Say hello to Pardon My Fro, a brand that is fierce, funky, and crafted to help women embrace their hairstyle and heritage. Created by graphic designer turned CEO Dana Bly, Pardon My Fro™ is an exclusive lifestyle brand that includes haircare, home decor, bags, and signature apparel including illustrative kimonos crafted specifically for women proud of their hair and their heritage. This year Dana expanded her brand into Pardon My Fro’s hair assortment which includes: Moisturizing Hair Milk, Curl Enhance Conditioner, Detangler Leave-In Conditioner, Edge Slayer, Mousse, and Growth Oil. We sat down with Dana to chat about creating her first haircare line, her experience as a designer, and her entrepreneurial journey.
How did your experience as a graphic designer impact how you approached the versatility of textured hair?
I think when I first started designing, I literally probably self-consciously was always designing tight curls because my hair was sporty. It wasn’t until I learned about different textures of hair and got inspiration from my friends that I expanded my designs. I realized that natural hair comes in all different shapes and sizes and I feel like it definitely changed over the years. If you see a design from like 2010 versus now, you’ll definitely see some versatility in that.
How did your entrepreneurial journey inspire you to create your latest fellowship for start-ups?
I was very excited to be able to do this partnership with Bethany Baptist Church when they approached me for the experience I felt like it was right on time. I’ve been in the industry for eleven years and I remember how difficult it was starting out. How I wanted to do things and I couldn’t because of finances and resources. Understanding where to start and who to talk to is half the battle. I remember when I needed to connect with a bag manufacturer and learn how to bring the design to the product and determine what should it look like. I struggled at the beginning to try to find my niche. Resources, operational support, and money were definitely the top three challenges I needed to take this journey to the next level.
Your brand features apparel, home decor, and bags; which products did you create first and why?
I started designing prints first because it was the most cost-efficient, I could print at home, using my printer to save money, so it was a no-brainer. First, as I started selling my prints and going to different vending shows, I started looking at what other brands were selling there. I was there with my parents, and I was proud of that, but then I saw T-shirts and mugs. I think I fell into being a lifestyle brand by accident because I was basically gearing up for what my customers were telling me. If they’re like oh, I have your artwork on the wall, but I would love to be able to have your brand out on the street with me as a travel bag, sweatshirt, and t-shirt.
Overall, I was just listening to my customer base and transformed into a lifestyle, and I felt like the art that I was designing could easily transition to a variety of lifestyle pieces. I was always into interior design, always changing my bed and my wall space every season. but it was very expensive to do. I started with the prints and then gave myself the freedom to venture into home decor so then I transitioned into mugs.
What have you learned from creating your first collection?
When I worked with the chemist, I really wanted to make sure that whatever we did, it was just going to be focused on hydration and moisture had to be the key. I built the hair care line based on my experiences of being a type 4C. I felt like my hair never got washed, moisturized enough, and never got hydrated enough. My scalp was always so dry, so I examined all the brands that I knew worked for me. I’ve brought it back to the chemist and said, well, these are the ingredients that work for me. It was very intentional for me to make sure that anything that we put out, that it definitely has hydration.
What have you learned from creating your first hair care collection?
I’m still learning. We launched in Walmart in February and the overall experience has been great. I always never want to complain about anything and take everything in stride. When I started out I was really nervous because I felt like it was already being done right because the brands that I was using for my hair were still very successful. It really took me about a month to sit on the idea with my partners came to me with the challenge to determine how I could make myself different in the market. I’m an artist first and that’s the difference that you’re going to see in my brand is that I am an artist first and this hairstyle line is an extension of my passion and how I connect with my customers.
I’m learning about the business side of dealing with retailers and what customers like and just recently had my first experience at a natural hair show. When you have something like a brand baby, you just want to protect it, so you want to ensure that you’re doing the right things.
The journey definitely has had its ups and downs, but I’ve really been enjoying it.
What is your favorite product out of the entire collection and what are your recommendations for using it?
In the beginning, it was the hair milk because it’s a heavy cream, but it’s very moisturizing, and hydrating. Recently, our Edge Boss won the Pop Sugar Beauty Award for Best Edge Control of the Year which my daughter used frequently because she was always wearing braids. This has become my favorite because it smells good, it’s compact, and travel-friendly.
How have you seen the natural haircare landscape evolve since you started your business in 2010?
2012 was when the natural hair movement kind of got started, so I’ve seen it all and I’ve been to all the hair shows. I think the biggest difference I’ve seen is really utilizing influencers because even back then before there was even that word influencer I feel like we had the OG influences, but they just weren’t titled that. I wanted someone to be able to use the product, for them to be genuine, and I didn’t want it to be like a business transaction.
People were really tired of putting perms and chemicals in their hair at that point, and so I’m glad to see that it’s grown so much. I’m just excited to be part of it now and to be in that whole journey with them, because I was just doing natural hair art back then, just trying to keep up with the differences and the changes.
Will you be adding the Pardon My Fro products to your shelf this year? They recently expanded the haircare line with the brand’s first set of hair tools this summer!