Fashion meets functionality with the amazing array of the self-titled products created by founder Grace Eleyae. The Grace Eleyae products were created with hair care at the forefront of each individual item that ranges from cult favorites like satin pillowcases, headbands, and turbans to specialty items such as wool hats, fedoras, and a wax print collection. Grace was inspired to create her products after a 16 hour road trip in Kenya left her with a circle of breakage in the middle of her head. “That experience started the idea that there has to be a fashionable and functional way to protect my hair. Over the course of the next year the idea developed and we were able to create the first prototype for the “Slaps” in February 2014.” After the product was featured by a popular YouTuber the “Slaps” (Satin-Lined Cap) were an immediate success which later led to the development of Grace Eleyae, Inc.

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These modern protective products combine satin and silk to give naturalistas healthier hair by retaining moisture, helping prevent split ends, and reducing hair breakage.This special blend that is used in every Grace Eleyae product also prevents frizz by keeping the cuticles protected, are hypoallergenic which can help with breakouts, and can reduce hair loss which is optimal for hair growth. Customers are given a variety of options to choose from whether they are looking for protection on-the-go with a hat or opting for a more casual look with the classic Slap. Grace has transformed the concept of hair protection that a naturalista usually uses at night to versatile products meant to enhance individual style whether you’re at the office or gym. We were delighted to talk to Grace about how these products help protect textured hair, the story behind her first product, and what legacy she continues to cultivate as the business grows.

What inspired the name of your first prototype “Slaps?”

My mom and my younger sister initially called the prototype a “satin lined cap” when it was first made and I kept thinking there was a word that is specific to the product. It’s not quite a beanie or a bonnet, we used to say if the beanie and bonnet had a baby it would be the Slap. We don’t want to call it just a beanie because it has satin inside. We played around with a few phrases and words when my mom tried to combine the words to name it a “Sleanie.” She actually ended up coming up with the final name just by reiterating the concept of “Satin Lined Caps” which transformed organically into Slaps.

What makes your brand/collection unique?

We always reiterate that our products are a perfect blend of fashion and function. Our goal is to create products that make confidence look effortless. After the initial creation of the Slaps we wanted to expand on the notion of going from bed to the boardroom in 10 minutes flat without having to put a lot of work into doing their hair, essentially saving them time. We want people to combine the fashion elements of a beanie or turban with a headband with the protective element of satin on the inside.

You feature an array of products from accessories to caps and pillowcase. What are your favorites and why?

My favorite is the turban in all forms. I wear my hair in wash n go (TWA Afro) and so the turban works really well to just pop on my fro whether I’m going out to the store or heading to bed.

Can you explain the different benefits between using a turban vs. a headband?

The turban works really well to protect every strand of hair all the way to the end. Turbans work really well with my TWA because of the ease of use, even if my hair is pushing up against it will still have a full, volumized look. The headband is specifically for the edges and the hair around the nape or neck like someone with long hair, wearing braids, or sporting a pineapple.

You currently have three collections...The Good Morning America Collection, The Hat Collection, and The Wax Print Collection. What inspires the name of each collection and what products are featured? 

The collections are specific to whatever need we are solving. For the “Good Morning America Collection,” we partnered with the network for one of their segments and wanted to include those products for customers on our website. I’m half Nigerian/half Kenyan and wax prints are very prevalent in our culture because we wear them to parties or everyday life so I wanted to create bold and beautiful products that showcased my heritage for “The Wax Print Collection.” When we created the hats we wanted to solve the need that hats rub up against the edges and cause friction against the hair. “The Hat Collection” has a satin lined inside specifically for addressing that issue in a fashionable way.

What was the transition like taking your business from Etsy to Grace Eleyae, Inc.?

We actually sold on Etsy and our website in tandem for a while, we didn’t immediately shut down our Esty store once the website was up and running. We started with our website and worked on garnering traffic, improving our SEO, building an email list, and then started outreaching to customers at Etsy, eBay, and Amazon. They already had a platform and base we could reach out to immediately.

The advantage to having a website is you aren’t limited or restricted to the communication guidelines and rules of the third-party platforms. You can speak directly to your customers and offer new products or have to deal with the fees. The challenge is driving customers to your website because you don’t have the advantage of people naturally being on Etsy and then finding your store, you can go through advertising, Google ads,or social media. Once they visit our website one of our big focuses when we first started was capturing as many emails as possible so we could directly communicate with people interested in our brand.

What is your advice for naturalistas wanting to wear “hair protection” but not knowing where to start?

We always start with the original Slaps, but it does depend on a few factors like hair length, curl pattern, or how you sleep at night. If you are sleeping with your curly and free you could start with a satin pillowcase, headband, or turban. When my hair is in twists I love wearing the Slaps, but when it’s been in a TWA I’ll wear a turban. If you wear a pineapple and your hair gets big you could start with a headband and pair it with a satin pillowcase. All of these items are great for helping protect your hair.

Top tips to grow your business?

Every business is unique and I always say find the pool where your customers are playing in and jump in there. If your demographic is playing in Instagram/Facebook then you want to invest in social media advertising. In general you should always be growing your email list and investing in that platform. You always want to be where your customers are. Influencers can be helpful, but if they aren’t in your demographic then you could have no return. It took us a few years to hone in on who we were speaking to and finding the right tools for our business. Adapt your strategy for the business that you are in.

Best advice for other entrepreneurs…

I would have two pieces of advice: Surround yourself with people speaking life into your dream and not your fear. For me, I’m blessed with family and people around me who have helped me grow my business. You want to have mentors, partners, employees, and friends who are actively helping propel your dream forward. Another one is to keep going, I don’t attribute any of my success to serendipity and strategy. If you can find hope in any situation then you can keep going and conquer the mountain. If you have to pivot, do it, but don’t stop moving forward.

What type of legacy do you strive to leave?

Everything we have done has focused on empowerment and community. We have contributed and helped to give resources like water wells, funding education in rural villages in Africa, and providing men and women with training. The idea of empowerment and empowering people to lead in their realm of influence is a leading factor in how I drive my business.