BET.com's THE GLAM GAP is a weekly video series spotlighting Black entrepreneurs and influencers in the beauty, fashion, and lifestyle space.
When Tiffini Gatlin graduated from Clark Atlanta University and entered the finance industry, she had no idea that some years later she’d turn her fascination with Black women’s hair as a form of expression into a beauty brand. However, the former banking executive did just that in 2010, when she resigned from banking to blaze her own trail as a serial entrepreneur.
“I started my own magazine, I started a concierge service, I had created an awards show for bloggers, I became a blogger, and I worked as an influencer for several years,” says the biz whiz wife and mother of four, who also decided to revisit the side hustle she’d started at age 16, styling and installing weaves and protective styles for friends and family. Now, enriched by wisdom and experience, Gatlin’s realization of the potential dangers of dipping her clients’ hair into boiling water to secure loose strands and lock in curls led her to launch her first beauty company, Curlkalon Hair Collection, in 2015, before selling it in 2018 after building it into a million dollar business.
“My start into the beauty product industry was actually creating the first pre-curled and looped synthetic hair made to prevent hot water burns while performing protective hair styling,” says Gatlin.
The concept for Latched & Hooked Beauty, her current company, actually came to her after her oldest daughter had a negative experience with her first professionally-installed hair extensions.
“She sat for eight hours, and we paid over $200 for her to get her hair braided,” the hair maven recalls. “And two days later, her scalp was inflamed and irritated… We took the style out, and she had bruising on her scalp.”
Gatlin began researching and found communities of women online who were complaining of a similar issue. She also found that most synthetic hair used for braiding contained harmful toxins. That knowledge inspired her to pivot and focus her business on creating non-toxic synthetic hair extensions for Black women. She’s also currently working to create clean and sustainable products, to be manufactured in the United States.
One of the most important lessons Gatlin says she has learned is that success requires a community, a network, and a willingness to ask for help.
“I learned that asking for help doesn’t make you weak. It doesn’t mean that you’re not being resourceful. It’s showing that you trust other people to help you on your journey… It shows you that people really want you to succeed,” she says.
Gatlin remains laser-focused on executing her mission to expand Black women’s and girls’ access to more safe beauty products, while actualizing her vision for Latched & Hooked to become known for making beauty simple for Black women. And she’s paying it forward by paving a way for Black hair enthusiasts coming behind her by supporting STEM programs that help young girls learn the chemistry behind creating synthetic hair.
In the future, Gatlin sees a more diverse and inclusive beauty industry, where Black founders are considered the norm, rather than the exception, and where hair extensions are viewed as an expression of self-love and self-expression, instead of as symbols of hair shame. She also wants to see Latched & Hooked beauty products in mass retail outlets, instead of just local beauty stores, where Black women tend to experience less-than-pleasant service and limited ability to touch or sample products before buying.
“At Lashed & Hooked, we feel that women shouldn’t have to compromise their skin, their health, or their confidence. We believe that products that are safe should be accessible for every woman.”
As is said in social media memes: Gatlin clearly understands her assignment.
Follow Tiffini Gatlin on Instagram @tiffinigatlin and watch THE GLAM GAP episode below!
(Photo: Tiffini Gatlin/ BET)
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