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Shequitta Kelly is not your run-of-the-mill judge. By day, the Dallas County Criminal Court judge helps prevent youth from becoming mainstays in the criminal justice system. But, when she’s not in her court gown, she is making history as a beauty entrepreneur.
Kelly is the mastermind behind the Hair Shield, a patent-pending invention designed to help beauty consumers protect their weaves and wigs.
“It’s a satin-lined protective case for you to store your hair extensions and your wigs so that you can reuse them,” Kelly told Texas Metro News. “It’s like a bonnet for your extensions.”
Once her patent clears, Kelly will become one of a dozen Black women in history to ever hold a hair patent. Her invention is for people who have been putting extensions in the wrong places, like drawers, bags, and shoe boxes. When not stored properly, “they get damaged, dry out, and you can’t reuse them.”
This can be an expensive pain point for many. “Wigs, alone, cost $400- $500, easily,” Kelly said. “And that’s the low end.”
Kelly knows firsthand as she has invested thousands of dollars in extensions over the years. “As a professional woman, I have to look my best. My grandma raised me, ‘If you look good, you feel good. If you feel good, you do good.’”
And she’s not alone. Beauty is big business, especially for Black women who spend upwards of $500 billion yearly on beauty purchases — including hair.
“It’s an expensive industry and we are just pouring into it,” she added. But even with financial success, Kelly admitted that she likes to save coins more than spend them. And hair was, literally, on the chopping block.
From Judge To Entrepreneur
Her breaking point came while trying to piece her extensions that were falling apart back together before a hair appointment. After a few hours of Googling acceptable ways to save her pricey hair pieces, she started drawing out and sewing her very first shield.
“I’m not a beautician, but it just makes sense to me,” Kelly said.
After realizing it worked, she made a second, better one. A couple of her friends in merchandising noted that there was nothing on the market like it and encouraged her to get it manufactured.
“I had no intentions of being an entrepreneur on top of being a full-time judge,” she explained, but their response was convincing.
She researched resources and invested in a lawyer to file a provisional patent for her invention. She also learned that entrepreneurship can be quite humbling.
“I’m a book-smart person. If you give me the book, I will read it. I can apply it,” said Kelly. “Entrepreneurship isn’t like that. It’s really trial and error — and there’ve been a lot of errors!”
She experienced setbacks while getting her logo designed and teaching herself how to make a pattern. Her biggest challenges were finding a manufacturer and getting to an affordable price point — for her and her product.
“To get the price that I wanted, I had to up the quantity,” she said. Kelly ended up with 1,000 Hair Shields and no customers. “I just had way too much because people didn’t know what the Hair Shield was. So, it was me trying to just get them to buy it.
“First, you’ve got to explain what it is. Then, you’ve got to convince them that they need it. And, I’m not a salesperson. I’m a judge!”
Fortunately, she found her footing with the help of her husband, who happens to be in sales. Today, her consumer base has grown from friends and family to virtual strangers looking for a beauty fix.
That, Kelly said, has been her greatest reward. “That is something I made in my little bitty closet, just because I was having a moment […] And, so to know that my little baby is now being purchased all over the world — I’ve gotten people to purchase my product from overseas. And, to see that they believe. They’re like, ‘Hey yeah, this is a great idea. Not only that, I need it.’ That’s been so rewarding.”
Making An Impact
As she grows her beauty empire, Kelly is focused on her brand becoming a household name. “I want my Hair Shield to be known just like the wave cap or Kleenex,” she said. She also looks forward to offering a full haircare lineup.
“I want the Hair Shield [brand] to expand, to be more of a haircare product — not just for extensions, but for your own hair,” Kelly shared.
Kelly, the judge, is now comfortable as Kelly, the entrepreneur. But, she’s not building a brand to quit her job. She’s building a brand to help consumers save money and to bring money back into the community.
“I hope to one day be able to use the Hair Shield as a brand that pours back into my community,” said Kelly. “As it grows, I can start employing people from within the community.
“I understand what it’s like to struggle and need a good job. I want to be that person that gives them a good job. And if it’s through the Hair Shield, oh my God, that’d be such a blessing.”
Visit texasmetronews.com to watch the full interview in our Black-Owned Business Spotlight series.
Stephenetta (isis) Harmon is a Black beauty culturist and founder of Sadiaa Black Beauty Guide, the premier directory for Black-owned beauty brands. She previously served as digital media director for Hype Hair and editor-in-chief for the MN Spokesman-Recorder. She builds platforms to celebrate the power, impact, and business of Black beauty.
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