S. Elle Clark & World Class Hair

by Terry Watson | March 12th, 2016
S. Elle Clark (Photo by Todd Youngblood)

S. Elle Clark (Photo by Todd Youngblood)

Owning a business doesn’t always seem like hard work. When you look from the outside, you’re unaware of the countless hours someone spends doing research, testing their product(s), building their clientele, and not to mention finding the money to fund it all. So when you encounter someone like S. Elle Clark, owner of World Class Hair Care, you wonder how she makes it look so easy.

Although she’s lived in various states including Ohio and Georgia, she will always be grounded to her roots in Belzoni, Miss., where she was born and raised. Clark is set to celebrate the third anniversary of her first World Class Hair Care store on March 1. Even sweeter, she acquired a second location in Charlotte’s sought after South End neighborhood in December, with a grand opening this past February. “I always wanted to be in the uptown area, but the rent was very expensive. So when someone put me in contact with the building’s leasing agent and he quoted the rental price, I realized it was nothing but God,” she said.

Clark actually didn’t plan to be where she is today, nor had she planned on being in the line of business in which she’s blazing a Queen City trail. Since 2004, she’s been a virtual assistant, an event planner, and even a real estate agent, which is where her heart lies (second only to her current venture). Having previously served as an agent in Georgia for a number of years, she plans on obtaining her real estate license in North Carolina by the end of 2016.

While living in Ohio, Clark attended Kent State University. After four and half years, she had enough of the cold and set sail back to the south. Soon she would reside in Atlanta and began to assist her friend who needed help in the starting a hair business. “She had a wonderful idea but lacked the business foundation and I stepped in to help,” she says. Over a period of time, Clark took charge of her marketing, networking, advertising and whatever else she could think of to build the structure for her friend’s business. A year and a half later, she aided in the opening of a second store. Soon after, she felt that it was time to venture out on her own. With the suggestion from her father to make day-to-day cash, she did just that. Her first investment of $1,500 went to simply trying to find a great product. “I looked at selling hair the same way I looked at selling houses. I wouldn’t sell a crappy house, just like I wouldn’t sell crappy hair. My name is on that deal and I value the money my customers pay for the product,” she says.

Months and months were spent recruiting friends to be her testers, giving opinions on the quality, the manageability, and the look of different types of hair. Clark confesses to spending almost $30,000 prior to settling on her current selections. “I remember using my savings on a product I had used before. I’d spent $8,000 on this huge shipment and when I opened the box and looked at it, I realized every bit of it was complete garbage. So all of that money was lost and I was heartbroken,” she explained. Eventually she chose Indian, Peruvian, Malaysian, Brazilian and Filipino strains.

There is no doubt this quintessential businesswoman has trying days. However, she doesn’t let those moments slow the momentum. “I don’t like to say something is difficult, to me that just means there are somethings I still need to figure out” but is it tiresome and time consuming, Yes!” she said.

Clark is a single parent and takes great pride in doing so. It’s evident that her seven year old son, Donovan is her motivation. Though she never expected to raise him alone, she has vowed to make sure he adequately represents her the older he gets and becomes a productive citizen. While conducting this interview, Donovan quietly moves about the store like a mouse, tinkering with this and that, hiding behind counters, and peeking around walls. During a brief moment as his mom helps a customer, Donovan enlightens me on the business he’s going to open one day. I can’t give away the name or the brilliant idea, but understand this elementary schooler is years beyond most teens I know. When asked if he’s going to actually work in the business, Donovan humbly boasts, “Nah, I’m going to be the boss.” He clearly takes after his mother who hasn’t worked for anyone else in over a decade. She’s grooming him to create his own legacy and his own wealth. She says, “I’ve taught him how to pull reports, count inventory, and other aspects of the business. He knows how to work for his money and save it.”

If running a business, raising a child, giving back to the community (she donates to single mom charities, hosts annual school supply drives, and promotes celebrity events during CIAA), and pursuing a real estate license wasn’t enough, add ‘mentor’ to the list of titles. Clark has designed a program that allows college students to learn how to run their own businesses. “World Class Legacy Builders” will launch in the fall of 2016 and she plans to partner with HBCUs to target the next generation. The big payoff is that the students earn a salary, not just a college credit.

It’s evident that S. Elle Clark enjoys having her hands in many different pots. That’s who she is and it helps that her circle of forever friends are all entrepreneurs in their own right. In addition to her son, this group keeps her grounded and hungry. In the near future, she hopes to see other black business owners corner their market in Charlotte, as she has set out to do. She knows there is a lot more work to be done, and the city will be happy to receive the fruits of her labor.

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