Sisters Beth and Tracey October are the founders of Different Flowers, a company that curates the Curlaholics Box. Although unexpected, working together was a natural progression for their relationship. The pair joined many people across the globe who found an opportunity to work from home and generate an income during that awkward period when we all thought “it’ll end soon and life will go back to normal. Anytime now.” It’s only been a few months since they launched, but they’ve already built an Instagram community with over 2000 followers.
What’s in a name?
The name Different Flowers is an ode to their individualism as sisters and was inspired by the saying “Sisters are different flowers from the same garden.” “We thought that this was great because it applied to our own experience of embracing our differences and similarities as sisters, as well as to the larger community of curlies and fellow women everywhere. This is especially important in a society that continues to instill a very narrow standard of what beauty is.”
The Big Idea
Tracey, who is the older of the two, was a new mom during the peak of the first wave and Beth lived with her for a while to lend a helping hand. After frequenting Facebook groups and seeing an opportunity to create something that takes the guesswork out of hair product shopping, Tracey came up with the concept that blossomed into the Curlaholics Box. “The transition from idea to business was mostly unintentional,” Tracey says. “I came up with the idea to do something like a sample box and [I] was stuck thinking about it for days until Beth saw the vision and [we] decided [to] just do it.”
For all purposes of the Curlaholics Box, the sisters are both lowkey product junkies and they love trying something new regularly. They share that while Beth has wavier hair and Tracey’s has a curlier pattern, they often found themselves using the same products. “We [soon] realised it was something we needed because, you know, sometimes you just want to try [a product] without the expense of buying the whole jar only to find out you don’t like it or your hair doesn’t respond positively to it,” Beth says. Tracy also adds that “sometimes similar products can work for different hair types.”
Establishing a niche
The pandemic has certainly propelled ecommerce and digital living. The growing number of people who turned to online shopping, which is the backbone of their business, almost certainly ensured the success of their concept. Different Flowers targets naturals who aren’t afraid to try new things but have too many options to try than they may have time or money for. “Our customers are busy and don’t always have time to make a run to the store and figure out which brand to buy and ingredients to avoid. The box is also a cost-effective way to be adventurous with your hair care because you only receive sample sizes.”
What is the Curlaholics Box and what is in it?
The Curlaholics Box is a monthly subscription service that helps [naturals] discover and try out new, exciting and nourishing hair products. All this without breaking the bank and from the comfort of your own home. (Different Flowers, 2021)
Different Flowers prides itself on curating only the products with the most acceptable ingredients. “The products in our boxes don’t contain any nasties. No sulphates, no silicones and no parabens,” Tracey stresses. In addition, they’re also free from non-soluble waxes and drying alcohol – all ingredients that can damage or hamper the health of natural hair.
Every month’s box contains 3 to 4 carefully researched sample-sized (usually atypical) hair products for naturals to try, plus a curl surprise. They pack their boxes with extreme care. “We include guides and little gifts in the boxes. And we do our due diligence making sure that we address ingredients that we know are controversial or a grey area for naturals,” Tracey shares.
Is the box for me?
The Curlaholics Box is curated for anyone and everyone on the curly-haired spectrum, whether your hair has wavy, curly, coiled, kinky or mixed textures. (Different Flowers, 2021)
The box provides a middle ground that is safe for South African naturals at all points of the hair type system. Each box packs a punch that is suitable for multiple hair patterns. The sisters share that it also takes the stress out of the process for new naturals who are still trying to establish a product base.
The true and full experience of the box comes full circle on the next arrival of a Curlaholics Box. The anticipation of ‘what’s next’ is what makes it so special. “We have Curlaholics with 3 and 6-month subscriptions [so] we know that our customers trust us,” Beth says. “We want them to get the holistic experience of getting a box today and being excited for and wondering what’s in the box next month,” she adds. The pair laughs about how they obsess over adding special curl gifts and go the extra mile sprinkling proverbial glitter in every box because they really just want to make their customers’ day. “We want you to open your box and smile and be delighted.”
The sibling dynamic in business
For most siblings, this might sound like a disaster in waiting, but the experience has been uniquely fulfilling for Tracey and Beth. Different Flowers is the first time that the sisters have worked together, and they have been pleasantly surprised by how complementary their skill sets were. When we spoke to them, you could tell that there is an endearing quality to their work-sisterhood – they share the same passion for their business. But when it comes to their interests and areas of expertise, they are polar opposites. However, they’ve found an incredible balance of their personalities and skills and have used that to inform their operational systems and individual roles. “Tracey is more the creative and big ideas person,” Beth shares. Tracey describes Beth as the “ops” person, a tactical doer and researcher.
Of the two, Tracey is more extroverted. It’s not surprising that she’s also the one who watches their unboxing videos multiple times to make sure everything is as it should be – something that Beth wants no part of. Tracey also has a sales background, so she understands that a ‘no’ isn’t the end of the world. She pushed for them to get the idea out there quickly and read the room early – which worked because their pre-launch activities paid off. But she’s also learnt from Beth that some cards need to stay close to your chest until the logistics are clarified and practical. Overtime, the business has often become a family affair with their relatives pitching in from time to time to help them get things done.
On inclusivity, sensitivity and finding Beth
In a country like ours, where race is both an element of unity and a pain point, Tracey and Beth know all too well that diversity and non-tolerance aren’t mutually exclusive concepts. “One of the most challenging part of [putting together] the Curlaholics Box is constantly being inclusive but sensitive because of the racial trauma that a lot of us still carry around in South Africa.” The brand philosophy challenges the notion that different curl-textures must use different products. They want to use it to encourage naturals to focus more on what their hair needs.
Beth also opened up to us about her own struggles with finding her place in the natural hair community as a coloured woman with curly hair. “I didn’t know where I fit in or where my hair fits in.” Being part of the Different Flowers vision has helped her come into her own. In a world where women of colour are still fighting for access to seats at the table, an environment where there are clear lines drawn between coloured women and black women and a natural hair community that is still finding its feet, the sisters want to teach and show other women that there is nothing wrong with seeing the differences. “We’re allowed to see those differences; we should see colour.” They want to use their journey and business to not only teach, but to learn as much as they can about the factors and experiences that affect and make us different beyond our hair.