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Visit any major natural hair show or event, and you'll most likely spot the big, bold afro and beautiful smile of Karen Tappin. Karen, founder and CEO of Karen’s Body Beautiful, is a walking advertisement for her successful hair care line.

Her brand has grown by leaps and bounds this year, including launching in Target stores and earning awards from media outlets like NaturallyCurly.com and Jones Magazine. Karen was named as one of PopSugar.com's "10 Most Influential Women in Beauty," alongside such luminaries as Estée Lauder, Coco Chanel,  Mary Kay Ash, Madame C.J. Walker and Bobbi Brown.

We sat down with Karen to find out how it all started and learn about the conversation she’s having with women everywhere, “Real Hair Talk,” for her “Real Hair Talk Jamaica Getaway Contest”.

NaturallyCurly: Tell us how Karen’s Body Beautiful began!

Karen Tappin: KBB started in 2003.  I was a high school history teacher at the time and I would get home from work and research and experiment with natural ingredients. Back then, I just worked on candle and body product recipes. As teacher, I heard a lot of stories about young girls and women facing challenges around hair care.  I started reading product labels and realized that many of the ingredients used in hair products had questionable value and made the decision to create better alternatives.

NC: Your afro has become quite iconic! You’re featured in the new book “AFROS – A Celebration of Natural Hair” and upcoming documentary on natural hair, “Follicle.” Tell us about why you went natural, and why a ‘fro?

KT: My husband helped me make the decision.  One day when I told him I was going to my hair ‘done,’ he asked me “why?” I realized he was really asking why I felt the need to change my hair by relaxing it.  In his eyes it was unnecessary. That made me stop and think about why I was straightening my hair.  That moment marked the beginning of my transition.

I wear a ‘fro because it makes a bold and powerful statement. It says I’m happy with myself, I accept myself. It’s liberating. I walk the walk, I don’t just talk the talk. 

Watch Karen Talk About Loving Your Texture

NC: Tell us about how you create products. What’s your process?

KT: In the beginning, it was about what my hair needed because I was searching for solutions to my personal issues. Now the process is customer-centered. We’re dedicated to meeting the needs of our customers, so we have focus groups and interact directly with them at meet-ups, shows and events. I strive to give KBB users the most effective products for all of their hair styling and maintenance needs. Ingredients really matter — that’s my mantra — so I have built KBB around products that contain natural ingredients that I take the time to extensively research and test.

NC: Why do you think KBB products are so popular in the community?

KT: Our products appeal to many women because we meticulously research the best natural ingredients for skin and hair. Our research has also helped me dispense advice to our consumers when I met them face to face.  I think those conversations help people feel even more confident about the brand because they realize I’m passionate and knowledgeable about textured hair.   Our products also smell really great! They come in thirteen different fragrances, so there’s something for everyone.

NC: You’re starting a “Real Hair Talk” conversation? Why is this important to women?

KT: As women, we are bombarded by a beauty standard that basically declares only specific type attractive, which is maddening. So, regardless of your race or ethnicity, you almost certainly start out thinking that you need to have the same hair color, eye color, body type, skin tone and hair type you’re seeing in magazines and movies. It’s especially challenging for Black women because we are naturally furthest from that standard.

Hair is just a small part of the “beauty equation”, but hopefully this discussion helps women feel more comfortable with themselves. We want to make them aware of the ways they may be compromising their health with harmful practices and synthetic chemicals, in the name of beauty. We need to change the perception of coily hair. Our goal is eliminating myths and spreading the truth about what our hair can and cannot do. Our hair is not bad, frizz is NOT a four letter word. It’s normal and natural. Our textures shouldn’t be vilified or given any kind of negative label.

Watch Karen Talk Frizz

NC: Tell us about the “Real Hair Talk Jamaica Getaway Contest.”

KT: We’re having a contest in which customers purchase Karen’s Body Beautiful products at Target stores from now until October 5, and email their receipts to jamaica@karensbodybeautiful.com or enter here for a chance to win the grand prize of an all-expenses paid five day trip for two to the beautiful island of Jamaica. We’ll be having the “Real Hair Talk” Meet-up in Jamaica where we’ll celebrate our natural hair, dispel the myths and motivate women to empower themselves.

NC: What are the most common questions women ask you about their hair?

KT: Probably the most frequently asked question is how to keep hair moisturized and soft while supporting healthy growth. I let women know that finding products that work for their hair is process of trial and error and I advise them not to get frustrated. Don’t give in to hype, give products a chance to work, and seek advice, reviews and tutorials from bloggers and natural hair advocates with your hair type.

NC: What advice do you have for women who are thinking about going natural but think natural hair is difficult to manage?

KT: Going natural will mean learning new hair care techniques. It’s a lot easier once you accept that natural hair will not behave like relaxed hair. Once you use the right products and find a couple of go-to styles that work for your lifestyle, it becomes so much easier. Have fun with it! It’s a personal journey, so focus on you during your transition. Focus on accepting and loving your unique self.

0 Comments
Dear Karen, you should check out an article on venture beat about customer service. "Good customer service isn’t about automating and digitizing the entire process, but rather about connecting customers with real humans in an efficient and effective way." It is a shame that the woman featured is not a reflection of the customer service experienced with her business. I have been an ordering customer since 2009 and the service was great in the beginning. I would get my orders quickly and if there were any issues, I was able to call the shop and get a live person. Now, the phone number goes straight to voicemail. I am a twenty-something so I am used to automated technology, but when it comes to business issues, there is no substitute for a live person. Unfortunately, an order I placed and intended to be a gift, was ignored and later cancelled with a refund from their end. Their customer service rep, Judy is the one who emailed me this information. I got no explanation as to why they charged my card when they didn't have the item, and when I expressed a desire to simply get the item on backorder via email, I got static silence. They literally handed a customer money back when they could have just sent out the item at a later date. They never followed up with information about when the item would be back in stock to re-order, even though their website was showing it was in stock. Karen's team also posted the item on their facebook page, encouraging customers to order, four days after I had already placed my order. This means that the item was out of stock when they were telling people to order it. That makes no business sense really. I have seen customer service complaints in the past about Karen's Body Beautiful and one is even listed on the Better Business Bureau site. Yet, I figured those were isolated events. Now that I have experienced it personally, I no longer see her as a black owned business success story. Success does not last when you have no returning customers.

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