Camille Rose CEO, Janell Stephens, Wants Black Women To Be Their Best Selves

Janell Stephens, the founder of Camille Rose Naturals, started her company as a solution to her children’s aggressive skin ailments. A former therapist and mother of five, it all began in early 2010 when Stephens became horrified at the list of ingredients in skin and hair care products for children.

To her surprise not only did she create a powerful skin care treatment for her little ones but she ultimately crafted a brand that now has a cultlike following. ESSENCE recently caught up with the busy entrepreneur, who is an advocate for total health and wellness, to discuss her #BestsSelf campaign and her ever-expanding beauty empire. 

Was beauty always something you had an interest in?

Absolutely not, it was when I became a mom. My children had skin problems, and several dermatologists I spoke to told me to make sure I was reading labels on the products I was using on my kids, even the organic ones.  

I then became hyper-aware of the ingredients in products and actually read labels and I couldn’t believe it. All of the chemicals and artificial things in them scared me. When you’re a new mom you want the absolute best for your child, so after becoming aware of this I decided to make my own because I didn’t like what was on the shelves.

Take us through the first steps of how Camille Rose came to be?

It was a hobby turned business. My clients would [request] my products… So I started thinking that this could be something others may want for their families.

At first I talked to a lab [to see about production] and it just wasn’t for me, so in the beginning, I was making everything myself in my kitchen. After throwing up the site, I started getting orders. Then I started going to trade shows and vending and was selling out in those spaces.

It was at one of those trade shows I met a buyer at a major retail store and we had a conversation about my business. We exchanged information and went from there to launch my product in stores across the country.

How much preparation went into the major launch?

I researched for a year and played around in my kitchen for another year, experimenting with formulas and making product after product. I was hand-making everything. Even when Target came to me I was still hand-making the products.

Eventually, I had to hire help.

After I felt confident in my own formula, I took it to a lab and they were surprised that most of my ingredients were food grade. They started to offer cheaper (and artificial) formula alternations, and I just couldn’t get with it. Finally, I found a lab that accepted me.

What’s a common misconception about starting your own brand/owning your own business?

People don’t realize how much time you have to put in. I live and breathe my business daily. Even people that work for me don’t realize how much work goes on behind the scenes. You’re always on. Some people just aren’t cut out for it or can’t handle it, and that’s fine. For me, I’m created to be a boss.

Tell us about the #BestSelf Campaign.

We have recently launched a hair vitamin and facial line. It was a big deal for us that the brand moved into a new category, though we were always a total wellness brand (mind, body, and soul). Natural doesn’t stop with your hair, it’s more than that.  

I want to encourage other people to commit to a total life change as well. Taking steps to be more knowledgeable about exactly what they’re putting in and on their bodies, and to do their own research to make sure they can be their ‘best self.’

What are some of your favorite self-care practices?

It looks like a gym, me running, and doing Pilates. I love to work out and that is my time. After I drop my kids off at school I hit the gym or the track. It makes me feel like I’m keeping myself together and keeping my body fit. It’s my meditation.

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