This Founder Is Fostering Safe Spaces For Black Women
Welcome to our Ask A Founder series, where we talk with game-changing women entrepreneurs about where they started and where they're headed with their businesses. Today we're super excited to chat with Antonia Opiah, co-founder of Un-ruly, a supportive space that celebrates the beauty of Black hair and women all around. Antonia also is the mind behind the resource Overdue, an online series and community space that guides Black women throughout all stages of pregnancy. We asked Antonia about her insights on entrepreneurship, supportive spaces and self-care practices.
How would you describe your brand in five words?
Curious. Friendly. Thoughtful. Inviting. In-the-know.
What mood do you want your brand to evoke?
Calmness. There’s so much going on in the world, in our lives, and even in our minds; I’ve always wanted to create something that brings its users peace of mind and a little bit of calm.
What was your 'aha' moment before starting your business?
There were two. I thought about starting Un-ruly.com back in 2012 when I couldn’t find beautiful photos of Black women online to get hairstyle ideas from. Four-ish years later, I had the idea for our mobile hairstyling service when I really wanted to get box braids, but couldn’t justify spending eight hours in a salon. I wanted someone to come to my home and do my hair so I could get work done at the same time. Those two ideas essentially made the business what it is today—a place designed to take the pain out of caring for Black hair.
What were you doing before you started the business?
Before this I spent over six years in digital advertising working with large brands to build their online presence. I started back when Myspace was still a thing!
What’s one thing you wish you knew as an entrepreneur?
That kings are always made, never born. Leadership skills are developed, like most skills. No one comes out of the womb knowing everything you need to know to grow and lead a company.
How do you get in the right headspace to start your day?
It varies. Sometimes it’s working out (but I haven't done that much this year). I usually spend about 30 minutes to an hour practicing one of the languages I’m learning each morning. And then while I get ready for the day, I’ll listen to whatever podcasts come up first in my “New Episodes” list on Spotify.
How do you balance the practical with the creative parts of your business?
I’ve never thought of it as a balance; I just do both whenever it’s required. I guess compartmentalizing helps and I never multitask. I focus on one task at a time and usually group similar tasks together, so I’m using one set of skills at a time.
How do you celebrate the small wins?
Calling my sister. Doing a little dance. Drinking a little glass. Any one of the three (or all three!).
What is the biggest risk you’ve taken so far?
Quitting my job, moving to Paris and starting a US-based business in Paris! I made it way harder on myself than it needed to be.
More About Antonia Opiah
What’s your favorite form of self care?
Self care is a constant process. To me it’s not only treating yourself or having a spa day, it’s the constant process of being in tune with who you are, what you want, what you’re feeling, managing your thoughts and understanding what might be driving your actions. I’m at a point in my life where I have a deeper understanding of what it means to be human. Life and its challenges feel so much easier to handle.
What is the most powerful thing you do in your day?
What are your go-to snacks?
OMG; I live in Paris so there’s usually a patisserie I’m feasting on for a period of time. First, it was these little choux crème à la vanille from Boris Lumé. Then I was on a merveilleux binge. Right now it's chocolate truffles from Picard. They're the best in Paris and cost less than 2 euros.
What do you do on your breaks? Stretching/walking/listening to music? Please add specifics, like where and what?
I don’t think I take breaks. I take a long lunch, usually. I also don’t work crazy hours anymore so I don’t really need breaks. Does getting up and getting some tea count? If so, then I do that!
What is your go-to productivity hack?
Rest. Rest is energizing! Our brains don’t work as well when they’re tired. I listen to my body and stop working when it tells me to and get back to it when I’ve rested and am re-energized. Another one is giving yourself an insanely short amount of time to get the thing on your "don’t want to do list" done. Psychologically, doing so just helps me get started and build momentum and by telling myself I’m only going to do it for five minutes, the friction to start is reduced. I never actually get the task done in the time I allotted but I do end up getting it done and out of the way.
Fill in the blank: ____ gives me all the feels.
Creating resources for Black women like Overdue and Pretty Shouldn’t Hurt, that can actually do some good, gives me the feels! Overdue is a response to the Black maternal health crisis and is a doula-guided resource meant to help Black women navigate the crisis. It was made with so much love and urgency and wouldn’t be possible without the support of Gerber. Pretty Shouldn’t Hurt was also made with love, and tackles a relatively lighter subject—saving our hairlines! I really love being able to contribute in a positive way to my community.
What do you do to officially *end* your work day?
I light one of my scented candles from Zara and lately for the first time in my life, I’ve been really great about washing my dishes. I used to let them pile up or leave them for the morning but then I realized I loved waking up to a dish-free sink. So washing my dishes has become part of my turn-down routine.