“Realizing that I was a creator and that I was born to create has been the most pivotal thing for me.” -Tasha Burton
Tasha Burton shares her journey in becoming an entrepreneur by creating an unique, all natural, hair and skin care product line called “Belle Butters.”
I found “Belle Butters” via the Black Exchange Market when I decided to make it my mission to start supporting black owned businesses more. I looked up and found a long list of black businesses via Black Exchange’s website and decided to contact a few of the owners for any contribution to this series.
As a result, Tasha responded and was more than willing to get personal and share her journey in becoming an independent entrepreneur, her inspiration, views on success, and goals through a series of interview questions.
The following dialog continues the series of interviews focusing on successful African- American business owners and entrepreneurs. The purpose is to find out the key to becoming successful in entrepreneurship, document each person’s journey, and inspire a new generation of entrepreneurs in 2017.
Describe/outline your typical day. How many hours do you work a day on average?
“I currently run two businesses, Belle Butters and Black Pin Maker League so my days are pretty long. I typically answer emails until about 11am and I work on orders (making them, shipping them) until about 6pm or so. I take time out to relax and get dinner going and then I work on posts for BPML and mapping out how I’d like to proceed over the next few months with it as it’s relatively new. So, for now, because it’s still my busy season for BB, I can easily work 12 hours a day.”
How long has your business been in existence? What is your mission?
“I’ve been in business for 7 years. My mission is simply to make high quality all natural hair and body care butters and skincare products.”
Operating Belle Butters
How do you go about marketing your business? What has been your most successful form of marketing?
“I primarily market my business via social media sites like Instagram and Twitter. I’ve also had a few shout outs from customers, influencers, bloggers and brands like Essence and more. Again, it’s a matter of making great quality products, networking and building a solid rapport. I’ve seen the most success via Twitter. Although I’m not on Twitter as much as I used to be, it gives you access to people that other platforms do not. It’s as simple as sending a tweet to a blogger or influencer and asking if they’d like to try my product. I’ve had this work for me several times over.”
Where did your organizations funding/capital come from and how did you get it?
“I funded my business myself when I first started. I took half my paycheck, about $400 at the time to purchase my supplies, ingredients and start my site (I was using Etsy at the time).”
How did you find your business partners and how do you recruit staff, etc.? How do you build a successful customer base?
“I currently do not have any staff, I solely operate BB. I am the janitor all the way up to the CEO. Excellent customer service is one way of maintaining loyal customers and another is by maintaining an excellent product.”
If you were to design the perfect team to help you run this company, what characteristics would those people have?
“They would have to be driven, love a challenge, know how to have FUN, and understand that they’re not working FOR me but WITH me.”
Inspiration and Motivation
What/who ignited the spark in you to start a business or to make significant changes in an existing business?
“I transitioned back to natural hair in the summer of 2008 and at the time, there were very few online retailers that had natural hair care products, I think I could tell you just five off the top of my head. Because there were so few, wait times to receive products were several weeks and so I resorted to making my own products. When I realized there was a need for someone local to produce products for friends that were transitioning back to natural hair as well, I gave myself 30 days to come up with a plan and launch Belle Butters.”
What motivates you?
“Seeing other people win, seeing myself win, running into challenges and finding new ways and solutions for working through them and so on.”
Who/what has been your greatest inspiration?
“Wow, there’s so many people that have inspired me. Recently, I have to give a shout out to several women who have been making major moves over the past year: Francheska of HeyFranHey, Tahira of The Cut Life, Myleik of curlBOX, Tiffani of Latched & Hooked, Sakita of House of Success/Hashtags & Stilettos and a host of friends and family that have accomplished so much as well.”
What book has inspired you the most OR what is your favorite book?
“I highly recommend Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. She wrote this book as though there is a conversation between just you and her. Elizabeth gives you the motivation you need to pursue your dreams using her experiences as a writer as the basis. She knows what she’s talking about and while motivating you, her words can come across as harsh to some people who have made excuse after excuse for not going after what they want. The other book I love is Getting There by Gillian Zoe Segal. In this book she interviews several successful people who tell their stories about what they did before launching their brands/businesses and the difficulties they’ve gone through during the process. I was asked to talk to a group of people for a church who wanted to branch out into starting their own businesses and I brought the book with me to read an excerpt from it. A man asked me if he could have the book and I gave it to him without any hesitation. The book is that good.”
How do you define success? How would you define success as a business owner?
“Success is a very personal thing. I define success as being able to accomplish a task that you’ve worked hard at mastering or completing. In regards to success and being a business owner, just being able to complete orders for the week can be a success for me or seeing a new product take off and get great reviews. There’s a spectrum. Success, you can validate it according to your standards or let the public validate it, but I highly recognize validating things for myself first before relying on anyone else.”
What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful business owner?
“Good customer service, the ability to solve matters quickly and to maximize the time you’re given each day.”
What skills or talents do you think attribute to your/your company’s success? What is the single most critical talent you possess?
“I’ve had a job in some capacity, consistently since I was 15 years old. My first job was at Girls, Inc. I was working 40 hours a week, 6am-3pm, Monday-Friday over summer break. When school was back in session, I’d work on the weekends from 5pm-2am at Windows On Washington, an event and catering company in downtown St. Louis. After high school, I worked in retail, food service, customer service, to working at a shelter for teens, to working with adults with autism, to finally working in research before going full-time with my business. My most critical talent has been the ability to set standards and follow a strict aesthetic for my brands. As a Virgo, I can be a perfectionist and my worst critic. I know when things are subpar (for me) and when I’m slacking. Picking things back up and getting back on the ball without being called out about it is a skill that I’m glad to have. Self-awareness is key.”
What sacrifices have you had to make to be successful?
“Ha! Where do I begin? You sacrifice social time with your friends and family, especially around the holidays. Some of us go without health insurance because it’s expensive for individuals who are self-employed or are small business owners. You can’t afford to get sick so you have to be extra diligent about taking care of yourself and more. I could go on about this for a solid hour if you had the time. I feel that most people who do not run a business cannot fathom the sacrifices because I know I didn’t before starting mine.”
What are the short term and long term goals for your business?
“Short-term would be to develop more products this year. Last year, I worked on consistency. I wanted to be sure that each time a customer placed an order for the same product that it was the same quality as when they first experienced it. In theory, this sounds easy, but when it comes to handmade, this is actually pretty challenging. Long-term, I want to continue to grow organically. It has worked best for me not to get so slammed or to take on so many opportunities at once because I am one of those people who doesn’t perform at level 100 under pressure. Getting overwhelmed sends me into a frenzy and it’s difficult for me to recover from it. After 7 years of doing this, this is an important lesson I’ve learned about myself.”
Personal- Tasha Burton
What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur, owning a small business or being a part of a small business?
“The freedom. No matter how hard this gets, how tight money can be at times, how tired and exhausted I am, each day when I wake up, I know that I have the freedom to create and do what I love. So many people out there still feel restricted or trapped in what it is they do for a living and that’s really unfortunate because it takes away a bit of their happiness. Loving what you do is such a crucial part of life. Even if it does mean working at a company, if you love what you’re doing, you’d still feel that freedom. Realizing that I was a creator and that I was born to create has been the most pivotal thing for me.”
How many jobs have you held before you realized you wanted to have your own?
“If I counted correctly, I’ve worked for 9 different companies between the ages of 15 and 30.”
What was your dream job/profession when you were younger? Did it come to fruition? Are you working your dream job?
“This changed so much! At first I wanted to be an actress but that quickly went out the window when I realized I didn’t want that type of scrutiny and so I turned my attention to the service field and wanted to go into studying and treating rheumatoid arthritis. I claimed pre-med as my major and after a troubling first semester of college due to a heavy course-load and a series of unfortunate personal events, my grades tanked and I was put on financial aide probation. I changed my major to Psychology (thank goodness) and I wanted to go into research and I did. It took me forever to finish college as I was funding my education with loans and my own money and before I graduated, was hired to work in research at a local university. I did that for 4.5 years before getting laid off which forced me into BB full-time. I never thought I’d end up working in the beauty industry at all.”
What is your greatest fear, and how do you manage fear?
“I don’t have any fears that overwhelm me so much that I can’t or refuse to take a step out on a faith. I know and understand that I’m always protected and covered in all things that I do and with that, fear is very temporary for me. There’s also a perk to fear that I feel most people do not discuss and it’s that there’s a thrill in taking fear head on. For most of us, as I stated earlier, we love a challenge which means that if something scares us, we find the “fun” in defeating what creates that fear. It’s an insane mind-game you play with yourself, but I think it’s very healthy at the same time because the more we go through something or put something into practice, the easier it becomes for us to go through that process all over again.”
Do you agree with Confucius’ statement “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”? Why?
“Yes and no. I love what I do very much, but personally, I have to consistently be challenged or boredom will kick in. So having a background in research and having research come so easily for me, looking up ingredients and how they work with each other, I could do that all day long and never ever get tired of it. However, there are days where I’ve done nothing but sobbed because business is slow or a not so nice customer said some things that I took personally and shouldn’t have and so on. I believe everything on earth has a balance and it’s necessary here as well. There will be good days, like really good days and there will be some bad days, but the bad days are very few and far in between.”
If you could speak to anyone (dead or alive) who would it be, what would you say, and why?
“I would love to have a conversation with Oprah one-on-one. Overall, she’s key to black women and success and how to navigate challenges and it would be cool to sit down with her and talk about the challenges women my age and younger face today to see if it’s any different or just the same as when she was coming up.”
Has your race, ethnicity, or culture impacted or influenced your success in anyway? (Side note: I LOVE the answer to this question)
“Absolutely. I think black people, especially black women are the most magnificent creatures ever created. There’s something that was put in us that wasn’t put in any other group of people on this earth. We have the ability to handle some of the most intense pain, physical and emotional, we pick up where other people leave off with ease, we work incredibly hard and more. A lot of what we do and have accomplished as black women gets glossed over so much but I’m happy that mainstream media, Hollywood are starting to acknowledge us more. For so long, we’ve been kept in the background, kept invisible and only brought out when someone thinks they helped or assisted with our success. I’m so glad the tide is changing.”
If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently? Why?
“I can’t say that there’s too much I’d do differently. As of right now, everything I’ve gone through has helped me as a business owner rather than hurt me. Some things may have hurt me in the moment, but it definitely was more so a growing pain rather than something that completely stopped me in my tracks.”
What advice would you give to young people who want to become entrepreneurs/ business owners?
“My best advice I can give is be prepared to consistently be challenged in a variety of ways. There’s one thing that successful entrepreneurs love and that’s the ability to have a challenge thrown at us pretty often and being able to knock it down. The challenges are so diverse that you almost always need to come up with a new solution each time. This is one of the things that motivates entrepreneurs, it’s a thrill that we live for.”
– Tasha Burton, Owner/Operator of “Belle Butters.”
Thank you so much for your contribution Tasha!!
*Side Note* I’ve purchased the Mint Chocolate Butter (Hair/Face butter) & Mango Moisture Butter (Face butter) and they’re both awesome!! I love the texture and smell they’re so sweet! The ingredients are printed directly on the label so you know exactly what you’re getting which is pretty cool…
If you want more information on the specific products offered by “Belle Butters” please contact Tasha Burton directly:
Phone: (314) 301-9329