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Maya Smith is the founder and CEO of The Doux, sucka-free haircare that evokes style, charisma, and a whole lot of attitude reminiscent of 90s hip hop and nostalgia. In 2009, after being stationed in Germany with her husband, Maya Smith opened a natural hair salon that catered to women with active lifestyles. She sought to reinvigorate and reinvent the natural hair care market with products that “delivered salon results in half the time.” Maya wanted to take the guesswork out of natural hair prep by eliminating the numerous steps needed to achieve one result, so she spent two years working with a team of chemists to create the luxury haircare line The Doux. As a licensed cosmetologist and hair care educator, Maya’s perspective on beauty has been shaped through her experience as a woman of color but by the “thousands of real-life salon experiences over a 26-year career. She describes that what makes The Doux unique is “that it merges our understanding of the culture with our applied knowledge of professional hair care.”

The Doux is vivacious, charismatic, and reflects the vibrant attitude of the 90s in its packaging and clever product names. As a Queen Bey approved product, customers can look forward to using a product created by a founder who has done extensive research formulating ingredients that provide curl definition, moisture, and hydration specifically formulated for all natural hair textures. The Doux also features its own salon in Macon, Georgia with Doux professionals and experts who specialize in curly, kinky, and wavy hair types. Customers can look forward to a one of a kind experience that celebrates the beauty of their natural hair with blowouts, twist outs, rod sets, and more using The Doux products from start to finish. We chatted with Maya Smith to chat about the creative and chemical minds behind the Doux, what’s bumping on their playlist, and her legacy.

What was the formulation process like?

The formulation process was kind of a collaborative “dance” between my chemists and myself. While they had the chemical engineering background, they didn’t necessarily have experience behind the chair to understand the specific needs of my clients. In the same respect, while I’m educated in the science of cosmetology, I didn’t possess the chemical engineering background to create products that performed the way I needed them to in the salon. When developing The Doux, I was able to use my clients as my focus group to test and evaluate my products until they met my standards.

What key ingredients did you choose to implement?

At The Doux, the quality of the ingredients and the performance of the formula as a whole is what matters most to us. I’ve always stayed away from calling out botanical ingredients to market my products, because many of the claims used to sell natural hair care products have little to do with the product’s performance. The science of cosmetology and hair care steers all of my decisions with my brand.

What are the inspirations behind the creative labels of your products?

I’m a visual artist and a product of hip hop culture, street art, and nostalgia. My creative influences just tend to come out in my work. I wanted my packaging and design aesthetic to speak to my personal journey by reflecting the joy and innocence of growing up as a teenager in the 90s.

The Doux also has a signature salon in Georgia, what makes this salon experience unique?

The Doux Salon is not only about ambiance, it’s about education. Our salon experience is focused on guiding our clients through the process of caring for their hair, by first helping them understand it. An appointment in my salon is more like a therapy session. We explain the truth about hair from a scientific, factual perspective, and help to debunk the damaging myths that are stunting our guest’s progress. By the time a guest leaves, they are armed with the tools they need to care for their hair long-term.

What are some of the hardest lessons you’ve learned and what did they teach you?

The hardest part of being an entrepreneur is walking away from opportunities when they don’t serve your brand’s values. I’ve left a lot of money on the table, and have allowed some professional relationships to dissolve in order to hold on to my brand’s integrity. As difficult as it has been to decline in some instances, in the end, I’ve realized that I have dodged lots of bullets.

How do you define success and then what keeps you motivated, especially during hard times?

I believe that you can be a success long before anyone recognizes it. For me, success is about operating in my gifting. I believe that I was created to be in a lane all my own and that no one can doux what I doux the way that I doux it! If I’m doing what I’m called to do, I can’t lose. I think that if you stay in that space, your season comes around when you’re ready.

If you could go back to the beginning with the knowledge you have now, what advice would you give yourself and why?

I think I would have encouraged myself to have more confidence in my vision. When I started, there was no one in the industry doing what I was doing, especially overseas. I bet on myself and invested in my brand, but I wish I hadn’t been as emotionally affected by the lack of enthusiasm from people around me.

Best advice for other entrepreneurs…

Mind your business. Worrying about someone else’s perceived success opens the door to a lack of focus and discouragement.

What are three “Doux” centric songs that would be on your playlist right now?

  • Mass Appeal - Gang Starr
  • Don’t Sweat The Technique - Erik B. & Rakim
  • It Ain’t Hard to Tell - NAS

What legacy do you strive to leave?

Authenticity. It’s important to me for people who see my work with The Doux to have more confidence in being themselves, not only in the way they wear their hair but in the way they express their thoughts and philosophies about beauty. The culture needs more people who are willing to go against the grain and speak on the facts, in spite of what’s being marketed to them. I feel like I’ve done that.