Read time: 4 mins        Added date: 26/01/2024

TreasureTress is one of the five beneficiaries of the Channel 4 and Lloyds Bank Black In Business initiative. Learn how the seeds of success were planted while founder and CEO, Jamelia Donaldson was working in Beijing, and how far she’s taken her lifelong passion for haircare and beauty.

Jamelia Donaldson, founder and CEO of TreasureTress

With a bespoke TV advert, £100,000 worth of TV advertising and a six-month mentoring programme up for grabs, there were over 1,000 applications for the Channel 4 and Lloyds Bank Black In Business initiative. One of only five final beneficiaries is TreasureTress; one of Europe’s first natural hair and beauty product subscription box business, on a mission to solve a longstanding problem for those with naturally textured hair. 

A business idea born overseas

Having run out of product and losing her hair brush whilst on an internship in Beijing, Jamelia had to resort to buying and using a shoe brush as the only comparable tool for use on textured hair. It was clear the availability of specialist products for people with curly hair was non-existent. 

But it wasn’t until progressing in her second internship in New York she discovered the subscription-based model being used for all kinds of goods. At that point, she promised herself that if something like that wasn’t available on her return to the UK, she’d create it. Hence, the idea for TreasureTress was born.

Jamelia worked tirelessly over lunch breaks, on evenings and weekends to build the business, as well as having a full-time job in finance back in London. Within eight months of growing mostly organically, she was then able to leave her position to focus on TreasureTress full-time and has never looked back.

A driving force for change

What drives Jamelia is her sense of commitment to the problem she wants to solve. “I am committed to resolving the diversity and accessibility issue within the beauty industry. The fact it’s unresolved is my ammunition to be relentless. I feel as though I have a responsibility to the community I’ve built,” she says. 

One challenge is the lack of products available specifically for curly hair. It massively differs when compared to the US, such that 35% of African-American women shop in supermarkets for their hair products. Whereas in the UK, this figure drops to only 1% despite Black British women making up 10% of the country’s total beauty spend. Additionally, almost half of women with textured hair (47%) said in a survey commissioned by TreasureTress that none of the top 10 high street haircare brands cater to their hair type, so we know there is lots more work that needs to be done.

TreasureTrees products in box

Bootstrapped from the beginning

TreasureTress has been bootstrapped since its inception and has mostly grown organically. The main reason for this is the absence of external funding. Jamelia admits her initial lack of knowledge around the role banks can play in the growth of businesses like TreasureTress was a barrier, so the majority of the business spend was self-funded. When the time came to talk to potential investors, they couldn’t align with the problem she was trying to solve, and didn’t think it was a big enough opportunity because no similar businesses were already doing it. 

The findings of the Black. British. In Business & Proud Report 2022 (PDF, 5MB) showed only 3 in 10 Black business owners approach banks for finance. This is borne out in Jamelia’s case as she didn’t consider talking to a bank for support with growing TreasureTress. 

However, support for each of the beneficiaries also includes a six-month mentoring and sponsorship package powered by DOES - a social enterprise that works with corporate partners to deliver business help to underprivileged communities.

As part of this, TreasureTress will have access to a Lloyds Bank sponsor. Jamelia is keen to use this opportunity to understand more about the range of support available to small businesses.

Other positives Jamelia hopes to gain from the programme include data insights they can leverage, advice on their marketing blind spots and how to maximise new opportunities. There’s massive potential to grow the business overseas and make natural hair and beauty products available to people of other ethnicities with curly hair who mainstream brands and outlets don’t serve. 

“I am really committed to resolving the diversity and accessibility issue within the beauty industry. The fact it’s unresolved is my ammunition to be relentless. I feel as though I have a responsibility to the community I’ve built.”

Jamelia Donaldson – Founder/CEO, TreasureTress.

Creating a global community

Building an engaged following both online and offline has been critical to the success of TreasureTress. Jamelia has gone from braiding her high school friends' hair to building a team that sends subscription boxes to 42 countries worldwide, but she’s not stopping there. 

Jamelia has created opportunities to really get to know her target audience through face-to-face events for mums and daughters with curly hair, as well as pop-up shops giving people a chance to browse the products. This allows her to gather feedback on products, taglines, suppliers’ brand stories and ethical ingredients to shape future subscription boxes.

Jamelia’s realisation of her vision hit home in the autumn of 2023. “My niece came to the pop-up shop and was completely blown away. She was the reason I started the brand. I wanted her to grow up thinking curly hair’s normal, my hair’s normal, and I can look beautiful the way I am,” she reflects.

A brush with small screen stardom

“Appearing on TV is going to be great for our representation. With the community we serve, it’s so important our voice is amplified, and people will certainly see us on TV. It will also help mainstream haircare brands understand the massive opportunity they’re missing out on,” she states.

Jamelia hopes the increased brand awareness will inspire other female founders to pursue their business dreams. Being named one of the beneficiaries from over 1,000 applications has also given her team recognition and a huge morale boost.

She’s anticipating a significant rise in growth and subscription numbers due to mainstream exposure and the opportunity to cross over into mass markets. Jamelia has long admired Beyonce’s professionalism, perfectionism and strategic outlook as a businesswoman. With an amplified voice thanks to TV advertising, TreasureTress is sure to hit the right note with more people worldwide.


Delivering game-changing advertising opportunities

Read more about the initiative and the other beneficiaries and what they hope to gain from the Black In Business initiative.

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