Calling all curly girls, there is a product for naturally curly hair that needs to be on your radar. Any natural curly head knows the difficulty of reviving damaged hair from heat tools, maintaining a consistent curl pattern, preventing frizzy dryness and finding a product that works for your specific hair type.
There are thousands of “curly” products on the market, but not all of them are as helpful or curly-specific as they claim to be. Nakia Amour Smith-Dedner became, not entirely on purpose, a local curly expert after creating a hair care line made out of natural ingredients that cater to natural curly hair.
Around ten years ago, Smith-Dedner hadn’t yet found her passion, her true-calling. By complete accident, she discovered a need she didn’t know she had and the pieces came together. “I got started because a young lady just had this beautiful curl pattern at church. I’m sitting behind her and I’m like, “Oh my gosh, how did she style her hair like that?” I thought she must have used a roller or something. Once I built up the courage to actually go up to her and introduce myself,” Smith-Dedner pauses to laugh at herself, “She said she had been chemically relaxing her hair and that she had gotten to a point to where she couldn’t chemically relax her hair anymore because the chemicals were taking her hair out. She didn’t have an option but to not put any chemicals on her hair.” Smith-Dedner was shocked to find out that the beautiful curl pattern was the woman’s natural hair. During a time when naturally curly hair wasn’t praised or given the recognition it deserved, Smith-Dedner was amazed at the woman’s ability to find a product that enhanced and complimented her natural curls.
The mesmerized Smith-Dedner became interested in her own hair and curl pattern. “At that time, there wasn’t anything on the market specifically for curly hair. I wasn’t having any issues with my hair, I was just curious. I decided to take the journey, and upon deciding to take that journey, I didn’t realize how unfamiliar I was with my own natural curl pattern. I had in my brain that my hair was going to look a specific way but that wasn’t the case because you can have several different textures of hair on one head. You may have really tight curls in the front and really loose curls in the back and really frizzy hair in the middle,” Smith-Dedner says.
She explains what a challenge the beginning of her hair journey was with finding products, mixing and matching those different products and coming to the conclusion that nothing was giving her the results she wanted. “I decided maybe I could make something myself. I started kind of messing around in my own kitchen mixing things. I started out just mixing oil, but then I found out that when you mix oil, you only get more oil,” she laughs. Researching which ingredients work best with curly hair and textured hair led her down a rabbit hole of endless information on the best methods to care for curly hair. “I wasn’t necessarily trying to solve a problem for all curlies, I was just trying to figure out the issue I was having with my hair.”
Once she had figured out a recipe and routine, the compliments started coming in. “At first I thought, “Oh, they’re just being nice,” but then it started happening more and more often,” she says. Her husband also noticed the attention her hair was getting and asked her what her next move was. “I’ve done different side businesses through the years, but nothing really kept my attention. I guess because this was my own thing, something I created, I found passion in it. From there, I was flying by the seat of my pants,” she laughs. She became fully-immersed in the world of curly hair and sharing the knowledge she gained along the way. After six to nine months, Smith-Dedner found a mixture that worked.
“In 2011, I had a friend that allowed me to speak at a convention. At the time, I was super nervous to speak in front of so many people about hair care and I felt like everything came out in one sentence. There were probably around 60 people there, and afterwards they came and talked to me about my presentation and how much they learned,” Smith-Dedner says.
Two people from the convention recommended the Green Corner Store to her as a possible place to sell her product. “I walked into this store with my products in cellophane bags. The manager listened to my spill and said that she was interested in selling my product only that I would need to consider a more eco-friendly packaging,” she laughs. “I was so embarrassed! The name of the store is the GREEN Corner Store and go in there with all my plastic – I just wanted it to look pretty!” she laughs some more at the memory from ten years ago. Everything was sorted out with packaging and Nakia Amour Naturally Curly Hair Care is still sold in the Green Corner Store along with a few others that picked up Smith-Dedner not too long after.
“I shopped at Drug Emporium all the time and there was a man looking in my basket – I’d never seen him before. He said to me, “You getting ready for the storm coming in?” because I had lots of water and aloe vera in my buggy – ingredients in my products – and we had been having lots of storms around that time. I later asked the cashier who the man was and she told me he was a buyer for the store. I was like, “Oh my gosh, he probably saw the scowl on my face because I was trying to figure out who he was,” she laughs. After their confusing run-in, Smith-Dedner set up an appointment with the buyer and he decided to carry her products in the store. “I was actually one of the first African American hair care products to be carried in that particular store location because they carry a lot of big brand names, but not necessarily for African American hair. I was very, very honored that he decided to help me out.”
A deal with Whole Foods crossed Smith-Dedner’s path next, and from that point on her business was established and solid. She began working with an expert in business for advice on the next steps, what to prepare for and how to keep things moving. “Everything started moving fast and it was overwhelming at times, there was so much to learn. I didn’t have a background in business, and everyone I worked with was so patient with me and just unbelievably kind,” she says. She learned about barcode labels and their placement and received numerous suggestions on how to take her business to the next level. “I always bring up divine intervention because I just believe that was God taking my hand and telling me He was going to walk me through the steps.”
The products are made from natural ingredients that Smith-Dedner poured months of research and trial and error into. She learned all there was to know about curly hair and how to properly care for natural textured hair using natural ingredients that wouldn’t be damaging to curl pattern or follicles. “I learned that there were some ingredients that necessarily work well with textured hair. Sulfates, I learned, that are commonly found in shampoo actually dries out the hair,” she shares. Any person with curly hair knows all too well how dry curls can get and how sometimes, moisture seems like a far away dream. “Water is, of course, the main source of moisture. I always tell people to drink water as a form of lifestyle change and you’re on to a good start to restoring moisture in the hair. A lot of people turn to oils for moisture, but oil is not where moisture is found. Oil is wonderful for sealing in moisture once it’s in, but there needs to be something providing that moisture.”
Her abundance of knowledge in how to treat hair types and what works best is all provided with each purchase of her products. She has created instructions on how to use her products, when to use different products and what the products are targeted for. “Different textures need different things. I try to go along with an ingredient that’s going to work for the majority of my customers. I always give my customers an educational piece so they can understand their hair better and have a better knowledge base of what products to look for and what ingredients to look for.”
Smith-Dedner believes that knowing about individual textures is vital. “It’s very easy to get confused because the curly and textured hair is a different language than what you hear about hair care most of the time. Not everyone is familiar with like, some of the types and the terminology being used. I find ways to inform people without drowning them because it can definitely be overwhelming,” she says. Smith-Dedner receives emails and messages all the time from curly and textured hair people about proper care, and she says it’s one of her favorite parts about her job. “They’re generally the same questions most of the time, so I can just pop and email back to them. This is why I enjoy being local because other vendors are too big and really being informative or as hands-on as I am. I have the capacity and the ability to really be able to connect and help my customers.”
The Nakia Amour website will soon have an “Education” tab that will provide more readily available information on hair care tips and product information. A “FAQs” tab is already available for people curious to learn more or finally have that nagging question about parched hair answered. Prior to COVID-19, Smith-Dedner would do educational workshops on the weekends, and with the eventful past year, she has done quite a few online and virtual educational videos. “We’ll be uploading the videos soon, and there will also be a printable PDF to read the information,” she explains.
Smith-Dedner started a business a decade ago completely by accident, but she doesn’t regret it for a second. In fact, she would encourage others to accidentally, or purposefully, turn their passions into careers. “I want people to know that if there is something that is a burning desire that they have inside of them, and they’re thinking about stepping out or doing something, don’t allow fear to stop them. That almost happened to me. I question my background so much, but it’s okay. Nobody really starts out knowing 100 percent of everything, you just learn along the way. If you trip, if you fail, it’s okay. You can keep going,” she says. “I surprised myself in many ways, some things I didn’t think I had the ability to do. I got over my fear of talking in front of people and just kind of talking off-the-cuff. I just feel very very confident with the information that I give. Every now and then I have to tell myself to slow down because I’m very passionate about it. I started back in 2011, but it’s 2021 and I still feel the same excitement.”
Being a local producer, Smith-Dedner knows and understands her customers. Always supporting our own, she has felt the love from the community and is excited for what else they can do together. “We have an amazing customer base here. Locally I’m in Little Rock Arkansas and I am just so grateful for them. They have kept me in business because my business people keep telling other people about the products and about what I do. So I really, really, really have a heart for my customers.”
Find her online store here or find Nakia Amour products in the Green Corner Store, Drug Emporium and Whole Foods.