If you’ve ever wondered why boys and men are often left out of the conversation when talking about Black-owned natural hair brands, you’re not alone. Despite the fact that most textured hair products are gender-neutral, very few actually target young men with their marketing and advertising.
Thankfully, 17-year-old TikTok sensation Khalil Battle is working to change this narrative and reimagine the textured haircare experience for men everywhere with his own line of products called KingCurls. The young entrepreneur, who’s known to his 1.1 million TikTok followers as KhalilGotTheJuice, has already established himself as an influential figure in the natural hair community thanks to his viral hair videos. With the launch of KingCurls, Battle is one step closer to ensuring the haircare aisle is more representative of people that look just like him.
The Tease had the opportunity to speak with Battle about his journey into haircare, becoming a TikTok hair influencer, and what it’s like to be a teenage entrepreneur.
The Tease: Tell me about KingCurls and why you decided to create the line.
Khalil Battle: KingCurls is a haircare brand dedicated to boys with natural hair. Our main goal is really just to break gender barriers amongst women’s brands in today’s haircare industry. The main reason that I wanted to pursue a haircare brand is because I was tired of using my mom’s products and getting scolded for it. I always felt underrepresented when I would shop for hair products and did not see people who looked like me being marketed to.
What was your relationship like with your hair growing up?
Battle: Before high school, I was really insecure about my hair and a lot of times I would texturize my hair to achieve a looser curl pattern. It wasn’t until I spent a great amount of time — like a lot of time— with my two female cousins that I started picking up on their hair routine and I started getting acclimated with my own hair texture. I started doing research and watching Youtube videos of people’s everyday hair routines and started to discover what products are right for me and how to do protective styling. It took almost four years to really perfect my hair routine.
Going back to your line, how did you come up with the name KingCurls and what does it really represent for you?
Battle: KingCurls was a name that was bounced between me and my mom when I initially brought the idea to her. She would always refer to my brother and me growing up as kings before she would refer to us as her sons. It kind of just made sense and it was an uplifting way to refer to boys so, I just want to promote that a little more.
I don’t think that I’ve seen a natural hairline devoted entirely to young men before KingCurls. How did consumers react when you first launched the brand?
Battle: During our launch, I actually wrote a tweet and it went viral with a lot of people leaving positive feedback about the marketing and how we were promoting boys with different demographics and different backgrounds. People were really just immersed in our brand and it made me feel good because it made boys feel confident in their hair.
You launched the brand with your Hydrating and Defining Curl Styling Cream. Why was it important that this be your first product?
Battle: We actually were spending a lot of time trying to decide which products that we wanted to launch. We were going to launch a line of products but I felt like having a staple product to get our name out there and having a product that people knew us for was very important before coming out with an entire line.
Tell me about the experience of launching a hair brand during the pandemic. Were there any interesting challenges that you had to overcome?
Battle: The pandemic definitely brought a lot of challenges. I think the number one problem that we faced was shipping delays. We had orders being shipped out and not being delivered for weeks on end. That kind of put a dent in our relationships with our customers. But, we also tried to relay as many shipping updates as we could on our social media and I think that helped smooth everything out.
Even before launching KingCurls, you were already making a name for yourself on social media as a TikTok hair influencer. How did you become famous on the platform?
Battle: I started TikTok in July of 2019 and my first four videos were just really playful. My fifth video was actually a hair video. That video received a million views in one day and I gained like 10,000 followers. I was like, “Dang, I think this is what I need to be doing.” I just wanted to tackle this niche. I felt like if I just kept going and was consistent with hair content then I would be successful. So, that’s what I did and it got me a bunch of views and a lot of supporters.
Can I ask what was the hair video that got you a million views?
Battle: It was a video of me twisting my hair.
You obviously have a lot of influence on social media. How important has social media been with growing your brand?
Battle: I feel like social media was definitely one of the most important factors to creating a successful brand. A lot of my supporters put trust in me and they feel like, “Oh, if he comes out with a product, it must be really good.” They just automatically want to try the product and they put their trust in the product because they put their trust in me. I feel like social media played a huge part in how successful our launch was and will continue to play a big role in how we’re going to be successful in the future.
You’re a young founder and your brand really speaks to Gen Z shoppers. From your perspective, what do you think your demographic is really looking for when it comes to hair products?
Battle: I think my demographic, which is boys aged 13-24, are looking for a product that is for them specifically, because they are still in that stage of being insecure about their hair. I got out of that early and I’m trying to educate them as much as I can. I already know from the feedback that I get on a daily basis that they are insecure, so I think they are looking for a product that’s going to transform their hair forever and that’s what I have KingCurls for.
How do you balance being a regular teenager and being an entrepreneur? What does a typical day look like for you?
Battle: A normal day would start with me waking up at 8 a.m. for school and then going to my first three classes. Around 12 p.m, I‘m eating lunch and going to my office. Then, I’m finishing those last two classes of the day and in between those classes, I’m working on my business and getting orders up. At 3 p.m, I go to practice because I run track and field. After practice, which is around 6 p.m., I head back to the office and finish some more orders. Around 8 p.m., I go home and I sleep and then, I restart the whole process all over again the next day. It’s a really busy day for somebody my age, but I seem to get it done.
What is the future looking like for you with KingCurls?
Battle: The future of KingCurls is just being a successful Black-owned haircare brand for boys. I want to be the staple hair brand for boys all over the world—not just locally or in Atlanta. I want it to be the entire face of haircare for boys in the world.
What’s your message to young Black creatives like yourself who are trying to make an impact in the hair industry?
Battle: I would say to never take no for an answer and to stay consistent whether that be with haircare content or just running your business. There’s a lot of boys who follow me that do hair videos now because they looked up to me at one point. I always tell them to just stay consistent. I think that’s one of the most important things.