It’s not every day that you come across an entrepreneur who created their global, multi-million dollar business using $100 in tip money from waiting tables.
Rochelle Graham-Campbell, CEO & co-founder of Fort Myers-based Alikay Naturals, turned a personal hobby into a multi-million dollar business that is debt and investor-free.
We spoke with Rochelle to learn more about her success:
Rochelle was one of YouTube’s first beauty vloggers. She used the platform as a creative outlet while she studied full time, worked two jobs, wrote for a newspaper, and sold jewelry. She created her first natural hair product out of self-need, after deciding to cut her hair and grew frustrated with chemical products on the market. When YouTube followers began to notice her results and inquire about the product, she used $100 in tip money to produce a few extra bottles. The product sold out within 24 hours. From that point on, she put all the money she made back into the business and the rest is history.
“My husband and I were juggling everything; he was also in college full time. We would drop off packages to the post office between classes, and stay up at night to make the product,” says Rochelle. “Once I graduated, I made the decision to give the company a chance, give it my all, my full attention.”
Rochelle and her husband decided to move from Tampa to Fort Myers, to raise a family and run the business. What started as an at-home business has grown into a 6,500-square-foot space.
Today, Rochelle’s YouTube channel has more than 15 million views, and 100,000 subscribers. You can purchase Alikay Naturals products in large-scale retailers such as Target, Right Aid, Kroger, and Bed Bath & Beyond, and more than eight countries including Dubai, Nigeria, England, Canada, and all of the Caribbean.
What makes Lee County a great place for her global business?
- Location. “Business definitely flourishes in a town such as Fort Myers,” says Rochelle. Rochelle travels on a regular basis, and enjoys being in a location where there’s an international airport that offers a lot of direct flights. “I can fly to New York and take a meeting before my son gets home from school,” she adds.
- Community. “Fort Myers is small enough where you can really network and build some amazing relationships,” says Rochelle. Her company has been able to build long-lasting partnerships with other businesses in the community, and those businesses have been able to step in and offer support along the way.
- Affordability. Rochelle was thankful to find a large commercial space for an affordable price, to help fit the warehousing and shipping demands for Alikay Naturals. “You would have to spend two or three times the amount for your footage in other areas,” she comments.
- Opportunity for Growth. Fort Myers is growing rapidly, and Rochelle saw an opportunity to introduce a new business to the area. She opened Be Fabulous Salon & Spa in 2014. “Before opening Be Fabulous Salon, people would have to travel more than two hours to find someone that specializes in their hair,” Rochelle says.