From History Teacher to Haircare Entrepreneur: How One Woman Made the Transition

Karen Tappin, CEO, Karen's Body Beautiful (Image: Karen's Body Beautiful)

Wife. Mother. Former educator. Entrepreneur. All of these titles embody the career journey of Karen Tappin, CEO and founder of natural haircare line, Karen’s Body Beautiful. Tappin has helmed a product line that started from her kitchen and went on to expand into a spa and store in Brooklyn, N.Y., to big-box store Target. Her brand has been able to withstand the test of time and a market almost saturated by a focus on “natural” or “organic” haircare products that offer women who wear their natural coifs more options than ever before. caught up with the busy businesswoman to talk tips on her transition from the education industry into beauty entrepreneurship:

What prompted you to get into the natural hair business?

I decided to go natural in 2002, and I continued using same products I’d used when my hair was relaxed. I realized those products no longer worked for my hair, and after doing research on the ingredients in those products, I discovered that many of them were known carcinogens or were toxic and caused dryness.

It was a complete epiphany. My husband was already a vegetarian, and I’d began eating more healthy and reading ingredients on things I was buying for my family and myself. To maintain my new, natural texture, I needed to be more focused on what I was putting on my hair just as I was with my body.

I founded Karen’s Body Beautiful in 2004 when I realized there weren’t many products on the market that were healthy for natural hair. I spent my summer vacation from being a history teacher to do that.

You were a history teacher? Wow! Talk a bit about how those skills were helpful in transitioning into the natural haircare business as an entrepreneur?

Being a high school history teacher was a way to facilitate my pursuit of entrepreneurship. When I realized that all these ingredients in the products I was using was the problem, I thought ‘How can I fix this?’ I just dove right in and did my research. Being a teacher—because information is so important—it was a matter of implementing skills in research, communication and education. All of products I formulate and all the business decisions I make are based on the fact that I know how to research, how to get information, and I’m resourceful—and those are all skills I’ve learned and I’ve always taught to my students.

What leadership tips would you give other women who seek to transition from their day job to entrepreneurship?

Know your end goal and create a roadmap. I talk to a lot of women who are ready to start a business, and they’ll share a lofty goal, but sometimes they’re so focused on the goal that they haven’t figured out how they’ll get there. You have to map out the steps you plan to take to get there. You can take baby steps. It doesn’t have to be leaps and bounds.

Put together a vision board and figure out how you’re going to get from A to Z, with all the steps along the way. Do your research and figure out what it takes to reach your goals.

Stick to your guns. You may take two steps forward but three steps back. Don’t get discouraged with the process.

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