We never know how many people we may end up helping, and connecting with, when we work to bring our ideas and passions to life.
Janette Madlock-Dent launched a revolutionary all-natural hair and skincare company because of a personal need. She suffered a head injury while serving in the military which later caused debilitating migraines, and had to do something about them. Researching the subject, Janette discovered that chemicals in hair and skincare products, like the ones she used, could exacerbate migraines.
Knowing this, she decided to run a test: give her hair a fresh, chemical-free start. This meant cutting all of it off. After crossing that Rubicon, Janette started using natural products. Not all was improved: these natural products had the same harsh chemicals.
“I did a little bit more research,” Janette said, “and found that for a chemical to be titled as ‘natural’, the base can be natural, and that could just simply be the water that is used to actually start making it. So I prayed about it, and did a little bit more research, and Jus4Us was born.”
Thus, a need was discovered for which the market held inadequate solutions, and Janette began developing a new product to fill in the gap. An entrepreneurial story was unfolding – and it started close-to-home.
A Grassroots Beginning: Prayer, Family, Research
Janette had a pressing need, but how would she go about answering it? That is, how does an entrepreneur start at square one?
Janette explained, “I've never run a company, I've never done anything business related, other than worked in the bank and customer service and a loan department. But so far as running a business, never. It was merely prayer, friends and family support … and research.”
Indeed, the whole enterprise has been bootstrapped from the beginning. Janette’s friends and family have helped Jus4Us financially and with marketing. Janette’s mom, for example, promotes Jus4Us via apparel and the products themselves:
“She supports me even from her wheel chair in her nursing facility,” said Janette, “because she's always sharing about my products. She wears my T-shirt, she wears the mask, and when the workers there actually comb her hair or shampoo her hair they experience my products because I make sure that they use those chemical-free products on my mom.”
Janette’s children provide similar support. They work vendor events and wear Jus4Us T-shirts and masks. This word-of-mouth through personal networks was also the basis for Janette’s initial market research.
“Back in 2017,” Janette said, “our research and development started with me just asking friends and family, ‘Hey … I'm making this product, I've been using it for a while, would you mind trying it? It's working for me and my hair, and I haven't had an asthma attack since I stopped using these perfume-filled products, do you mind trying it?’ So everything was basically trial and error, a lot of different formulations until I got the one that actually worked.”
In addition to growth via word-of-mouth, Jus4Us also expanded into retail outlets. Market opportunities allowed Janette to sell her products on new platforms. She started at the Pan African Connection, a store in Dallas, via their twice-a-month Ubuntu Market program. In addition to this, Janette sold products through her church connections in Mansfield, Texas, which led to other work.
“I met someone in a meeting with one of my church members and … [he and I] created this logo together,” Janette said, “it caught everyone's attention. … And so with his packet came the logo, came the labels, came the business cards, came the T-shirts, came the photo shoot, so I actually had a bundle.”
The two started working on this logo around late 2019, finishing it in January 2020. Then the covid-19 pandemic hit.
The pandemic led to a new method of relaying Jus4Us’ message: social media.
“I took to social media,” Janette said. “I just started doing my hair different styles on Facebook and people started following me and, there again, word of mouth.”
During the pandemic, Janette also banded together with local, similar entrepreneurs and startups for assistance.
“Along the way I’ve met several small business owners, such as myself, who were just starting and affected by the pandemic. But we actually banded together and we followed one another and supported one another. And whenever we found out about … or signed up for an event that was coming up … we went in as a group [.]”
This is the kind of networking and collaboration essential to startup success. A pandemic didn’t stop Janette as it inspired innovation that led to continued success.
Primed for Perseverance
As we’ve learned in past Storytelling entries, hardship experienced while growing up can make entrepreneurs more adaptive to the rejection, struggles, and challenges of entrepreneurial life. Janette endured difficult experiences growing up, all starting from abandonment at birth.
As Janette said, “I'm a mom, I'm a divorcee, a survivor of domestic abuse, a survivor of sexual violence. I am a survivor of homelessness – I was homeless … [a] disabled veteran, homeless. The VA system failed me in that I didn't know anything about the resources or anything like that, so I am a true survivor … everything that I've experienced in life to … the point where I started Jus4Us prepared me for the rejection that I received.”
This thick skin and persistence kept Janette from giving up, and she discovered latent opportunities. One of them is her favorite customer, someone it took Janette multiple times to break through to.
“One of my favorite customers, her name is Regina Brown, she told me ‘no’ seven times at seven different events,” Janette said. “And one day, at a cheer event or dance event competition … she said, ‘You know what, I'm going to give you a try, because every time I see you you treat me the same, you ask me the same question, and you explain your product to me.’ She is one of my faithful customers. ever since she said ‘yes’.”
Persistence led to a breakthrough with a customer. Such mettle is required from day one for the entrepreneur. As another example, being your own boss usually means working around the clock. This is the lesson Janette learned while starting Jus4Us. The long nights and the loneliness – feeling detached from family – were the hardest parts.
“If it's not in your heart and it's just in your head don't do it,” Janette said. “Because there are so many sleepless nights, there are so many times that you want to give up, because you're all alone. When your family's asleep, you're up working. When your friends are out and they're having dinner parties or get-togethers … you're not there because you're at vendor events or you're online virtually promoting your products. You miss out on so much, and it's a family sacrifice as well.”
But this isn’t the only obstacle Janette has faced. She shared her least favorite part of being an entrepreneur – being let down by supporters:
“So many organizations that say they're going to help you or they have help for you, but then they pass you off to someone else – it's not actually them. And so you get passed and tossed about … like in a small boat in the middle of an ocean and a storm, and it just becomes so disheartening. So you don't want to deal with anyone else, you don't want to talk to anyone else, you just want to continue on your own.”
It requires high levels of commitment and persistency to succeed in founding and running ones’ own business. A life spent with challenge can meld one into a more effective business owner.
Earning the Reward
So with all this difficulty, where is the reward? Why be an entrepreneur?
Janette’s reward has been customer feedback. She has seen her products solve other people’s problems, one case at a time, one day at a time. The validation that comes from this is exhilarating
As Janette said, “I’m a people person and I love to help people, so helping others is what I do. And when you have hair loss, and when you have skin irritations, and they’re actually visual, most of the time you suffer low self-esteem because of that. So I would like to say that … having the products applied one person at a time, one day at a time, building self-esteem from the outside in has been the most rewarding [part] for me.”
The health problems Jus4Us helps with are numerous, beyond just migraines, which attests to the relevance of such products in the market.
“The greatest motivation,” Janette said, “is when I receive text messages from my clients or customers and they're saying, ‘Hey, Jan, your product is amazing, my edges are growing back. Hey, I have alopecia, I have peach fuzz. Hey, I have psoriasis or eczema on my scalp and on my skin, it’s healing. That's what keeps me going each and every day.”
Just For Others
Janette’s entrepreneurial journey won’t stop with Jus4Us. She plans future philanthropic work. One of her callings is to assist homeless veterans:
“I have a nonprofit, Heroes Haven, I would like to have that within four walls, where we go out and we feed the homeless, but I would like to do a little bit more. I would like to be a resource center … in Fort Worth. And I understand some of the veterans want to remain homeless because that's what is comfortable for them, but I would like to be a resource center for them to come and take a shower, get a hot meal and go back out if they choose to … and I'm starting a food truck … if they don't want to come to the facility, I can go out to them and feed them.”
And to up-and-coming entrepreneurs, Janette has a powerful, yet simple message:
“Find a problem, an issue, and solve it. And do it to the best of your ability.”
That’s what Janette set out to do, and that’s how she found success. As her story demonstrates, the problem you seek to solve could lead to a solution that can help many problems across people’s lives. You never know how many people you may help.