Nov. 14, 2023
Reading time: 4 minutes

While University of West Georgia alumna Ameka Coleman ’16 transformed an initial investment of $3,500 into a flourishing seven-figure company, it’s still the little things that she takes pride in the most. For example, with every order a person makes with her Black-owned beauty brand Strands of Faith, the recipient receives a mustard seed with a note that serves as a reminder that they can move mountains.

Ameka Coleman ’16

“The note reminds them that no matter what they’re going through, they can overcome their toughest challenges,” explained Coleman. “Throughout life, I didn’t know my worth, and it really affected my self-esteem. With this brand, our purpose-driven piece is to empower women to believe in themselves. That’s what gives me joy most out of anything.”

And with a new, historic contract in place for Strands of Faith, a natural hair products brand, there will be enough mustard seeds to build a mountain.

Born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi, a natural thirst for knowledge led Coleman to the UWG Richards College of BusinessMBA program. The first-generation college student had already earned two bachelor’s degrees in microbiology and biological sciences from Mississippi State University and a master’s degree in clinical research management from the University of North Texas Health Science Center. 

When she enrolled at UWG, Coleman was a full-time professional working in the healthcare field as a researcher, so the flexibility of an online component was vital. However, the virtual setup didn’t detract from certain benefits of a full university experience.

“The students in my program were ethnically diverse, which was amazing because it prepared me for real-world scenarios with many different points of view,” she said. “It gave me insight on how to build a business in a cohesive and inclusive way.”

Although Coleman had zero aspirations to start her own business then, her time at UWG gave her the knowledge she needed for what was to come – like budgeting, forecasting and launching new products.

“It prepared me in ways I didn’t know I needed to be prepared,” she described. “In the long run, all my degrees connected and complemented each other. My scientific background with its research experiences was important because I formulate all our products from scratch and manufacture our products in-house, and the MBA from UWG added that core aspect of business expertise.”

Coleman’s personal hair odyssey took place long before her degrees came to fruition. In 2006, she created a YouTube channel on which she showcased the beauty of going natural by trying different hairstyles. In turn, women watching became inspired to go back to their roots as well.

“I never knew what the real texture of my hair looked like until then,” Coleman shared. “With our hair types, it’s very hard to keep our hair moisturized because of the structure of the strands. It’s very hard for the oils at the scalp to reach the ends, which can lead to breakage and dryness. I wanted to create a solution that would keep hair moisturized and hydrated, and that’s how I ended up formulating our moisture retention system.”

Coleman founded Strands of Faith in 2018 with two major goals in mind – empowering women to believe in themselves and to provide clean products for an underserved market of people with textured hair. 

The National Institutes of Health recently published a study that women who used chemical hair straightening products were at higher risk for uterine cancer compared to women who did not. Another study conducted by the Boston University School of Public Health and published in the American Journal of Epidemiology reported these “relaxers” can impact a woman’s fertility, as well. 

Strands of Faith hair product examples

Therefore, it was important to Coleman that her company – whose product line includes conditioners, shampoos and stylers – provide safe and healthy options that feature nontoxic formulas, free of harmful ingredients.

Within three years, Strands of Faith grew into a seven-figure business. More recently, it made history when Coleman inked a deal with Premier Inc. to supply 4,400 hospitals across the U.S. with products for textured hair.

“We’re the first textured hair brand to enter this kind of partnership,” she beamed. “Hospitals began recognizing the lack of inclusive care for their patients, so they created a category to source products for ethnic care. This means companies are finally realizing these are needed items and should be the standard in hospital care.”

The fact that Coleman has come full circle – from working in a hospital to providing them with her own products – isn’t lost on her. And most importantly, through it all, she stayed true to her purpose, plan and faith.

“I’m over-the-moon ecstatic that we get to be a part of this,” she concluded. “I want people who use Strands of Faith to feel that as long as you have hope, you can make it through anything. Embrace your texture, believe in yourself and keep the faith.”