Meet CDB London's Managing Director: Courtney Daniella
This week we’re doing something a little different. We’re getting to know the person behind the brand that is CDB London. Get to know Courtney Daniella and CDB London.
Who is Courtney Daniella?
I am 23 years old and North London born. I was raised the daughter of 2 amazing Ghanaian parents, who immigrated to London in the 90’s.
I’ve been doing hair for 10 years. I started off self-taught then I worked in my first salon at 16, and moved to an award winning salon when I was 18, as their lead branding stylist before I went to university. I’ve got a degree in Human Social and Political Sciences from the University of Cambridge, during which I started my YouTube Channel. Whilst at university I worked on better access to higher education and worked for a beauty start up as a business development consultant. I’ve done quite a bit in media, business and even policy but to sum it up: I’m a girl who loves God, beauty, and creating opportunities for people to have the freedom to create and define the life they want.
What’s CDB London?
The Create and Define Beauty Company is a purpose-filled dream I’ve had of creating experiences and opportunity through hair and beauty.
CDB London is a hair company making the wig experience easy and enjoyable for everyday women, all over the world. We’re currently a team of 6 amazing young black women growing in a range of skills from graphic design, marketing and data analysis, so we can make this a brand and community that supports and serves black women well.
How did you get into the wig business and why?
My aunty really. She’s been a hairdresser for over 20 years and when I entered my teen years she wanted me to get into hair. She always said that “no matter how smart you are, always find a skill that can allow your hands to make money for you.” Being the teen that I was, of course I didn’t take note of her wisdom.
That was until I found the wigs and weave section on YouTube. I would see all these amazing (mostly Black American) women creating new styles in their very own bathrooms. I wanted to try them all out but my aunty wouldn’t do them for me. I was 13 at the time, so it was either expensive brands or maximum a 14” Premium Too sew in with no hair left out. Safe to say that wasn’t the look I wanted so I decided to take matters into my own hands. It was either I spent hours with my arms contorted in all manners of ways to get a perfect sew in weave or, learn to make wigs; I chose the latter.
Everyday after school I’d come home and for hours study all the videos on wig making I could. I’d save all my lunch money and buy the best hair I could (pack hair from the hair shop always lol) and make myself the best wig I could. Sometimes it would take me all night but nothing made me more proud than to walk into school the next day, and have all the girls envious over my new look. And with practice over years, just studying videos, creating wigs every fortnight, and realising how much I loved it, I started to offer it as a service to the women who would ask me about it. I was hesitant at first. I was worried I would only know how to create a look on myself but to do it for someone else, custom size and cut I thought would be harder.
Once I overcame the fear I realised I preferred making wigs to braiding. This realisation came 7 years into making wigs and doing hair. So in my 3rd and final year of my degree I decided to offer a wig making service called CDB Wigs. To be honest I was broke and needed to make money whilst having flexible hours, so I could still write 4000 words a week. Wig making was a no brainer so I started. At the end of my final year I realised I was making enough money at my ‘side hustle’ that I could make this a full time thing. But I wanted to make sure it was something I was passionate about. I was 21, with a fresh degree from a good university and my mum was still very open about her dreams of me becoming a lawyer. If I was going to ‘do hair’ I needed it to be far greater than just ‘making money’. So I realised as much as I loved hair - the U.K. hair and hair extension industry had its major flaws. From bad hair to bad customer service, even with the price point being ‘luxury’. I was and still am a consumer, hair stylist and business owner. I try to see things from all those angles and the problems that need to be solved. I want to solve them. That’s how I ended up here.
What’s a typical day in the life of CDB London’s Managing Director?
I typically wake up briefly at around 3am, and that is to communicate with our suppliers in Asia about inventories, wholesale orders, production and how far along things are. When I talk to suppliers I usually have to wake up really early just because of the time difference. I tend to do this for about an hour, then I go back to sleep at 4am and usually wake up at 7 am.
When I get up I pray and I spend about an hour watching hair tutorials. I do this because I believe it’s amazing, watching women all around the world creating and defining beauty trends everyday. They’re coming up with new techniques and styles so, watching YouTube tutorials looking at certain hashtags, it’s basically like watching morning news for me. It helps me keep on track of trends, styles, techniques and products, as well as the hair and beauty industry in general. It takes a bit of time in my day, but watching hair tutorials is how I learnt to do hair, so it’s a big part of me now. After this I jump out of bed, get ready and go to the studio. I try my best to not spend too much at home in the morning or I find it really hard to get up for work, so I actually get to CDB London studio for 9am. When I do get in that’s when I start doing admin stuff. Admin consists of checking my emails, customer service emails, checking on other members of the team to see if there’s anything I can do to help, and making sure everyone is on task. I make sure deadlines are being met as well.
Usually I have to review and edit the #HairMadeEasy series as well, so I spend time watching content and making adjustments. I make notes for edits and send it back to the editor, Mary, so that she can make those changes.
Next on my list is checking orders. I usually check the orders that need to be sent out that day and see if any orders are coming in, so I can restock on the website before they’re customised. That way they are available to buy.
After I’ve done all the administration stuff, checked in on my emails and my team, I will spend the rest of the day (usually from 11am) on wigs. That’s customising wigs, colouring it, cutting wigs, plucking hairlines and bleaching knots. I’ll prepare and organise stock, all while monitoring what orders come in as they need to be sent out for next day delivery unless it’s a pre-order. During the majority of the day I’m actually working on hair, which is something I’m used to and like to imagine that I can do it with my eyes closed. I get to chill and listen to a podcast, or watch a sermon or a little bit of netflix. I get through a lot of series and films, which is great because I love cinematography, whilst sitting down wig making with my mannequin head. I get to make amazing wigs for amazing women all over the world. That’s typically what I do until 4:30pm.
At 4:30 I’ll get to the post office, I would have sorted all the packaging and got them ready to be sent out for next day delivery. I usually have to get into a very long line, but I always get everything sent out for the next day special delivery. I return back to the studio for team meetings which happen twice a week or individual meetings. I like to have my meetings at the end of the day. I love our team meetings. We get creative, have a laugh and we’re usually in our bonnets, headscarves or cornrows. It’s during those times we plan and execute campaigns.
After meetings which are usually done at 7pm, I tend to stick around the studio to work on other projects. CDB London is my job, but I like to work on other things I am passionate about and want to contribute towards.
I get home at about 9 or 10pm and get ready for bed. I try my hardest to not bring work home with me, I make sure I get everything done at the studio.My days are busy, filled with meetings or calling customers. I answer messages as well. It’s a lot but I enjoy it. Some days I work from home as well.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to anyone trying to start up their own business?
Remember that with your business you are going to be serving people. When you’re a leader of a business it’s easy to get stuck in your brain, with what you want to happen. As time progresses especially if you’re selling a product or solving a problem, you’re going to be dealing with people. In dealing with people you realise that not everyone thinks like you, not everyone reacts like you do. However, if you're constantly remembering that you, as the leader of this business or organisation or even a team, you are there to serve your customers, your teams or the people whose problems you are trying to solve.
This means listening to them and their needs. You have to really understand them and to try your best to get on with them. Because of that you need to be ready to go above and beyond for those that support you and who you want to support you. Make sure you keep that appreciation for the fact that you’re impacting people’s lives. If you want to be impacting people’s lives you need to show that you care either about them or your products, ideally both. Show them you care about the product because you care about them.
If you remember this simple thing: service is everything, service will bring out the best in you and other people. This is because you challenge yourself to think outside of yourself,, your desires, as well as the results you want to see. Whilst you’re reaching your goals you can see how much you’re impacting other people. I didn’t realise the magnitude of this until I got a team. You start to realise this really isn’t about me. For the longest time I was working by myself, doing everything by myself made it easy to become self-centred. When you’re a business owner it becomes less and less about you, it becomes more and more about this industry you love and the community you want to serve.
For me, my life is trying to understand what people want and trying to create what people want in a way that I can best apply my knowledge, skills and work ethic. This is the same with my team. I am here to serve them to make sure that they grow and get the best out of it. It’s the same with my customers too, I want to make sure they have a good experience. To me business is really about serving.
What’s next for Courtney Daniella and CDB London?
I am trying to get CDB London to the place it needs to be and should be, in the sense that we want to make this a global brand. We want to make this brand a business that solves issues in the beauty industry as it pertains to black women.
I understand, appreciate and love hair so much because I know that it can be a real bonding experience for the women in the various black communities that exist: african, carribean, black British, African American, Afro-latina. The hair experience for black people in Asia is completely different as well. So understanding what we can create to solve problems that make this bonding experience, that is such a big part of our community enjoyable, efficient and profitable, for all the moving parts within it.
I worked as a hairstylist for so long, so how can we ensure that hair stylists are succeeding, because for a lot of people this industry is sustaining a whole family. For a lot of people we grew up seeing that aunty (like I did), that mum or that neighbour, your peers sustaining their family off of their love of beauty. Or, just a side hustle. For a lot of the community a lot of our living comes from the services we offer each other whether it’s hair or barbering. For me it’s looking at this industry and bringing out the beauty that already exists in the industry, whilst emphasising and streamlining. I want CDB London to be a real problem solver for the hair industry.
I want more wigs in stock so we can provide next day delivery on all the wigs for the UK. We want to have a CDB beauty HQ in London my hometown. I want the HQ to be a salon and a creative space, where people can create content and different things that express the different personalities of black women within the city and in the UK. Hopefully we can expand that globally. We really want to be the hubspot for british black women’s beauty needs and hair needs. That would be a huge part of our future.
One of our key things is content - we really believe content is king around here, creating content visually and audibly. As many ways as possible. We do this to engage black women and to feel as if we can relate to black women. We want to draw us closer and build communities. We want to express different stories, different perspectives, different ways people encompass beauty on a daily basis. That’s one aspect of it.
Another aspect that we hugely believe in is collaboration, we believe that fragmentation of an industry’s many pieces is what can be damaging. We want to be a place where we draw people together so that collaboration can make us all stronger. It’s very easy for people to be building the same thing, not because they are the first to do it, but because they feel like they have to do it alone. We don’t want to be that, we want to be that place where people can collaborate. Where people can bring their mind, skills and ideas together, and their products. To create something bigger and stronger because that’s what the community needs.
I think the next steps are founded on collaboration. We are looking for people and brands to collaborate with. Whether that’s looking to add more people and talents to the team or, growing our scope of ideas within the current team. We want to work with a variety of brands to provide the best wig experience for people.
Also developing the products and introducing new styles too. But first let’s focus on mastering what we have right now. I am really working on getting an efficient logistical and organisational process so that people can get the wigs out fast and well. We want to get people paid because I am all about getting people paid and making sure they have opportunities.
What’s one thing you want people to know about CDB London?
We’re constantly committed to growing and adapting. We want to be a company that everyone feels a part of the journey we’re on. In terms of the fact we want to hear feedback, the needs and the concerns of people, their ideas and what beauty means to them. We want to know how we can best serve the people with hair and beauty and hair services.
I want to be a place that allows for room to grow, at the end of the day beauty is art. Art is ever changing and growing. But in itself it's beautiful, it’s traditions, history and it’s future too. Because of that we will never definitely be there, we will always be growing and helping people and communities because we want to constantly evolve. So, we will have to bring in new minds and allow for different people to get the opportunities they need. To be able to strengthen the communities.
I think it’s super important for it’s super important for people to know that we are community focused. Even at the size that we are at now, we’re trying our best to grow our community and our ability to hear, appreciate and serve the community we both have and are going to have. We’re trying our absolute best to constantly grow, increase our capacity and be efficient. Also, that we just love hair!