Chloé Elliot

How the founder of Odyssey Box, a growing bi-monthly subscription service tailored to naturalistas, juggled her uni workload while building a brand...

Tell us about your experience as an English Language Assistant in Germany.

From the age of 11, living abroad and working as a language assistant had been a dream of mine. I have loved learning languages from a young age, but it wasn’t until secondary school that I interacted with language assistants in my French and German lessons, and I knew that I wanted to be one too.

So, fast forward a decade and it was finally happening. It was perhaps the most exciting yet daunting experience of my life. More so than moving away to university. I knew that it was going to be a challenge and I was absolutely ready to tackle it head on. I just hadn’t anticipated the types of challenges that I would actually end up facing.

Whenever I describe my time in Germany now, I describe it as character building. The first time I met one of my colleagues, she told my dad that he looked like Will Smith and asked me whether my family at home in the UK could speak any English… I grew up faster than I ever have in Germany and learned a lot about myself in the process.

I learned that I could tolerate a lot more than I thought in the way of being microaggressions. From being asked to prove my British citizenship by carrying my passport to work, to being called “the dark-skinned one” in the staff room. I also learned that I was very good at making the best out of a bad situation.

I used my time in Germany not only to establish CurlyGalChlo and support black-owned haircare brands, but also to try veganism, practise mindfulness, start running and to start going to the gym more regularly. By the end of summer 2018 I was taking part in 5k runs and further and I had a daily streak in the hundreds on my meditation app.

I had also set my sights on applying for the Enterprise Scholarship at my university to take my accomplishments further. I received an award of recognition from German at Leeds for completing the year, despite being authorised to come home half-way through. I owe a lot of successes and achievements since to my experiences in Germany too.

Would you still have taken the year abroad in hindsight?

I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. In hindsight, I can see all of the setbacks I had to overcome to try to have the year abroad experience that I had dreamed of. I can also see how these setbacks were a springboard into better things. They showed me what I am capable of, physically, mentally and emotionally and so I would still have taken the year abroad, even knowing what was to come.

How did you manage your workload as a university student and business-owner?

Discipline. You won’t always be motivated, so when motivation fails you, discipline takes its place. I studied French and German alongside managing the demands of CurlyGalChlo as a start-up offering many different services – some of which involved me making the journey from Leeds to London or Milton Keynes, Coventry or Birmingham.

It also helped that I was and still am hugely passionate, dedicated and determined to meet the goals I had set myself. But ultimately, I had to be ruthless with my time and make sacrifices. I would stay on campus for at least 10 hours a day to get my university work done and then spend the evenings and weekends creating and planning content for CurlyGalChlo.

Balancing the two types of work is so ingrained into my lifestyle that it feels like second nature now that I’m working full-time. The difference is that now my working week is 40 hours instead of 50+ and I have to split my evenings and weekends between CurlyGalChlo and ODYSSEY BOX.

What opportunities has your Enterprise Scholarship contributed towards ODYSSEY BOX?

When I applied for the Enterprise Scholarship, I didn’t have ODYSSEY BOX in mind, but I knew that I wanted to take CurlyGalChlo to the next level. So, I made the most of all the resources available to me, which included start-up funding, a 3-day entrepreneur bootcamp with likeminded people, readily available business advice and workshops. The Leeds Enterprise Scholarship is one of the best in the country and regularly holds competitions throughout the year and holds events where you can meet alumni, such as the founders of LADBible.

Which black-owned hair and beauty brands should we be following right now?

If you want to keep up to date with brands to watch, you should definitely be following CurlyGalChlo. My list is ever-growing but a few that have climbed their way to the top are:

Retro Rich, they use ancient recipes for modern beauty, including some fantastic chebe products that I’m really loving. No hype just results. The same can be said for Earth Elixir Haircare, a relatively new Ayurvedic haircare brand offering, teas, hair oil and hair butter infused with Ayurvedic herbs. There’s Primal Beauty, Heaven’s Touch and Almocado too. For skincare, you should definitely be following Earth to Earth Organics for body washes, body oils and body butters and Bourn Beautiful Naturals.

How do you build a relationship with a brand?

Like with any relationship, there has to be balance. It’s not all about what you can get, it’s about what you give too. The best collaborations happen when you give as good as you receive. That’s how you start to build a relationship. If you invest your time in a growing brand, oftentimes they will invest their time in you too.

Some of my best, long-lasting collaborations have come from me giving my genuine feedback before anything even reaches Instagram. In some cases, this has inspired an addition to a product range or product re-design. It’s also meant that I have been invited to take on bigger projects for the brands or represent them in a bigger way. Just from being honest and showing I care.

Do most of your customers buy your boxes as a gift or for themselves?

At the moment, most of our customers by ODYSSEY BOX for themselves and their little ones. I think everyone needs a bit of self-care right now.

Odyssey Box design

How did you come up with the packaging design for ODYSSEY BOX?

My inspiration for the look and feel of ODYSSEY BOX was the concept of journeying, travelling and adventure. I wanted it to really tie back to the idea of a natural hair journey, but also depict the idea of movement that is relevant to a number of us and our families within the natural hair community. My own grandparents came to the UK from St. Lucia and Jamaica by boat and so their journeys were a part of that vision. I also wanted to capture the idea or luxury and quality, not just in the products but from the moment you land on an ODYSSEY BOX page or get your hands on a box.

Why do you avoid coconut oil in styling products?

I avoid coconut oil in styling products as it is praised as a holy grail product for natural hair, which is it is for many, but for others it can cause dry, brittle hair and sore itchy scalps. The trouble is that it often isn’t identified as a potential allergen or sensitive ingredient because it’s so highly regarded. ODYSSEY BOX can be more inclusive if it avoids it as much as possible, meaning more people get to have luxury wash day experiences with us.

Also, I am allergic to coconut oil and have found it difficult to get my hands on products that I can use without any issues, and so I want to be able to share what works for me with other people in the natural hair community who are having the same difficulties.

What changes are you hoping to see with the help of the natural hair movement in this decade?

I hope the natural hair movement can continue to inspire more people to support black-owned businesses this decade and beyond. For year products have been targeted at black women that contain toxic chemicals and fillers causing birth defects, asthma and cancer. So many of them fail to deliver on their promises and don’t actual nourish or protect our hair.

We’re in a time now where we have far more choice than the previous generations did. There are more and more small businesses are addressing the need for safe, clean, quality haircare by creating truly natural and effective product ranges. We can choose the communities and brands we support, and I would like to see more support for our growing community of black-owned businesses.

Visit Odyssey Box's website at https://www.odysseyboxuk.com/

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