Fly Female Entrepreneur: Anu Prestonia

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Anu Prestonia

If you’re not already familiar with this beauty by name, trust and believe you’re familiar with her work. You know the Senegalese Twists that have been ALL the rage for years? Anu Prestonia went to Senegal, learned the technique, coined the name, and made it popular in the United States. Have you noticed most people use the term “Locs” vs. “Locks” when describing the hair? That’s all Anu’s doing.

As the owner and founder of Khamit Kinks, the go-to natural hair care salon in New York City, Anu Prestonia is somewhat of a natural hair historian. Since 1978, she has been THE natural hair goddess with a star-studded client roster that has included: Oprah Winfrey, Solange Knowles, Steve Wonder, Brandy, Queen Latifah, Angela Bassett, and countless others.

New York City’s hottest beauty and fashion mavens are heading to Khamit Kinks tonight to celebrate Anu’s new eponymous natural hair care line, Anu Essentials. Just in time for her brand’s highly anticipated launch, Anu sat down with In Her Shoes to share her entrepreneurial story. Find out what all the fuss is about!

In Her Shoes: As a beauty industry pioneer, you’ve been specializing in the styling and maintenance of natural hair for the last two decades. What are your thoughts on the current natural hair movement and where do you see it going in the next few years?

Anu: I think that the current natural hair movement is astounding!  I am truly impressed by what this new generation of Naturalistas are bringing to the table.  Through their education in such fields as communications and marketing, they’ve expanded the parameters of the natural hair industry and have blazed new trails.  They’ve created unique business opportunities for themselves and others, they’ve created communities on and off line, and they are setting hair and fashion trends world wide.  Hence, they are influencing young black girls around the globe in an empowering and positive way by just being who they are.  And I believe the natural hair movement is powerful beyond even what any of us have imagined in that it will lead to more opportunities for us to influence this world we live in.

In Her Shoes: What made you decide to launch your new hair care line, Anu Essentials, after years of owning and operating a salon?

Anu: I decided to launch my hair care line because I wanted to offer to my clients a product line that is made with integrity; with ingredients listed actually reflecting what is in the bottle.  I also wanted to answer the question that so many clients and potential clients have asked me about what they should use and know that what I am recommending, is something I used on my own hair, a line that was formulated with the health of their hair the considerable factor.

Anu at the tender age of 13

In Her Shoes: If you could rewind the clock back 15 years and give your younger, less experienced self a piece of business advice what would it be?

Anu: It would be to own the building that I house my business in.  Each time I have had to relocate, it has impacted my bottom line in a tremendous way.  Business owners in other parts of the U.S. may have more of an opportunity to purchase the real estate that houses their businesses more easily than New Yorkers.  In New York, it’s nearly a million dollars for residential property, so commercial property is most cost prohibitive in today’s New York market.

In Her Shoes: What is a day like in Anu Prestonia’s shoes?

Anu: A day for me is being up before the crack of dawn and beginning the day with practices that sustain me such as meditation, aerobic exercise, yoga, and mindful bathing and moisturizing etc.  Then it’s on to checking my social media, digital communications etc.  From there I’m out the door I could be headed to Costco for supplies for the salon, or to my food coop for herbal teas for clients.  I may be having one-on-one meetings with my staff, telephone interviews with beauty editors or checking up on my stock, interacting with clients and staff.  I do a bit of writing with my newsletter, blogs, email interviews, so many days are spent writing as well.  I may also be dropping off a ton of boxes at the post office or having lunch business meetings.  I wear a lot of hats and I’m not afraid of working and as a New Yorker, I’m used to running around.  As the day wines down, I may have an event to attend, if not, I make to bed pretty early (between 8-10 pm ) because most days I’m may be up as early at 3:00 a.m.

In Her Shoes: Who are some of your celebrity clients at Khamit Kinks?

Anu: Our celebrity clients include Stevie Wonder, Terrie McMillan, Solange Knowles, Chrisette Michelle, and Traci Thoms.  Celebrities that we’ve done in the past include Oprah Winfrey, Iman, Lenny Kravits, Angela Bassett, Regina King, Alfre Woodard, Spike Lee, Brandy and the list goes on.  Sadly many of our former celebrity clients no longer wear natural hairstyles but it is my hope that they will eventually return to natural.

In Her Shoes: With so many products targeting the natural consumer on the market, what makes your brand stand out from the competition?

Anu: I believe what makes my brand stand out from the others is that my name is on my products.  Considering the integrity that I have brought to my clients in dealing with the overall health of their hair, I have to trust that they will know that is the same standard, care and  integrity that is included in my product line.  Anu Essentials products are formulated using  real natural and active botanical ingredients that nurture and moisturize the hair and scalp.  I love the hair of our people and I am so happy that they are now loving their hair, are becoming familiar with and have an intimate knowledge of their own hair.  My products are designed to enhance the strength and texture of hair and thereby support their texture.

Khamit Kinks Salon: 400 Atlantic Avenue. Brooklyn, New York

In Her Shoes: What plans do you have for Anu Essentials and Khamit Kinks in 2013?

Anu: This year my plans for Khamit Kinks is to continue to set the bar for a high standard in natural hair care and style.  Many potential clients are at home watching You Tube videos and doing their own hair and I’m not mad at them.  I am happy for them that they are making efforts to learn about their hair.  But when they are ready to treat themselves and have a professional hair experience that is for their unique hair, we will be here for them.  Khamit Kinks will always be a place where they can be heard, respected and serviced with love and care.

As for Anu Essentials, it is our plan to have the Anu Essentials brand become a name that customers are familiar with and that they love to use.  It is our goal to have thousands of customers experience the Anu Essentials line of hair and body care products, including the Anu Essentials line of Natural Perfumes.  We are wearing our hair natural, buying natural hair care products, eating natural foods, but we are still spraying harsh chemicals on our bodies to perfume ourselves.  I encourage sisters to look into authentic natural perfumes. So sky’s the limit for 2013. We plan to continue to grow and be the destination location, we’ve always been!

 

 

 

 

As a New York City beauty PR strategist, Renae Bluitt created "In Her Shoes" to empower and enlighten women committed to realizing their dreams.

MelimeL says:

Had the pleasure of meeting Anu at her Spring Hair Affair event a week ago and she is very nice, passionate about natural hair, and so humble. I love to see women of color empowered in their field of work and really excel and make a name for themselves! I told Anu I’m going to Khamit when I’m ready for the BC! Lol :-)

Sulesa says:

Such an inspiration!!!

Loreitha Lacewell-Wells says:

This is an aspiring story and a part of the history of natural hair. I’ve been natural for 5 years and love the diversity of styles you can do by doing this.
I can envision the day when natural hair will be the hair that all races and creeds of women will want to have!
Thank you for sharing your gifts in the how to care for natural hair. Offering this line of products is a natural progression in the natural hair evolution! Love it!

Toia B. says:

Great story! I need to make my way to that salon. It’s a shame I’ve been a Brooklyn girl for so long, natural for three years and have yet to walk through those doors. Congrats to Anu on the product launch!