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Curly Temple’s Iyesis Gordon on Creating Her Own Space in Natural Hair

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If you aren’t already using Curly Temple products in your hair routine, it might be time to change that! The brainchild of Iyesis Gordon, Curly Temple is a vegan and cruelty-free natural hair brand that’s set on helping men and women embrace the curls and coils that grow from their temples. With its colorful packaging and playful, tropical inspired product names —think Curlada Moisturizing Curl Cream and Twist It Tea Butter— it’s easy to see why the brand has already built such a loyal following on social media. But, aesthetics aside, the line is packed with incredible products that will have your curl pattern popping!

The Tease spoke to Gordon about what inspired her hair line, her favorite products, and her exciting plans for the brand’s future.

Curly Temple Founder Iyesis Gordon

On the Curly Temple’s Origins

The Tease: What were you doing before you started Curly Temple and was starting a hair brand always a goal of yours?

Iyesis Gordon: No, it wasn’t always a goal of mine. Actually, my goal was graphic design. I went to college for marketing, so if you look at my product labels and my website — I designed it all myself. So, everything from what’s in the products that I’ve made to the labels, I’ve tried my hardest to put my creativity into my brand. But, by profession, I’m actually a dental hygienist.

What inspired you to create Curly Temple?

Gordon: Well, I have eczema and all the natural hair products in stores include the ingredient soy, especially the Black-owned hair products. They all have soy in it and I’m allergic to soy. I would rash up while I’m doing my hair and I didn’t understand why. Another thing to mention is that my hair has always been the same length. I went natural when natural hair wasn’t really a thing, so there was only really Carol’s Daughter out in stores. I would use the cheaper beauty supply products and my hair would just break off. I read the ingredients on these products and it was lots of chemicals. I’m like, “Why do they need to put those ingredients in the products?” So, I just started researching ingredients and I started making my own body lotions. I realized that hair lotion and body lotion is essentially the same thing. So, I was like, “I can make my own products.” That’s what I started doing —just making my own products because I had severe allergies.

How did the name Curly Temple come about and what does that really represent for you?

Gordon: Well, I was actually just going to make a product called Curly Temple because I was going with a drink theme. But, I was like, “Okay, well what is my brand name going to be?” And, I’m like, “You know what Curly Temple makes sense because it plays off Shirley Temple and your head is your temple. That’s really how I made it up.

What has been the fundraising journey for getting Curly Temple off the ground?

Gordon: So, whatever money that I make, it goes directly back into my business, whether it’s from product sales that I make or from my work. Everything just goes right into my business, so that’s been my funding. Right now, we’re in connection with a lawyer that’s going to help us get a grant. So, that’s in the works right now. Hopefully, next year we can be able to get into the big retail stores.

Building Her Brand

When did you officially launch Curly Temple and what has been the reaction from your customer base?

Gordon: I would say that I started in 2018. I did a rebranding last January because I started looking at other brands and I was like, “Wow! Their stuff looks really professional.” I want my stuff in stores because I really believe in my products. So, I changed my packaging and I changed my website. It’s been well-received and actually Covid-19 has helped our business because everyone’s been buying stuff online. We made about six times more income last year than we did during the year prior.

What are you finding has been the best-selling product among your customers?

Gordon: My Pineapple Crunch Gel Curl Definer is the last product that I made that sells out the most, which is crazy!

Is that your favorite product as well?

Gordon: People are really big on products that slip and personally, for me, I really don’t care about slip. My favorite product is actually the Lemon Gello Curl Definer. It’s a heavier curl definer and that was the very first product I made for myself. So, that’s my favorite product!

Your product names are super playful. What goes into naming your products?

Gordon: I battle between immaturity and professionalism and I think that my personality definitely comes out with the names of my products. My favorite product name is actually for my leave-in conditioner. It’s called Kurl Aid as a play on Kool-Aid.

I really tried to make my products look like what was already in the store, but I felt like that just wasn’t me. I’m really bright and colorful and I like colorful things. If I’m going to sell something, I’ve got to be happy with it across the board. I don’t want my brand to be the traditional natural hair product that you see in the store.

Curly Temple’s fun branding definitely sets it apart. What else would you say differentiates your line from other natural hair lines on the market?

Gordon: I think the fact that we really do focus on all curl types. I don’t want to just be a Black-owned hair brand that caters to Black hair. My brand is called Curly Temple. I follow a curly hair blog that’s not just for Black women, but for all women. I would always see comments like, “Well my mom hates my natural curls or my family doesn’t like when my hair is curly and they want me to straighten it,” and these weren’t Black women —these were Jewish women. Like, they have curly hair too! So, that’s something I’m really pushing for. I’m trying to be inclusive because so many people have textured hair.

Future Vision

What are your future plans for your business?

Gordon: We’re working on getting access to capital this year. My first job was at a Target, so my goal is to get my products in Target. That would be wonderful! Also, I’m in the process of writing a book on how to build a beauty brand right now. It’s almost done and it should be released in March. I’m self publishing on Amazon.

What advice do you have for other Black founders hoping to launch their own hair line?

Gordon: So, I was watching The Breakfast Club [with Charlamagne Tha God] and the owner of the brand The Honey Pot, [Beatrice Dixon] said, “Do not put B.S. out.” So, if you want to start your own business and you believe your products are amazing and you foresee them being in stores, always make sure you’re putting quality stuff out there. Whatever you put out is going to linger onto your brand for a long time. For instance, I’ve made mistakes and I’ve had Youtube videos made about me and I can’t go back and change that. Once things are on the Internet, it lives there. So, make sure that you have all of your ducks in a row before you release any type of product.

To learn more about Curly Temple, be sure to follow the brand at @mycurlytemple on Instagram.

Camille Nzengung
Camille Nzengung
Camille Nzengung is a Features Editor, based in Georgia, covering all things hair at The Tease. You can find her writing about the best hair products, the coolest hair trends, and all the exciting new hair launches.