When you think of a beauty pageant, what requirements comes to mind? While a tall, slim figure and a sleek head of hair come to mind for most, Maureen A. Ochola and Jessica E. Boyd want to change that way of thinking forever. And their mission has started in South Carolina with the third annual Miss Naturally Crowned Carolina pageant. As the two small business owners gear up for their January 31st ceremony, they share a few important points on what makes this pageant so special compared to others.

We're highlighting natural hair...and add on the business element because that's what you need to be successful in business. Confidence.

Requirement: be a beauty with a business plan

In true pageant form, this one focuses mainly on beauty, poise, and intellect. But there are some major twists in this competition for the women between the ages of 19 and 30. Contestants all women of color with natural hair and an entrepreneurial attitude. They are required to prepare and present a well-composed business plan to a panel of judges through a rigorous Q&A interview.

Contestants' individual business proposals are prepared with the help of seminars, coaches, and other guidance from other business professionals. To date, half of the competitors involved in Miss Naturally Crowned Carolina have successfully formed their own businesses beyond just a concept. Being a business owner herself, that fact makes Boyd proud. "When [contestants] saw that we were able to have the idea for the beauty supply store and also have the idea for the pageant...a lot of them were inspired to go ahead and start their own businesses."

Powering popularity through social media

Boyd and Ochola thank their social media accounts for taking a huge part in exposure of their annual event and allowing them to continue since 2013. Boyd believes it contributed to the leveraging of many of the past contestants' successes beyond of the pageant, as well. "The impact it had on the girls and the community, in general, took a life of its own," she mentions.

Leveraging natural hair to the rest of the world

Miss Naturally Crowned Carolina is a pageant truly unlike any other right now in the United States. "Ultimately, we want it to be the Miss Universe of natural hair," says Boyd of her third annual sold-out celebration. The two business partners hope to expand on their accomplishments in the near future. And they make it clear that efforts aren't just for monetary purposes, but with a special spotlight on go-getter Black women embracing their god-given beauty and feeling comfortable in the skin they're in.

Keep up with all of Ochola & Boyd's business and community endeavors. Follow them on Instagram @NaturallyCrownedCarolina. And if you are in the area and want to become a contestant, fill out an application on the Naturally Crowned Carolina website.

Photos courtesy of Maurice George, Columbia, South Carolina photographer