BLACK BUSINESS FEATURE: BELLE BUTTERS - ST. LOUIS, MO
Thank you so much to speaking with Soul Society 101 today! We really love your products and will continue to use them. I know a lot is going on in your hometown Ferguson and we just want to let you know that we see your efforts to help your people and we are honored to interview you. You have been active and vocal on twitter and are doing so much for the people in your town, so thank you for all that you have done!
Now on to your interview!
Branford: How did you come up with the idea for Belle Butters?
Tasha: It initially started as I was making my transition to natural hair. I was natural up to the age of 12 and my mother, who slaved over my very thick hair, was tired of pressing it out asked me if I wanted a relaxer. So I said, “Yes” and I kept relaxing my hair up until the age of 27. I developed a skin allergy, which may or may not have been related to the relaxer, but I had hair breakage anyway so I just wanted to go back to natural hair. During that transition I realized that my hair was a lot thicker and it was a bit tighter, and trying to find products for natural hair in 2007 was difficult. A majority of it had to be ordered online, so I would purchase Shea Butter and my Olive Oils for an added benefit for my hair. After using these products a lot of people would compliment me for the softness of my hair and would ask me what I was using. So I decided to make the product and see if people will buy it. So I took half of my paycheck and bought the supplies I needed and did some research and gave myself 30 days to start the business. I was working full time during all of this and I told myself that I really needed to commit to it. So I had my shop set up in 28 days and that’s pretty much how it has been for the last 5 years.
Branford: How difficult was it to start this business?
Tasha: It actually wasn’t difficult at all because I have a background in research; I took the time sitting down at the computer and finding information comes natural to me. So it never felt like it was a chore. There were questions that I would ask other people, who found out I was trying to start a business and they would offer suggestions. So for someone who was new to starting a business, there are a lot of things that you don’t know and find out about on the way. I was just very fortunate that I had a lot of support, so as of now it’s just been an evolution as far as maintaining the business. There is that saying that a lot of businesses fail before 5 years and I can attest that there were times that I wanted to quit but it wasn’t an option for me. It wasn’t difficult but it has been a journey to maintain my business.
Branford: What makes your products unique compared to other brands out there?
Tasha: It’s a matter of working with ingredients that a lot of people shy away from because a lot of people aren’t paying for them or using ingredients that aren’t really on trend right now. It’s just having a balance of using different ingredients to make your products stand out and coming up with unique names as well. That forces people to ask questions and take an interest in your business and products. So for my Unyevu butter which means moisture in Swahili, I chose that word, because I am very into language and I loved the sound of this word in particular. People still have trouble pronouncing it but once people see the name, people recognize it and realize, “Oh, this is the one Fran of HeyFranHey talked about” and so on.
Branford: So with your products do you want to expand into a huge business or do you want to keep it more personal with you consumers?
Tasha: What I want to do is eventually have a brick and mortar in St. Louis. I think that it is very important to start that way rather than have my product be picked up by Target (the store) for distribution, for example. The reason why I feel this way is because here in St Louis, unfortunately sometimes people tend to leave the city and start their business or carry their business to another major city. However, I really feel that if more businesses were to stay in St Louis, it would generate more commerce and the city would grow. Not that its not growing now, because it is, but I feel that move out of St Louis can hinder your growth a little bit. It’s really important for people to know where you are from. When I did an event with Fran of HeyFranHey last year, people thought I was from New York, and it’s almost that people don’t expect a certain level of success from someone from St Louis. It can be disheartening in a way but I think being able to change that and prove to people you can have success before popular influencers take notice of your brand. You shouldn’t have to be from a New York, Chicago or Atlanta in order to have a business that thrives. I just want to change that perception before even thinking about taking my business to a large expansion.
Branford: Now the last time we spoke you expressed that you had a collaboration with Charles Wade of Tuff Magazine. Can you tell us about that product and how that collaboration came about?
Tasha: In 2011, Afrobella (Patrice) tweeted about my products and Charles saw her tweet and went online and placed an order. So Patrice reached out to me and asked me if I knew who he was. I said “No not really” and she expressed who he was. So I made sure I got him the product that he ordered sent to him right away. He received it a couple of days later, began using it and fell in love with it. A few days later he contacted me about doing some work together, having an opportunity to network with bloggers.
He thought it would be a good idea to have an event during New York Fashion Week, to have some bloggers come and see the products that I carry and have them try the products as well. We would have some snacks for them and create a relaxing atmosphere so they can come take a break from the hustle and bustle of Fashion week. I thought it was a great idea, so I said what about doing a meet and greet, and he agreed on the idea and the first person to pop in my head was Fran (@HeyFranHey). I knew she was popular but I don’t believe that she had a meet and greet event yet, so I said let’s work with her for the event. What I loved about Fran was that she is about health and being eco friendly. So all these bloggers and a bunch of Fran’s friends came out to the event and the majority of the people I met, I am still friends with today and it was such a valuable experience for me.
After the event Charles brought to my attention that I didn’t have any products for men. Towards the end of 2011 he pushed for the idea but there wasn’t enough time. So it’s been a 2-year process and we finally were able to create a product for men, and the first product we introduced was Beau Balm. Charles really felt he could push the product to his followers and he felt that men as a demographic was wide open and that people were going to be interested. So we launched it in May and in the first 2 weeks we sold 100 units, and we were super happy about it and surprised but since it was a universal product that men and women could use, it appealed to people. Most of my products have Shea butter in it, which makes it heavier, and the Beau Balm was lighter, so it was a refreshing product for people to use for people to use for their skin that didn’t make their skin feel greasy. This all came about by someone very interested in my products and collaborating on the Men’s line.
Branford: Do you have any new products coming out?
Tasha: With everyone still so busy here in Ferguson, I haven’t had much time to plan and execute the new products that I’ve been working on, so in the meantime, I’ve added new fragrance options for the Premium Whipped Shea Butter. These are more seasonal with fragrance options like Blackberry & Sage and Coffee Con Panna.
Branford: Now, we know the Mid West is known for their cooking! What are your favorite foods to eat specifically to St. Louis? What is St Louis known for food wise?
Tasha: Ok, so you can’t come to St Louis without getting BBQ, ribs, Pork Steak - which I found that a lot of other people don’t cook in other states. Pork steaks is very big thing here, you also have to get St Louis style ribs as well. If you go to Chinese restaurants, you must try a Saint Paul and apparently St Louis is the only place Chinese restaurants make them. What a Saint Paul is, is a sandwich that is made up of Egg Foo Young. Egg Foo Young is like eggs scrambled, and you add peppers, onions and some type of meat and you cook it. After that, it’s deep fried and put on white bread with some lettuce, onion, mayo and you enjoy it with a Vess soda, which is exclusive to St. Louis. Vess soda is manufactured here and we have a ton of flavors, like Cream, Strawberry, Grape, Orange. So that’s what you have on the side. I prefer a Shrimp or a Chicken St Paul sandwich. So pretty much a Saint Paul is the big thing and when people come back in town, that’s the first thing they get.
Branford: What are some of your favorite restaurants in St. Louis?
Tasha: My favorite resturants are, first, Bailey’s Range, it’s a Burger and Shake place. Most of the burgers are either going to be chicken, bison, lamb or veggie. They also have adult shakes/boozie shakes. My favorite shake is the Banana’s Foster that has bananas, caramel and rum in it. A few other places I enjoy are Sugarfire Smoke House for BBQ and the other place I can get a really good chicken sandwich is called Delish.
Branford: With running your business have you had time to travel?
Tasha: The last time I traveled, more than 4 hours from St Louis, was I went to Flagler Beach in Florida last summer for a week. My Aunt and Uncle were gracious enough to invite me along with my two cousins and we rented this huge house with the beach literally across the street. It was a very small beach town with a population with about 3,000 people, so for most days you pretty much had the beach to yourself. So that was a great trip.
Branford: Do you have any places that you do want to travel to?
Tasha: On my list is California! I need to get there soon. I would love to visit Texas too. Eventually I want to get my passport so I can travel outside of the country. I definitely want to visit Seychelles in Africa; I already plan to retire there. If you’ve never heard of Seychelles, you look at Africa on the map, on the right side of it, there is a line of islands and that makes up Seychelles. Something that I love is that the people there speak French, English and Creole. Its very much island life, which is chill and laid back, nobody is poor and everyone has health insurance and the weather is perfect year round.
Branford: With all of your efforts in Ferguson can you let our readers know where they can donate?
Tasha: They can make a monetary donation to Operation Help or Hush via PayPal by sending a gift to the email email@example.com. The proceeds are for protestor support (providing snacks, hot coffee/juice, wellness kits and more. Another donation option is to support Missourians Organizing for Reform & Empowerment’s (MORE) legal jail fund, which collects and holds funds for protestors who may need assistance with bonds/bails if arrested during peaceful protest
Branford: Again, Tasha, thank you so much for this interview. We are so proud of you and your business. You have our continued support here at Soul Society and we know great things are in-store for your life!
Interview by Branford Jones
Product Review: Belle Butters – Unyevu Butter
Earlier this summer we featured Belle Butters for our Black Business Feature. We were very impressed with her products and began using them immediatly. For me I have been looking for a product to help with my hair and skin. I found what I needed and that was a Belle Butters product. During our first article the product Beau Balm was highlighted and while that product was amazing Belle Butters has so much to offer.
Another product that I recently started using is Unyevu Butter, pronounced (oon-yay- vu), and has worked tremendously for my skin and hair. The ingredients are: shea butter, refined avocado butter, raw pressed mango butter, apricot kernel oil, sunflower oil, neem oil fragrance, and Vitamin E. These ingredients are super healthy for your skin and hair and I have noticed a change.
In my case, I don’t grow my hair out but I grow my beard out. Having a beard can be challenging because it gets very itchy and it likes to bunch up if not kept. With using the Unyevu butter, it has not been itchy at all, it enriches my beard and makes it easier to comb and wash. With shaving my beard I sometime get bumps as well and with this product, they have decreased. As for my skin, the summer humidity dries my skin on my face and causes me to peel around my nose. With this product it has changed my skin for the better and my skin in that area is healthier and no longer is peeling.
Unyevu Butter has worked wonders for my hair & skin and I really recommend buying this product. You can buy it in 2oz for $7.50, 4oz for $14.00 and 16oz for $26.00 and 32oz for $45.00.
For more information and to buy Belle Butters products you can visit the website: