Like many entrepreneurs, De’Vonna Pittman is a Jill of many trades, with one foot in the daily humdrum of a 9 to 5 and the other in a network of thriving brands and ventures. By day, she works in program and project management. By night, she is an author of two books, co-founder of the MN Black Author’s Expo, publisher and community strategist. She is also the force behind the organic hair and skin line, Nature’s Syrup Skin & Hair Care.
Setting up pop-up shops at holiday bazaars around the Twin Cities, Pittman has routinely sold out of the line’s products as if she were hosting a going-out-of-business sale. We caught up with the serial entrepreneur to learn more about her brand, which includes a collection of body butters, leave-in conditioners, and even deodorant.
MSR: Tell us a little bit about your company.
De’Vonna Pittman: Nature’s Syrup specializes in creating and providing skin and hair care solutions for all hair types. Our products are made with health-conscious ingredients that provide healthy and organic alternatives to commercial brand products. Aluminum [a known carcinogen] is traced to deodorants people purchase and use every day.
Body butter was the first product I ever made, and it remains my staple product. A close second is my deodorant, as most women are looking for organic alternatives that work.
MSR: What was the inspiration behind the brand?
DP: In 2012, I big-chopped [my hair] and sought out products that would aid in its growth and moisture. My tight, coarse coils needed intense moisture [and] I quickly realized that the market didn’t cater to my texture.
I was inspired by all the amazing YouTubers who were experimenting with shea butter, carrier oils, and essential oils to show love to their hair. I began making body butters for people at my church. They loved it, and the rest is history!
MSR: How did the name Nature’s Syrup come about?
DP: As an alternative to commercial brand lotions and hair moisturizers, Nature’s Syrup was derived from a passion to create products free of preservatives and made with quality natural ingredients.
The brand’s name definitely describes the vision I have for the company, as well as the accountability needed to stay true to my brand. Nature’s Syrup is the raw essence of nature unbridled, and it is my intention to keep it that way.
MSR: What has been the most rewarding part of owning your business?
DP: The most rewarding part of owning a business is the “stretching” that occurs. Nature’s Syrup was a startup in 2012, and now we resemble commercial brands in our logo, packaging, representation, website, etc. I have learned so much since operating my business. Most of all, I have learned that I can do anything I put my mind to — that has been for me, the most amazing blessing in my journey.
MSR: How do you maintain balance while having a day job and building your brand?
DP: It is challenging to maintain a full-time job that is just as demanding as your business. I spend at least 30 hours a week managing Nature’s Syrup, in addition to 40 hours at my full-time job.
I love Nature’s Syrup, so I spend a lot of time thinking about how I can make my business better and about what products are still needed for Black women and Black hair. There have been times when I’ve had to encourage myself to keep going. Usually, when I have those feelings, I scale up in a way I never imagined I would.
MSR: What is your vision for your business?
DP: I envision Nature’s Syrup being widely available for distribution. I see my business as a catalyst to create opportunities for me to continue to create light and life in arenas across the country.
I was born and raised in poverty in [Ford Heights, Ill.], the poorest suburb in America. I was destined to be a statistic. As an [entrepreneur], author and public speaker, my greatest desire is to speak to the masses about the tragedies I have overcome to get to this place of even believing I could become an entrepreneur.
MSR: What do you wish you knew before launching your business?
DP: I wish I had been encouraged at a young age to start my own business. We were encouraged to “get a good job,” not recognizing that many of us were not created to work traditional jobs on a longterm/forever basis. This old-school idea of working a job for the rest of our lives until we retire doesn’t work for everyone.
We are not conditioned to create or to be the boss, so I would definitely encourage young people to cultivate any gifts or talents they have. In addition, don’t be disappointed or disenchanted when you get a “no.” I’ve actually gotten a “yes” and a “no” in the same day from the same company and the “yes” prevailed.
Through the month of January, Nature’s Syrup is offering all customers free shipping on purchases. For more information, visit naturessyrup.com.
— Interview conducted by Stephenetta Harmon