The GROW program at Bounce supports both aspiring and experienced entrepreneurs as they bring their ideas to life. The program focuses on minorities and women. Laura Manning is in our Next Level Business Incubator.
As the founder of LaJAshley, Laura Manning, didn’t set out to create a hair and body care company.
“I was frustrated with my own hair and the products that are available. A friend opened my eyes to reading labels and being more conscious of what I put in and on my body. My background in chemistry allowed me to understand that even products labeled ‘all natural’ may still contain harmful ingredients,” she said.
After graduating with a chemistry degree, Manning realized it’s difficult to get a job without a Ph.D.
“I also knew that I didn’t want to work for a pharmaceutical company. I was more interested in holistic medicine, but it wasn’t popular at that time,” she said. “Instead of going back to school, I started my own business as a science tutor and piano teacher.”
She also began using her lab experience to create 100% natural and vegan hair products for herself. After sharing them with friends who loved them, Manning quickly recognized the tremendous potential of her hair care products, which are not only chemical-free but also heal the scalp and strengthen the hair.
Although Manning started LaJAshley in 2012, she had other priorities at that time, as she got married and worked with her husband on their marketing company. She became a client of Bounce Innovation Hub’s Next Level Incubator earlier this year.
“I now have more time to focus on my business,” she said.
As a Next Level Incubator client, she meets regularly with entrepreneur in residence, Da-Shika Street, for guidance. The Next Level Incubator was developed to help established, Black-owned, small businesses grow.
“I started with four products, but other friends had different needs so I created products for all hair types,” she said. “My company’s slogan is ‘where science and nature combine.’”
Since starting LaJAshley, Manning has expanded to body care. Her products are available online through the LaJAshley website and Amazon. They are also sold in a few Cleveland-area boutiques and will be in the Meijer that will open as part of an economic revitalization project in the Fairfax neighborhood of Cleveland. To help boost awareness, she was recently featured on Fox8’s New Day Cleveland program.
Through Bounce, she’s also learned about available grants for Black-owned businesses.
“The biggest challenge with being an entrepreneur is mindset,” she said. “You have to stay focused on the goal and not allow setbacks to deter you. Don’t be afraid of sales or afraid to take risks. You will always learn something, whether good or bad. If you look at setbacks as lessons, you will continue to grow.”
Manning said it’s also important to be in front of your products and pop-ups provide a great opportunity to do this.
“Customer feedback is everything,” she said.
She recalled an example where she ran into a father at Summer Fest in Brooklyn, Ohio, who had tried her products on his son’s challenging hair. The family was thrilled with the results.
“It meant a lot to hear this and know that I’m helping others feel more confident in their hair,” she said.
As Manning continues to grow LaJAshley, she is expanding her product line to include skin care and working to increase distribution through major retailers.
“I’m working with another advisor regarding distribution on a large scale. I’ve applied for Walmart and hope to be in more Meijer stores,” she said.
To learn more about LaJAshley, please visit https://lajashley.com/.
To learn more about the Next Level Business Incubator, please https://bouncehub.org/next-level-incubator/.
About the author:
Jill Wodtley, APR, is a freelance writer and owner of Fine Point Public Relations and Advertising. An accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America, she develops and implements marketing communications, public relations and advertising initiatives for a variety of clients, ranging from health care and social service agencies to industrial/manufacturing firms.