We had the good fortune of connecting with Ke`ena Belk and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Ke`ena, what role has risk played in your life or career?
I think of risk like roller coasters. You don’t know how big the drop is, but you still climb up to the peak anyways. It could be a very fast and immediate thrill on the other side or only a slight twist. Then you have those looking up at you go on this crazy ride waiting to see how you will react once you get off, just so they can make a decision of whether they will try it for themselves or not. Then there are the ones that are too afraid all together. Taking risk for me is still scary. I overthink, but I always remind myself that on the other side of fear is where success lies. Not a single successful person became that by laying around or doing things exactly how someone else did it. They did something that reflected them as an individual and it worked in their favor. Risks are necessary in this life, and although they scare me greatly, I will not run from them because I know I am strong and resilient. I cannot fail. I can only succeed or learn..

Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I am a hairstylist, and I specialize in natural hair care and protective styles (I.e braids). I also own a natural hair care brand called Keenu Naturals. I started braiding hair when I was 14 years old. I would do my friends and family hair for fun or whatever they were willing to pay me. By the time I was a sophomore in high school, I had built up a clientele and was braiding as a side hustle while I worked as sales associate in a retail store. I also had my first kid at 17, and with new responsibilities I had to grow up and figure it out fast. I always had a love for helping black women feel beautiful by taking care of their hair. I did go to college but once I graduated and started working in my field, I quickly realized that it was not for me. It was extremely hard to leave a field of work I had been preparing myself for over 4 years. I felt as though I had wasted my time. I was not sure how I could maintain myself and my family with only the fruits of a dream. After a lot of back and forth, I chose to take a chance on myself.

So I went back to my passion for helping black women to better care for their natural hair and to feel confident within their natural selves. I then started my natural hair care brand made of homemade products that cater to naturally kinky/curly hair textures. The struggle was real in the beginning. With little money for startup, a family to take care of, and growing debt, there were many times I felt like a failure and that my dreams were not worth it. Every time I doubted myself, a client or customer would unknowingly inspire me to keep going. Seeing my clients smile after I finished styling their hair or getting messages of how my products helped my customers feel more confident in wearing their natural hair is what keeps me doing this work. I have now been working for myself as full time hairstylist and entrepreneur for a little over 2 years now and I can honestly say it is the most rewarding and fulfilling decision I could have ever made.

My passion for natural beauty and the confidence of black women is what drives me. My goal is to support the black and natural hair community by educating, encouraging, and assisting along the self love journey that we all will or are experience(ing). I am most proud of how many people my brand has helped to realize their natural beauty. I have seen women who never considered leaving home without weave or hiding their natural hair in someway, that are now rocking their fros and curls fearlessly.

I have learned that that I do not want live with regrets or what ifs. When my time is up, I want my life to count for something. I want to make a change in someone’s life even if it is just one person. I want to be an example for my children of just how a simple yearn to help someone else can make a major shift in an entire community or maybe even the world.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
There are so many great places to visit in the city. I would personally have to say some of my favorites spots would be Little Five Points. That area has so much character and art. It is really a vibe and I always find some of my greatest statement pieces in the shops in that area. You can literally shop, get a tattoo, learn about a new culture, eat, and party there. I also would say Ponce City Market would be another great option. You can find a collection of good food and drinks here mixed with some casual fun. It’s also kid friendly so it works great for me and my family.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would like to give a shoutout to black women as a whole. They are the ones that I have been inspired by most throughout my entire life. Women who look, sound, and share similar experiences to me have always shown me what I could be and do with small voice and a big heart. When I was a little girl, seeing brave black women exist in such an unapologetic way really helped me find my place in the world. We have had the short end of the stick for while now and yet and still we prevail every single time. I know that I come from a long line of talented and ambitious queens, and with that power I feel I can do anything. I’d also like to give credit to my younger self. I heard someone say be the person your younger self needed growing up, and because of that little girl I will never give up. I make an effort everyday to ensure that black women and girls feel naturally beautiful, capable, and well resourced. Because of my younger self, I chose this field of work to reach and benefit a community that is extremely important to me. Thanks to my younger self I will not give up, as I know there is still so much healing and service to be done.

Website: www.keenunaturals.com

Instagram: @keenabelk, @braidsbykeena, @keenunaturals

Twitter: @keenabelk, @keenunaturals

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKs8uZLAGtazrcIEF9RBcxQ

Image Credits
Josh Vaughn Trace Way

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