It was 2015 and Ramona Griggie’s oldest son was graduating from Duke University. It was an extra special time because after years of wearing braces, he was finally getting them taken off. So as a gift, Ramona promised to get his teeth whitened.
Unfortunately, prices were out of control, ranging from $700-$900. But knowing that she couldn't let it end there, Ramona put on her super mom cape and began researching alternatives online. Eventually, she found a great product and a $250 machine to use for practice at home.
“I started using my son, my husband and anyone else who came to the house as guinea pigs to practice the one-hour treatments,” says Ramona. “And it worked.”
Not only did her son get to have a beautiful set of pearly whites for his graduation day, but word spread, and people were standing in line for her teeth whitening services. Knowing that it was time to shift from her house to a legit working space, Ramona found a $300 per month rental and got going.
“It was a cute little setup where people would come and pay $100-$200 for a one-hour procedure,” explains Ramona. All was going well until she fell one day and suffered a concussion. With time off to think, she realized that she didn't like being away from her family for such long hours.
“I’m really a housewife with a side hustle, work-from-home, work-from-my-phone kind of person,” says Ramona. Plus she noticed that people liked buying the $35 do-it-yourself kits.
So during the time it took for her to heal, Ramona closed the shop and began researching how to take her business online. She learned to build a simple website from scratch, at a cost of $20, got a free business telephone line and prepared for a January 2015 launch.
Knowing that marketing would play a key role in the success of her business, Ramona chose Instagram as her promotional platform of choice. From there, she called in a favor from local celeb ‘JuJu,’ aka rapper Cam’ron’s girlfriend, and convinced her to post a picture with a kit, along with a simple ad that Ramona put together.
She paid instagram $150.00 to run the promotion for 4 hours. What happened next was life-changing. Within a few hours, $8,000 came in and her Instagram following shot from about 500 to 10,000 followers.
“My local post office didn’t know what to do with all these orders, and neither did we,” recalls Ramona, of how she and her husband/business partner had to handle the unexpected load.
“Our main goal was to make sure that people didn't have to wait for their orders.” It was around this time that Ramona realized that a significant number of African Americans don’t have dental insurance, but they could afford a $35 do-it-yourself teeth whitening kit.
Sensing that she had struck marketing gold, and knowing that the goal was always to reinvest, Ramona continued to study Instagram and made a list of other celebrities that she wanted to work with. Soon after, she paid $1,000 for her second sponsored post and made close to $50,000 in one day!
And thanks to even more star power- Amber Rose, The Kardashians, Kevin Hart and plenty more- she’d made one million dollars in her first 60 days! With so much celebrity backing, one has to wonder if Express Smile Atlanta Teeth Whitening really works or if it’s just the latest insta-gimmick?
To answer, Ramona says, “First and foremost, the product works. We have very few returns, people buy multiple kits at one time, and we get tons and tons of reorders. And sure, the celebrity backing helps because people look at their teeth and they want to use the same product that celebs use to keep them white.”
Thanks to the overwhelming success of her online business, Ramona has since opened a flagship boutique in College Park, Atlanta where celebs like Blac Chyna, college students and even bridal parties can come and get one-hour treatments from certified technicians.
So how does this multi-millionaire housewife stay grounded? “I’m a mom before anything else, so I make sure to live carefully. I have a CPA, a lawyer and people in place to make sure that we have money for retirement. I don’t buy expensive purses, and when my husband,who is an economics major, says ‘no’ to a purchase, it’s a no. It’s about balance and building generational wealth,” says Ramona, who grew up in Section 8 housing in St. Croix.
If there’s any piece of advice that Ramona would offer to other budding entrepreneurs, it would be hustle, drive, keep it simple, research, do your do-diligence and know that it’s attainable.
“Also think about a product that people need and make it affordable. I was clear from the beginning that I wanted everyone to be able to afford to get their teeth whitened.”