You don't need the big balloons and the big hoopla. To me that's a farce, you'll get there. It takes some time to get to that point.
Once you put it out there and people are interested, and you're garnering that demand, that intrigued, you can build all that other additional stuff that's kind of surface level. If you're not out there doing then you can't point to what it is that you're able to provide as value—whether it's your product or service that you're doing there. There's not going to be information.
Even if you get feedback and it's bad feedback, bad feedback is still good feedback because it's feedback.
what can we expect from your business in 2019?
Well in 2019, I'm looking to expand my pushcart enterprise. I actually kind of studied King of Pop's model. I thought it was so brilliant to do away with the brick and mortar and just find ways to maximize your profit. Get out there and do. Right now I only have one push cart. I'm working on purchasing a few more, so you can see more push carts. You can see the faux coffee traps—turning all the negative things into something good. You'll see the faux coffee ice cream out more. You will definitely see faux coffee cakes and us in stores.
If anyone is in the Atlanta area where can they see you next?
Well seven days a week we are at 287 Peachtree St., which is our pushcart location. We normally get out about 10 a.m. until everything is gone. Oftentimes, and the majority of the time, [that] we're out, we sell out. We're there until we sell out. We do a lot of local farmer's markets. We do a Norcross Market; Lithonia market. We're doing Juneteenth this [year] but again seven days a week we're at our pushcart location. You can always find us there! You can visit our website—www.huenonbrew.com. You can order, we deliver; if you purchase six or more we can deliver to you locally and we also do some shipping.
Great! If anyone is again in the Atlanta area living or visiting, or you're not local and you want to get some of this vegan [faux coffee]—Nubian Hue Non Brew— you know where to hit up to get that. I really enjoyed talking to you today and I hope the audience will enjoy this interview too. Thank you so, so much for your time today.
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you [myblackbox] audience!
LaJoyce’s story hopefully inspires you to harness the power within you to start a business and see it grow for years to come because of your faith and strategy.