Devin Graciano, former trend development executive and global hair educator, recently founded Use Me, a universal hair care product line to simplify your everyday hair routine. Use Me is hand-crafted by experts in the first USDA-certified organic lab in the United States. As CEO, Graciano strives to deliver necessary changes in the hair care industry through development process, customer connection, product consistency and performance.
What motivated and inspired you to start your own business?
My personal life inspired the business. I have gone through the death of someone I loved and through an absolutely horrifying domestic/sexual abuse situation. I made a promise to myself that having survived all I had, I wouldn’t take an opportunity for granted. I never wanted to rely on anyone else because I was faced with being alone, only having faith that God could help me survive.
I want my life, my family, and especially my daughter to be in a position where they never have to worry. If we are in a fight or flight situation, I always have a way out for us. I want her to see that being as females, we are strong. Our visions can be made a reality and you never have to jeopardize who you are to get what you want in life.
Tell us about your business.
Use Me Hair Products is a solution to simplify your hair routine. We are a luxury hair care line formulated with certified organic ingredients that self-adapt to every hair type. Not only that, we are affordable.
I wanted this line to really reflect elegance and to not leave anyone out. Price and effectiveness of hair products can certainly sift out a mass portion of our customers. I didn’t want that to be a factor. So, we are the solution.
- OCBJ 2018 Excellence in Entrepreneurship Nominee
- “Quickest to Rise,” by Toni & Guy USA
- North American Hairstyling Awards (NAHA) finalist
Where is your business based?
What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?
I feel like the last 15 years, I have been taking steps towards this new business, but it started off with my relationships. Having support from my mom and sister since day one of verbalizing my intent, then calling an industry friend and our lab to hear what they thought about my idea. Truly, if it wasn’t for their enthusiasm behind this, I could have easily said, “I need to keep thinking.”
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and getting new customers?
Word of mouth. No matter what day and age we live in. I’m thankful I have a solid reputation as a hairdresser, so I have a solid group of people who support Use Me hair products. But for mass consumer, you want validation. Usually a word of mouth referral or the consistency of seeing the product placement starts letting the guards down for people to try something new.
What have been your biggest challenges so far?
I’m a Virgo. Need I say more?
I need, not want, not would like, I NEED structured plans. I need to know what tomorrow will bring.
Accepting failure. Not that I want to fail, but making peace with it. If that’s the “monster” in the room and I’m not scared of it, then nothing can stop me.
How did you overcome these challenges?
Lots of meditation. Yoga. Running. I still work on my challenges daily.
How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
My family and chosen family. When it seems to get tough, I have the most amazing man in my corner that tells me the truth, no sugar coating, but always in a gentle loving way.
My best of friends, too. Reminding me where I have come from, all that I have survived and accomplished. The business should be one of the easiest to overcome. It sounds much better coming from the animated tones of friends.
How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
I don’t see any other hair products as a competitor. At the end of the day, it is the customer’s choice. Can they relate to my story, Use Me’s ethos? If they do, they are going to want the product. The performance of the product doesn’t compare to anything on the market, so once they try it, they are hooked!
What is the best advice you have received recently?
Do not overthink and analyze every word in every email. I am a face to face type of personality and you can see it. It’s hard to communicate that in writing, so I always over-analyze the smallest of things.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
- Do you believe in your product?
- Are you willing to take sacrifices?
- Are you willing to ask for advice?
- Are you sure you believe the product?
- Can you visualize it already made?
- Then what’s stopping you? GO!
What are your favorite business tools/resources and why?
My experience and my network of industry friends. If I didn’t walk this journey I would have thought I had seen it all. The more I did, the more I saw. I was the reliable, say yes to every project lady. What that has brought me today is an invaluable source of friends and experience you cannot get from your phone apps.
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
“You are a Badass – How to Stop Doubting your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life” by Jen Sincero.
What are you currently learning about for your business or looking for help with?
I am learning about massive contracts with distribution. Being CEO/Founder of my company, my hand is in everything. I was used to speaking about this and showing up to help close a deal. Now I am present every step of the way and learning with each step I take.
What are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?
My goal is to nurture my business with all of my energy. I deposit so much good intention and positive energy into each product and each person I work with. I will continue to do that.
I am also working on getting contracts signed for mass distribution, using my network and experience to help with that.
Raising my daughter that she can enjoy first grade and I can have a beautiful and peaceful wedding in July.
There is a lot happening this year and if it wasn’t for all I have gone through in my personal life and career, I wouldn’t be ready for it. So I am that much more excited to see how it all comes into fruition.
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