We had the good fortune of connecting with Katrice Smith, LMSW and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Katrice, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
The funny thing is, for years, I was always that person saying, “I’m not entrepreneur-minded. I’d rather work for people instead of having my own business. I don’t have a desire to be the head of anything because I don’t like business.” Oh, the young and ignorant. I did not do well in a business course I took during my undergraduate studies and ever since then, the idea was a scary one for me. Some years ago, I started making my own products for my hair. I am a big DIY queen. All the products I used on my hair over the counter were filled with ingredients I couldn’t necessarily pronounce and did not know what the benefits were for my hair. I started to research ways to DIY the products to save money and to create a simple all natural product that would do wonders for my hair. What worked wonders on my hair, I found out worked wonders on my skin too. I noticed how it kept me moisturized longer than any lotion ever has. I started to do more research and found out that when used on your body, it’s termed body butter. When people would hear about me making my own hair and body products, they would ask if I could make some for them and even offered to pay me for the ingredients and my services. My next thought was, “Why not turn this into a business?” It was an opportunity for me to solve a problem for those closet to me and others that may want the benefits of the natural products but don’t necessarily want to spend the time making it themselves. It is a very tedious process, but I have fun doing it. It was something that I was and still am passionate about.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I am the Founder and the CEO of Sleeque Body, which specializes in handmade body butter. I started this business on my own, without the help of any grants or any other financial help. Every penny spent for start up costs, came out of my pocket. It was tough in the beginning, but a sacrifice I was willing to make. Our product is a body butter which is a skin moisturizer comprised of natural oils and natural butters. Every butter and oil used in my product was carefully researched and chosen based on what the skin prosperities it provides. It does not contain water which allows it to penetrate the skin to deeply moisturize. There are a number of scents to choose from and I also allow people to request scents that are not advertised on the website to meet everyone’s personal preferences. Being handmade means, I buy all the ingredients, I’m calculating, measuring, melting, mixing, packaging, and more IN MY KITCHEN, by myself. When I first launched the business, I thought I would just go to my full-time job and come home to fulfill orders and things would be a piece of cake. I was sadly mistaken, lol. It is hard work running a business on the side. I am a school counselor for 6th-9th graders at a charter school, as well. As rewarding as the job is, I’m often mentally exhausted. The last thing you want to do is leave one job to go to another one. Let’s also add in that I am an officer in the military, and that takes up some of my weekends which could be used to do work for my business. When you think about all the tasks you have to do in your life with one job, cooking, cleaning, working out, taking care of the dogs/kids, and all the other adulting tasks, adding another job (in my case, 2) on top of that is A LOT! Especially when you are all things for one of them. I am usually up until midnight or later on nights when I’m preparing orders and have to be up in 5-6 hours. It is tough, yes. Do I get tired? Yes. But, it is so worth it. I’ve struggled with time management, which can be a difficult when you are juggling so many tasks. I’m just thankful that I am able to pull from my strength of being able to persevere when it seems like I don’t have anything left to give. Remembering why I started this business and using my passion to drive on day-by-day is how I overcome the challenges. The ability to build and launch brand in the midst of a pandemic is a blessing. God is always looking out for me and I wouldn’t dare let this dream die.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
On any given day for breakfast, I would suggest The Toasted Yolk (be sure to get the hashbrown casserole). A few of my favorite lunch spots would be Ranosh Grill, Mikki’s Soulfood Cafe, Lost & Found or Tastee’s Pizza (The Spinach Alfredo pizza is bomb). Dinner, we could go to BB’s for the AMAZING crawfish. The other food options are really good too. State Fare has a pretty nice frozen flight too! Lotus is really good too for lunch or dinner. Now brunch, that’s my area of expertise. Bring on the mimosas! I would suggest the following places: Union Kitchen, 5015, Grazia, Rouxpour, Seaside Lounge, Phil and Derek’s and Taste Bar. A few of my favorite food trucks to pull up on are the Soulgood food truck and Cravin’ It. We would probably go to Bar Louie or Upper Kirby Bistro for drinks. Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My family and friends have played a huge part in my success. My mom was there in my living room, while I was in the kitchen, whipping up my first few orders. She came over just because I asked her to keep me company while I fulfilled orders. Both my sister, Karena, and my mom sat through many phone conversations, bless their hearts lol, discussing what I would call the business, what products I needed to buy, what new scents I would buy, my marketing ideas, EVERYTHING! I talked to them for hours, every single day, for weeks, prior to my launch. They allowed me to bounce ideas off of them and gave me lots of feedback. I was probably a bit overwhelming at times. My dad was a positive voice when it came to the business side of things. I would say things like, “I had to pay all this money for this and that.” He would always reply with, “Well baby, that’s a business.” He gave me tips about different aspects of running a business and always encouraged me to keep pushing. Two friends of mine played an integral part in me staying motived and inspired to continue on the path of being an entrepreneur. They launched businesses in the recent years and were always available to answer any questions I had and coached me every step of the way. It helped to have people I feel have been successful in their businesses to be there for me and give me the good, bad, and ugly of being the mastermind behind your craft. One of them even came and helped me with orders one night, which literally took hours! They were there to listen when I needed to vent, but always made sure to tell me to keep going, no matter what. Before my launch, one of those friends went to my Etsy page, and purchased a product without me asking her to. That feeling of selling your first product is unexplainable. When I officially launched Sleeque Body, I was promoting heavy on all of my social media platforms. I had numerous friends comment, share, like, follow and purchase my product. They showed up and showed out! The outpour of love had me filled with joy knowing that people believed in me enough to give me major support!