Bahamian businesswoman behind Kurlee Belle hair care on prospering in the pandemic

Dana Oliver
·4 min read

My Beauty, My Way is a video series hosted by Yahoo Life beauty director Dana Oliver, where women of different ages and backgrounds break down their beauty routines to explain what beauty truly means to them and how it represents their cultural identity.

The long-term effects of the coronavirus pandemic are still unknown, however, the immediate impact its had on countless companies has been hard-hitting. From business owners being forced to shutter retail stores to employees being furloughed or fired, the prospects of prospering during the pandemic may seem gloomy. Yet, Terrinique Pennerman lit her own path to success in spite of COVID-19.

Pennerman is the founder and CEO of Kurlee Belle, a hair care company inspired by her home island the Bahamas. The products, which include shampoos, conditioners, hair oil, curling gel and milk, are formulated with natural tropical ingredients that she is proud to say are “very moisturizing” and “do what they say on the label.”

While working as an investment banking analyst, Pennerman chemically straightened her hair with relaxers and wore extensions that were damaging to her scalp and strands. She wanted to use products that were made from all-natural ingredients to help repair the harm, but was unsuccessful at finding hair care that was made especially for her texture. This motivated Pennerman to return to her roots and mix hair treatments made of avocado, banana, egg, oil and mayonnaise, like the ones her mother taught her growing up in the Bahamas. When a close friend noticed the dramatic transformation from these homemade hair recipes, she was encouraged to start her own beauty company.

Bahamians have supported Kurlee Belle from day one, and they are our root and foundational customers. Terrinique Pennerman

Kurlee Belle started in 2008, but the brand officially launched in 2013 with just five products. The budding entrepreneur fondly recalls testing out the website with her developer and a Canadian customer feverishly buying items after they were listed for just 50 cents. It wouldn’t be long before natural hair newbies, as well as, women with relaxed locks who were searching for quality hair care discovered Kurlee Belle on social media.

Fast forward to 2020, and Kurlee Belle has expanded into a full hair care line that’s affordable and fairly priced. The company, which was largely sold online direct to customers, got a huge nod of approval when the products made it to Sally Beauty test stores throughout the U.S. In February, Pennerman expected the brand to expand into over 1200 brick and mortar locations, but then COVID-19 hit in March.

“It actually was a blessing,” she tells Yahoo Life, “because we had the people coming to the website and then once they got to the website and bought, Sally Beauty started to reopen their stores again. So we pushed them to the retail stores.”

American market research company NPD Group reported in April that online beauty sales have spiked 90 percent since more consumers are staying at home due to the coronavirus. This overall interest in looking and feeling good in the midst of uncertainty, coupled with wider access to Kurlee Belle hair care (it’s currently sold at kurleebelle.com and in 1,600 Sally Beauty stores and is available in the Bahamas, Jamaica, Paris, the United Kingdom and more countries), has certainly paid off.

It's been hard on our economy. It's been hard on our people. But we're survivors. Terrinique Pennerman

According to Pennerman, the company’s e-commerce sales increased by a whopping 997 percent since March, while retail business has grown by 100 percent in comparison to last year. She’s not only reinvested earnings back into Kurlee Belle, but she also hasn’t taken a salary to “have that sustainability” without being sure of what the future holds.

Much like the DIY hair recipes passed down from generation to generation in her family, Pennerman tells Yahoo Life that she is building an eternal legacy. “It's not about how I look, but it’s about how I treat people and how people feel.”

Follow Kurlee Belle on Instagram and keep up with the brand at kurleebelle.com.

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