Purple is a color that Laurence Casimir remembers well from her childhood. Born with eczema, the Montreal resident’s skin would literally turn purple when she was experiencing flare-ups. Doctors kept writing new prescriptions, but after a while, the prescribed creams had very little effect on Laurence’s skin problems. As early as 11 years-of-age, she was placed on a diet that was heavy on vegetables and fruits and low on sugar and grease.
Laurence and her family started to experiment with pure aloe vera, and they noticed that she experienced few skin crises. This encouraged her to take up experimenting with plants as a hobby. After graduating from college and working in finance for a bit, Laurence decided that she wasn’t too taken by that field.
It was around this time that her old hobby started to renew itself. She started reading books about the science of hair and plants, and even began taking classes about herbs and cosmetic formula development. “Each and every single product I was making and formulating made me feel so happy and at bliss,” she recalls of that time. “That’s when I realized I had found one my passions and so decided to quit my job and share this passion with the world by opening my own 100% natural and handcrafted cosmetic enterprise, Ayacaona.”
Ayacaona! Now, that’s quite a unique name! The line not only features natural hair products but 100% handmade and organic creams, and lip balms and lotions. Kreyolicious conversed with the Canadian-born natural hair products entrepreneur to learn more about it…from when the idea of Ayacaona started to take shape, up to its fruition…
Kreyolicious: How did you develop the concept for Ayacaona?
I transitioned for a little over a year and during this period of time I was learning a lot about hair, especially afro, curly, dry hair and how to take of it. I had decided that this time I would stay natural no matter what and realized that there weren’t any natural or organic products available for my hair type in Montreal, so I started making my own products the very day of my Big Chop. I also wanted for other women like me to be able to afford 100% pure natural and organic products for their hair and skin. Therefore, a few years later, after a lot of research, studies and formula development, I started my own enterprise, Ayacaona. I chose that name because I wanted to go back to basics meaning taking care of my hair and skin the way our ancestors did before chemical ingredients were invented. Anacaona’s story had always inspired me. She was the Queen of island Hispaniola, now Haiti and the Dominican Republic and was known for her beauty, intelligence and poetic skills. “Aya” meaning The Creator in Taïno, I decided to play with the two words which both represented the essence of the company.
Kreyolicious: Can you tell us about a day in the life of your running your own beauty business?
I usually wake up around 7:30-8 a.m. and take the time to make a healthy breakfast which usually includes juicing, and then I go walk the dogs. I find it very important to be healthy physically and mentally to be able to run a company and stay productive and focused. When I get to my desk, I start by answering emails, returning phone calls and making a to do list for the day. My to do lists may consist of anything from administrative work to research and development or production and inventory. I finish my day anywhere from 6pm to midnight depending on the amount of work that I need to do. The days I enjoy the most are my “lab days” where I get to go to the lab and focus on production and creating little jars of love and happiness.
Kreyolicious: In an interview, Carol’s Daughter founder Lisa Price said that one of the things she’s learned while in business is to move forward regardless of her fears. What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned about entrepreneurship?
I can say I’ve learned a lot since I became an entrepreneur but one of my biggest lesson is what you think you create. This lesson has helped me through so much aspects of my personal an professional life. I am now much more serene and can manage stress more easily and moreover, it helped me manifest positive solutions and results.
Um…it’s a difficult question to answer since it changes season after season. I would say that the Guada and the Bana are the two most popular ones at the moment. My customers are completely in love with the Bana which was launched this year, it is the hair dryness Super Saviour! And the Guada would be the most “universal” hair cream for naturals and curlies as it hydrates and provides hold and definition without ever being too heavy.
Kreyolicious: What else should we expect from your brand?
I’m so excited because I’m on the verge of starting a calendar for 2016! There are many projects underway for 2015 for Ayacaona. The brand will expand its distribution channels, and develop a better presence on social media as well as introducing new products. We will also have other surprises too!
Kreyolicious: If you were approached by an aspiring entrepreneur, what would you tell her about the road ahead?
Oh wow, so much to say! But I wouldn’t want to scare her, so I would be short and sweet and tell her that the only thing that really matters: Do what makes you feel alive, what makes you feel truly happy. Don’t worry about the obstacles ahead and focus on the positive feelings. And always remember the reason why you started, but the one most important thing is that you do…so keep advancing—no matter what.
[Main Photo Credit: Lidia Barreiros. All others courtesy of subject. ]