On the 28th of December 2013 I had the pleasure of meeting a very inspiring communication professional and entrepreneur. Gisele Cooper is a part-time communication professional and full-time owner of Shesells, a shop that sells natural hair products, magazines and DVDs.
Who is Gisele? What was your childhood like?
My childhood *giggles*. Well my name is Gisele Cooper, I’m 42 years old. I was born in Amersfoort. When I was 5 years old I moved to Suriname and lived there till I was 16-17 years old. I then came back to the Netherlands and now I live in Amsterdam. The most important thing was education (school) but there was also time for fun. We liked going on vacation.
When I was young I always wanted to advice people and I was always selling stuff. Like I said I was raised in Suriname. In Suriname we had a big mango tree, so my sister, my two cousins and I we started to sell mangoes to make our own money. And I was only 5.
I read online in an interview at missmundo.nl that you’re also a communication manager at Abn-Amro. Did you always wanted to do that? Or was there a point in your life that lead to communication?
My first encounter with communication was in high school when I was 17. I was learning communications and I found it very interesting but when I got my degree I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to become but I knew which subjects I liked. I chose a study that contained all the interesting subjects. I liked communications, economics, and marketing so I went to study consumer science. After that I have had several jobs and for the last couple of years I’ve been working in communications. And it’s definitely something I really like.
I didn’t study just communications because I didn’t want to do just one subject. To keep my options open I chose a study that also contained economics and marketing because you can use it for all kinds of professions.
So you started your business in 2005, the web shop.
Where there any obstacles?
No, not really. I started really small because then I was working fulltime. I had a few products and a few hairstyle books and I started to expand that. I didn’t have many obstacles because I didn’t see it as my main income.
I saw that you are at a lot of events. Are you there to promote your business or to educate women on their natural hair?
Yes, I don’t only want to educate people but also empower them to love their own hair. I think that’s very important so most of the events I organize also have an empowering element. So it’s not just about beauty but also becoming aware of yourself, loving yourself. On the 15th of December , they screened a documentary called ‘natural woman’ and it’s really about women and what kind of struggles they have with their own hair when they decide to go natural. Sometimes parents don’t like it and sometimes people want to return natural but they don’t know how to maintain their hair.
The main point that’s stated in the video is that women don’t wear their natural hair because they think that they don’t fit in society. Is this also an idea you support or not?
I think there are more reasons why women don’t have their natural hair. They think that if they go natural they won’t be able to find a good job. Some women have never learned how to take care of their natural hair because when they were very young they needed to straighten it, so they don’t even know how their own hair looks like. Or they do it to fit in; when they see their friends wearing weaves and wigs they want that for themselves.
What do you think of girls that don’t wear their natural hair? That wear weaves and wigs, who put relaxers in their hair?
Well, I think it’s good that women have a choice. I have also relaxed my hair in the past. The most important is why are you doing it. I get that we are women and the one day we want something but the other we want something else. Is that the reason you’re doing it? or is it because you don’t like your own hair. If that’s the point then I think it’s an issue.
“You can have a bad hair day but not bad hair”
If that is the point what would you want to say to those girls?
You have to think first where does it come from. Sometimes they don’t even know how to handle their hair. Sometimes family members tell hem that their hair is so hard and unattractive. It makes them think why they have hair like this. It can’t be wrong or bad, you can have a bad hair day but not bad hair. I often question why some people talk about good and bad hair, I mean like why are you doing that?
Do you only sell products or do you also show people how to use them?
No I don’t only sell products but as you’ve seen in my shop here I have a chair and a mirror. I use them to show people how to use the products. I also give them tips and advice. Some people come with all of their products to show and ask for advice whether they are good.
What are the main reasons why people come to your store?
The main reasons are how to take care of their hair. The products I sell contain natural ingredients, that’s a big reason why people come to Shesells.
Sometimes people come because they have hair loss or hair breakage. They want to use natural products because they think it’s better for their hair and they want to improve the health of their hair.
People are starting to educate themselves about their hair, they read on the Internet, they watch YouTube videos and see which products are good for their hair. So being on that journey they start searching for alternative products.
So the natural hair revolution is coming up. It’s already in Rotterdam and it’s not that big in Amsterdam. What do you think about that?
I think more and more people are
going returning natural. But also for different reasons because I know few people who have relaxed their hair for years and their hair is damaged. They question themselves why they are doing this, others have become more conscious of themselves they are like: ‘I love myself for who I am so why not my hair’. Also there are women and girls who are saying: ‘Oh it’s fashion now, I see people wearing their natural hair and I want to fit in.’
I’d like to think that certain factors in life are just a part of us it’s not our whole life. Like when people say this is my life and without it I can’t live. So Shesells is also a part of your life but what’s the other part?
Like I said I also work as a communication manager but I do that part-time. The things that I learn there I can use in my company and vice versa. Shesells, I’m not a part-time entrepreneur because you are busy 24 hours a day.
Now that we’ve almost come to the end of this interview. It is time for a word association game. If I say a word you’ll have to say the first word that pops in to your mind.
Shesells – Nice company *giggles*
Orange – The color I use for my company
Customers – Important
Natural beauty – Important
Big chop – Necessary
Relaxers – Harmful
Castor oil – Very good oil
Braids – Protective style
Are you curious? Do you want to know even more about Gisele Cooper and Shesells?
Follow her on Facebook, check out her Webshop and Blog.