A Million Dollar Win: Meet Gwen Jimmere, the First African American to Hold a Patent for Natural Hair Care Product
All too often, African-American women dread washing their hair, since it can take multiple hours or even a whole day. Not only did entrepreneur Gwen Jimmere create a solution to this common inconvenience, but she is also the first and only African-American to hold a patent for a natural hair care product.
The Detroit native is CEO and founder of Naturalicious, a natural hair care company that produces their flagship patented product, Moroccan Rhassoul 5-in-1 Clay Treatment. Jimmere proudly exclaims that “it does the work of 13 products in four simple steps.” The system can reduce hair washing time to 30 minutes by including a wash, condition, deep conditioner, leave in and detangler, all in one.
Each product in the system can be easily followed, as the bottles are labeled with the corresponding number. Jimmere also offers an amazing guarantee— if a customer is not satisfied within 60 days, they will receive a 100 percent refund and Naturalicious will pay for the customer to try another company’s product. To date, Jimmere has yet to have anyone return a product.
When Jimmere was pregnant with her son, she promptly stopped using a relaxer after watching the Chris Rock documentary, Good Hair. She says that she only planned to only stop using relaxers for the remainder of her pregnancy and had to figure out what to do with her natural hair.
“I would go to the store to look for natural products. I would look at the ingredients and there were all of these weird chemicals,” Jimmere says. “They weren’t natural at all. So I went home and I started making my own products in my kitchen.”
Although her concoction was costly, it was natural and safe. After the birth of her son, she realized that her time was limited, and she had to figure out how to get her wash day done in an hour— the length of her newborn’s nap. Thus, the system was born.
“I wasn’t creating another product line,” Jimmere says. “I was creating something that has a specific utility and enhances the customer’s life. I developed a system. My goal is to solve every pain point of natural hair.”
March 4, 2013
Jimmere will never forget the date that she was laid off. Her divorce would be finalized just 30 days afterwards. Instead of letting these trials deter her, it propelled her. Her son was two at the time, and she didn’t want to waste time looking for another job, as bills were due.
“My mortgage was due in 15 days. My hobby was the only way to make money that day,” Jimmere says.
She said the road wasn’t easy but she was determined to leave a legacy.
“I want my son to be proud of me. When times get hard, you figure out a way to make things happen,” she says. “I want to be that example for him. It wasn’t easy and used it as a motivator. I had to ramp it up and start selling products.”
Obtaining the patent wasn’t an easy feat. The savvy businesswoman did not want to spend $10,000 to $30,000 on an attorney to get a patent. She spent approximately eight months researching patent law. Jimmere said she “viewed this as going back to college.” She taught herself patent law by spending time each day at the library and at the satellite office patent and trademark office in Detroit.
“I wanted to understand the history of the patent law, how it’s changed, how it would effect me, the difference between utility design and plant patent,” Jimmere says.
After she felt comfortable applying, it took about 15 months before she received the patent, a total of almost two years.
In just two years, Naturalicious has become a seven-figure company! Jimmere says that solving a problem and creating an experience has been the impetus in the success of her company. “I focus on being disruptive instead of being different in the hair care industry.”
Jimmere’s logic paid off, as Naturalicious has a 60 percent repeat costumer rate. “I didn’t want my consumers to just try my product.” She continues, “If you try my line it’s going to become part of your lifestyle.”
Fortunately, Jimmere was always profitable, never going negative, hitting the seven-figure mark, while her products are only available at some Whole Food stores and online. Her immediate goal is to expand her distribution including more Whole Food stores, nationally.
The passionate entrepreneur discusses that she and her team really believe in what they are doing “our motto is ‘The freedom to be beautiful”.
In addition to Naturalicious, Jimmere co-founded the company Pitch Proof with Brian Williams. Both have competed in multiple pitch competitions, and Jimmere won the 2014 Black Enterprise Elevator Pitch Contest. Pitch Proof teaches entrepreneurs how to grow their business without acquitting debt.