Off the Record Episode 5: Kabrea Thomas
Welcome to Off the Record, a series meant to inform, inspire and highlight women of color creating their own lane in their respective industries. If you were looking for boss women, you found them.
Today, meet wardrobe stylist and vegan custom fragrance shop owner, Kabrea Thomas.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED?
For my image consulting business, Fashionably Yours, I went to school for fashion merchandising and when I came back to New York I was surrounded by fashion, styling people, I was doing internships and then it kind of hit me that fashion styling was something I wanted to do. I was more interested in styling people versus a celebrity and I saw that personal shopping was actually a career, so I put myself out there. I created a website, made some business cards and got my first client within a month or so.
With my fragrance business, Signature Scent by Hand, that started about two years ago. My first scent took me about three months to make. I just put myself out there. My first event was in Baltimore and people were buying them two bottles at a time. So I was like, okay, well I’m doing something right and then I started expanding. People were asking me if I could make cologne [and other products] and I just started slowly adding on to my fragrance business and now I’m here.
WHAT WAS THE MOST CHALLENGING ASPECT OF STARTING YOUR OWN BUSINESS?
The challenges for both businesses were a bit different, but I think in general it’s a lot of work and research that you have to put in. You have to know your target market and your audience and who you want to serve your service or your business to.
So, for my image consulting firm, I knew I loved to style people, I knew I loved to style women but I had to figure out what type of woman that I want to style, what does she need help with, and to just try to dig a little deeper with that.
With my fragrance business, I had to do research on what kind of scents women like to wear, what are some popular notes in popular fragrances. Then I had to test it out with other people’s body chemistry because it smells different on everyone. I think one of the best things about it is just talking to people you know and trying to get feedback off of what works, what doesn’t work and just kind of put yourself out there.
WHEN STARTING FASHIONABLY YOURS & SIGNATURE SCENTS BY HAND, HOW DID YOU GO ABOUT FUNDING?
For Fashionably Yours, I was still working part-time at a retail store, so I was actually getting experience and clients from the store too. What helped fund Fashionably Yours was my business I was doing part-time. I guess with a service business it’s a little bit easier because you don’t have a physical product, but with the fragrance it’s really challenging because with a product it has to look a certain way and it has to draw attention to the customer. Something as simple as a bottle, I had to do a lot of research to find the perfect bottle or font that I wanted to use to put on the label.
[With] funding for Signature Scents by Hand, it’s really the aspect of custom fragrances that have been my bread and butter. It’s the fact that I can do custom scents for my clients. You have to figure out if you’re going to make a perfume, a cologne, do you want to make a unisex scent? And then I would do research on certain popular scents that are popular that [my] target audience likes.
I have a process where I have a questionnaire on my website and [my customers] tell me if they’re looking for something floral, fruity, just to give me an idea of what they’re looking for. Once they fill out that questionnaire, I’ll be able to give them three different ideas of samples that would smell similar to what they’re looking for. From there, they get to order their samples and once they test out their samples and confirm they like how it smells, then we figure out what bottle they want, we do the labels and we ship it to them.
WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION BEHIND HOLDING THE #ISMELLGOOD CONFERENCE?
So the #ISmellGood Conference, I got a lot of feedback from my clients and they wanted me to have a fragrance party. There are a bunch of different companies that host these parties where it’s a girls night in and they show them different products and the [girls] get to test them out, they have wine drinks and then [the companies] sell to them. I thought that was cool but I wanted to bring more value to my clients versus just [having] them here sipping wine and purchasing my products.
What I did was bring a few other vendors, I had someone selling candles, bath bombs, body butters—all that good stuff. Everything was handmade, natural and vegan-friendly. We also had a panel and we were discussing why wearing natural products on your skin is really important. So, we brought information to our clients, but we also gave them options on where they could shop.
WHAT ARE A FEW TOOLS YOU USE TO STAY ORGANIZED?
When you’re working part time and you’re doing your business, you feel like the two or three days that you have off you have to rush. That was me. So what I do now is write a list. It sounds simple, but it has helped me so much. So, I break down my days to keep me organized. And then something a simple as my calendar. I have to put things in my calendar. If I don’t, things won’t get done.
So what really keeps me organized is lists honestly; and I break it down little by little so I don’t feel overwhelmed of doing so much in a day.
WHAT PART OF YOUR JOB DO YOU FIND MOST SATISFYING??
The most satisfying part for me is when my customers are addicted to my products. It just means so much because I do put love into so when my customers genuinely love my products that just makes my day.