We’ve all had that moment where you realize that you’re not where you want to be. This was the case for Nathaniel Wilson (he/him) who woke up one day and knew he wasn’t fulfilling his dreams. Nathaniel first entered the entrepreneurial space with a t-shirt company called “What’s the T.” While the idea and branding earned him major successes – including landing Eartha Kitt’s daughter as a client – Nathaniel felt unsatisfied with his work.
He wanted to use his creativity to work on something he was truly passionate about. As an Orisa devotee of the West African spiritual system of Ifa, Nathaniel cultivated his spirituality and his skills in fashion to introduce a new product to the world – healing crystal-infused durags.
“For so long, Black people have been criminalized for wearing durags,” Nathaniel said. “People have written them off as ‘ghetto,’ when in reality they aren’t. They’re a fashion statement that the Black community can be proud of wearing. When I wear my durags they feel like my crowns. I feel a sense of prestige, pride and royalty.
His product line, called “Ori Huu,” roughly translates in the Yoruba language to “marvelous destiny” – something Nathaniel has used as a daily motivation. The process of creating his durags is a lengthy one, but completely worth the time and effort according to Nathaniel. And in his own words, “when you’re truly passionate about something, there’s no end to your creativity.”
It’s worth noting that Nathaniel doesn’t consider himself a “traditional” founder. He’s Black, gay, and 21 years old, yet he continues to work tirelessly for his passion.
In October of 2019, a week after his 20th birthday, Nathaniel started his first business. Like so many of our founders, he didn’t come with a business background but instead had the mentality and persistence to reach his dreams. After discovering StartOut by researching incubators for LGBT entrepreneurs, Nathaniel admits he was hesitant to apply for the Black Founder Empowerment Initiative scholarship.
“I didn’t fill out the application until a year later because I was nervous thinking I didn’t know enough or that I was too young and inexperienced. Eventually, I decided to apply and I won a scholarship and it’s honestly been so rewarding.”
Since being awarded, Nathaniel’s had access to unique founder resources, opportunities to work with tailored mentors, access to the StartOut investor portal, and more. He’s learned invaluable lessons to grow his business and excel in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
But he’ll admit that the road to success hasn’t been an easy one. Because of his status as an underrepresented founder and his age, Nathaniel says he’s faced a lot of rejection for loans and grant opportunities. Additionally as someone with a unique product and consumer base, he’s faced other challenges.
“Being a black business owner is tough on its own, but then consider that I’m building a business that draws off my roots. People often wonder why I’m talking about all this African stuff, and they don’t understand the purpose of my business. Anything African is so taboo in our culture, and it’s very rare that you meet a Black, gay man in touch with his African roots. I think people feel threatened by that.”
But despite the hardships he faced Nathaniel always persisted with his goal, unwilling to let these adversities deter him – a testament to the BIPOC, LGBTQ+ founders that have defined our community. Still in the product testing phase, he hopes to launch his durags worldwide on March 21st, 2022. And while he’s still perfecting his product, Nathaniel’s has full access to StartOut mentors and resources to reach out to for support:
“StartOut has really helped me take my business to the next level. I learned that having a business is more than just having a great idea. There are so many parts – accounting, marketing, development – that I’ve always known existed but never thought deeply about until joining StartOut. I think a lot of entrepreneurs have had to figure these things out by themselves but the experts have helped me realize that you don’t have to do it all alone. All you have to do is ask for help and they will.”