Loza Tam Founder, Tomara Watkins, On Why Growing a Business is a Marathon, Not a Sprint
After decades of following the trend of chemically treating and straightening our natural hair, many women have finally started to embrace their beautiful curls. It’s a commitment, that’s for sure: whatever your curl type – be it wavy, coily or kinky – it needs a lot of pampering by ways of quality, hydrating and moisturizing products designed to keep it healthy and bouncy with a beautiful shine. One of the reasons why many women have chosen to reach for the straightening iron every morning up until now, is because often it is easier than dealing with frizz or spending time on detangling and styling prior to rushing out for an important business meeting. All that was before they were introduced to Loza Tam, the brand focused on providing the curly-haired community with satin-lined, African print headwraps and turbans designed to keep your hair in check and in style!
We caught up with Loza Tam founder, Tomara Watkins, the former digital marketing director turned entrepreneur, to discuss what made her decide to set up her own business. “I grew up in rural Florida, which borders Southern Georgia – Republican country. My mother and grandmothers were all entrepreneurs, which I had no plan on becoming. They worked entirely TOO much. But, look at me now. After working in corporate America as a digital marketing director for a few years, I realized my personality was more in line with an entrepreneur and running my own business,” Tomara told Fashionomics Africa.
Holding a degree in Chemistry she never used outside of the quantitative analysis in marketing, she admits to having stumbled into the world of advertising. “I wanted to understand online consumer behaviour better at the start. I didn't have any plans on spending eleven years in the industry. However, I discovered that I was good at it and I loved it,” she admits. Next to her professional passion, marketing, Tomara is also an avid traveller. “I have travelled a lot throughout the years. I like to travel solo because I can move easier. I also find that when I'm travelling by myself, it's easier for me to make connections. When I travel with friends, I'm less likely to chat up strangers. Most of the "strangers" I've met on a solo business trip have turned into a great friend or someone that was able to assist me in my business,” Tomara explains.
As a professional woman with curly, textured hair splitting her time between business meetings and travelling, Tomara was starting to get frustrated with having to adhere to time-consuming haircare and styling regimes or, having no other option but to simply tie her curls back. “What made me get into the world of hair accessories was not finding one that was protective enough for my kinky-curly 'fro. What made me keep designing them was just becoming more and more lazy with my hair care routine. As a woman on the move, I want to look and feel cute without the effort. Satin-lined turbans allow me to do that. I can be on a Zoom video conference with suppliers with two, frizzy plaits – but it's my secret,” she smiles.
This is how the idea of the Loza Tam brand was initially born and, after lots of trials and errors and various prototypes, Tomara finally settled on product designs that really worked for women with textured hair. “Remember those "strangers" that I talked about when doing solo travel? That's how I first connected to the group of Ghanaian artisans who produce our products. Relationships are key. All artisans have home-based work spaces throughout various cities in Ghana.” Loza Tam, which stands for women’s empowerment and inspires customers to share their culture and style whilst supporting other women, practically launched from the boot of Tomara’s car. “I was still working full-time as a marketing director. I would carry the products around in my car so that could quickly fulfil online orders from our e-commerce platform,” she laughs. Having opted for a e-commerce also made it easier for the brand to work through the Coronavirus pandemic. “We've always been online, so it wasn't a pivot that we had to make. Plus, considering my background we had an advantage. Initially, we saw a slow-down and then the demand spiked.”
Loza Tam has launched to a cracking start, giving Tomara high hopes for 2021 and beyond. “My goal is to continue to improve our products, improve our supply chain, and add more quality members to the team. We're still growing. It's a marathon not a sprint. I want all entrepreneurs to really understand that. We live in a world that operates with a destination focused mindset. There really is no destination and the journey has no port. If you approach your business with the same understanding, then you'll be prepared for a long term investment in your business. If you examine other brands that are successful like Nike or LuluLemon for example, you'll notice that it took years (decades even) for the companies to become household names. Unless you have millions of dollars in VC money, which most minority founded companies don't, then you need to prepare your mindset for a longer journey. There will be major disappointments, times where you want to say "screw it" and conversely there will also be rewarding times that remind you why you started it all. Your business is going to be the sum of all those moments,” Tomara reflects on her experience.
Learn from Tomara’s advice and be sure to invest in Loza Tam’s stylish and chic way for you to look and feel great whilst keeping your curls protected and in check!