soul powered sista*: interview with jamyla bennu of oyinhandmade.com & exittheapple.com

*soul-powered sistas = women committed to doing their real work

Each week, I’ll feature an interview with a fierce, creative sista who’s successfully manifested a successful business. We’ll explore their entrepreneurial journey, lessons learned and challenges overcome…or not:-)  Too often, we hear about the big launches and see the long list of testimonials from raving fans and miss all the hard work and heartache in between.  These interviews with soul-powered sistas are intended to fill in the gap.


The first thing you notice about Jamyla is her smile. Then her beauty.  And then how insightful and thoughtful she is.  I first met Jamyla in an African dance class at Spelman yearrrssss ago!  So a few weeks ago, I’m browsing through the web for some hair products and immediately recognized the bright smile, big healthy fro and signature freckles.  I just had to re-connect with her and ask her to share her journey with us.

IU: I know you are involved in several entrepreneurial endeavors.  Could you describe the different businesses you founded and run?

my husband pierre and i originally began working creatively together when i joined exittheapple, his arts collective/film production company. we did things like producing/directing independent films, holding writing/performance workshops, website design, screenprinting tee-shirts, and self-publishing. exittheapple is now the name of our brick&mortar boutique in baltimore where we sell art, books, tees, and oyin handmade products.

oyin handmade is a line of natural, handmade, luxurious and effective hair and body care products which we make and sell primarily online, in our baltimore boutique, and via selected retail partners.

IU:  What inspired you to start your businesses?  What was the defining, “okay, i’m going to do this” moment?

deciding to be entrepreneurial is linked for us with our marriage. we decided we wanted to work together and began hustling all our combined skills… basically in an attempt to spend more time together. LOL!

as a result, making it work was more a gradual growth than a defining moment – oyin handmade was our first and most clear financial success story – it initially came out of a hobby, answering a need i felt for my own hair in my typically crafty/creative way. since i was doing website design at the time, creating a little site for it was a no-brainer. when it began to take off, i needed help to keep up with the demand. pierre and i both began to work it more seriously, until one day we looked up and it was the bulk of what we each were doing!

IU:  What were some of the money challenges and worries that you’ve faced while building your business? How did you move through them?

i think that beginning so casually is part of what helped us to operate on a cash-only basis from the start… there wasn’t a whole lot of pressure for the business to support us, so we were able to grow organically – and very slowly – over our first few years. for instance, we would purchase new equipment only when we could afford it out of the business’ profits. we’ve never taken on any business debt, not even a credit card.

IU: What are some of the hidden gems you’ve discovered by facing your money fears/worries/challenges?

we’ve learned to think outside of the box to look for the solution to a problem – it may not be the first or most obvious solution but thinking creatively has helped us to keep our overhead low over the years.

IU:  Please finish the following prompts: 
Money is…a tool. it’s a means, not the end.
Self care isvital. it’s what makes life really rich.
Freedom is…love.

IU:  Where can people go to connect with you and learn more about your products and projects?

well, we provide coupons at the end of each of our podcasts, viewable on our blog at oyinhandmade.com and at our youtube channel: youtube.com/oyinhandmade. we also periodically include coupons through our twitter account and our facebook fan page.

My coaching challenge: Get connected with Oyin Handmade.  Then share in the comments, one of your biggest takeaways from her story and how you’re going to apply it to your business!

How To Start Your Morning Off Right

Radical self-care tip #1:  Use music to start your morning off right.

I’m not a morning person.

I’ve had to fake it for the past 8 years because I’m a single mom and my son pries my eyes open till I get out of bed.

I’ve adapted a nice little trick our body uses called a “coupled reaction” to make my mornings easier. When the body has to do something that requires a lot of effort, it couples it with a reaction the body loves to do naturally to make it easier.

Now I love music. I could be in the worst mood, hear a song I love and before I can help myself start grooving and forget about being upset.  So every few months,I come up with a “Good morning” playlist I can turn on the second it’s time for me to get out of bed.

I like to start out with slow jams and build up to dance grooves so I can lay in bed, then slowly make my way to the bathroom.  By the time I’m putting my clothes on, I’m singing and dancing.  I’m still not a morning person but my little routine makes it easier to get out of bed.

So here’s my coaching challenge for you: create your morning soundtrack.  Spend 5-10 minutes putting it together and try it out this week.  Okay?

Let me know in the comments what songs you’ll put on your playlist.

Have a great week!

Here’s my playlist:  Good morning

How to take charge of your time once and for all

Photo credit: Tonglé Dakum

Photo credit: Tonglé Dakum

Can you guess the number one reason clients give me when I ask them why they're still dreaming about what they want instead of doing it?

Yup. Time!

I’ve complained about not having enough time to create the things I want, too.

A few winters ago, I had an experience that erased this complaint from my Excuses Book forever. In the sweaty afterglow of my first hot yoga class, I signed up for a 30-Day Bikram Yoga Challenge. Why? I could win a month of unlimited yoga classes, IF I came into the studio for a 90-minute class for 30 consecutive days.

Now there were a million reasons why this was crazy.

I already felt stretched. I was a single mom without reliable childcare and my family lived an hour away. I worked two jobs and was trying to build my doula business on the side. I was the poster child for not having enough time. (Did I mention it was the middle of winter?)

Here’s what I learned: I could create time.

I found a way to fit my yoga class in — even if it meant waking up at 5 am and dropping my son off at his grandmother’s.

Did I want to wake up at 5 am? No way! Not at first. But I just took it one day at a time. My day revolved around the question: When will I get a class in today?

And you can create time too.

That yoga class had a positive ripple effect in my life. I wasn't as irritable when my son resisted bedtime. I had more energy to concentrate on responding to the backlog of emails in my inbox. And I would wake up with creative ideas for a new blog post or free workbook.

Other people noticed too. Even my son who was only 5 at the time.  Once, when I was short with him he asked me if I’d done my yoga that day. I hadn’t. So I quickly asked my neighbor to watch him and got my butt to class.

Here are two key shifts that I used to go from wanting to make it to yoga to actually doing it:

#1 Shifting from time management to energy management

Stop trying to manage your time and focus on managing your energy instead. The first step to doing this, is to get really clear about your Big Why. Then understand how your commitment is going to give you the energy to fulfill that purpose.

My Big Why was my son. I was stressed out and I wasn’t being the mother I wanted to be.

After a particularly rough day, I decided to give yoga another try. After my first week of class, I saw how daily yoga multiplied my patience with my son which fulfilled my BIG WHY.

That was enough motivation to get me into class every day.

Your turn:

Ask yourself what important change you want to make in your life, why it’s important to you and one daily habit that will give you the energy to make that change.

#2 The second mindset shift is to stop trying to find time and create it instead.

When you say you don’t have enough time, what’s really happening is that you haven’t created the time. 

There a few common culprits.

Maybe you haven’t created the time because you don’t have the energy to make the time. If so, may I recommend moving your body in a fun way every day.

Maybe you need to do some hard things, like say NO more (especially to the people you love), or ask for help, or--ughh!--wake up earlier. (I’m not a a morning person either!)

To get through this, see mindshift #1 - this will give you the energy you need.

Then be strategic about how you use that new energy to create the space for things that really matter to you.

Your turn:

Ask yourself what can you take off your plate? Where can you ask for help or barter or swap with someone?

Going back to my yoga challenge, I might not have met my goal if it was self imposed. But the studio encouraged us and provided the accountability and community that I needed. So look for external support where you can, too.

So how can set up that supportive environment for yourself?