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!