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Crowning Glory

Veronica Chapman’s stylish head wraps will keep your hairstyle intact at night — and they’ll also help low-income teens gain career skills

FASHIONABLE ACCESSORIES come in all shapes and sizes, and all manner of uses. It’s safe to say, though, that relatively few of them are intended to be worn while sleeping. (We’re not including dental-correction devices or anti-snoring sleep machines. Remember, we said fashionable accessories.)

Breaking that mold is Veronica Chapman, the 30-year-old founder of My Crowning Jewel, a new line of stylish head wraps designed for women who wish to protect their hairstyle not just during the day, but also while they get their beauty rest. “For years, women who wrap their hair at night have been presented with options that are unattractive and not functional, failing to protect their hairstyle while they sleep,” Chapman says.

Born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and currently based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Chapman has long had an entrepreneurial streak. My Crowning Jewel is actually her second venture; her first, Boxxout, she describes as “an innovative youth organization that connects disconnected teens in urban, low-income communities to opportunities to excel.”

Chapman first honed her own professional chops at Spelman College and also Babson’s F.W. Olin School of Business, from which she received her MBA. In 2010, she was awarded the New Leaders Council’s 40 Under 40 Award for Entrepreneurship, and has since poured her efforts into My Crowning Jewel, whose Web site is currently taking orders. She has recently signed a U.S.-based manufacturer and plans to formally launch April 1.

And while her primary market, naturally, is African-American women, she caters to women of all races and is interested in expanding her product lines to workout gear and even men’s apparel. (“I’d love to bring back the ascot,” she says, and she’s not kidding.)

Her ambition is emblematic of the socially minded entrepreneur’s credo: “Even while building the foundation for Boxxout, I considered how creating a product to fill a need in the for-profit sector could also be beneficial to society, allowing me an even greater opportunity to create jobs, especially teen jobs,” she says. “I want to be able to offer Boxxout teens jobs in My Crowning Jewel’s Fulfillment Division once we’re fully operational. That way the teens can both work and be trained to access the resources that will help them forge their path to success.”

Is your hairstyle in need of careful maintenance and preservation? Do you sleep at night? We suggest you get in touch with Chapman.

•••

My Crowning Jewel is very much a family affair; several of your relatives are involved in the business, and your aunt is your chief designer. Is this something you would recommend to other entrepreneurs?
Working with family has been great overall.  I’m fortunate to have a very talented and experienced team. This is the first time we’re working together to launch a new venture, so we always have to remind ourselves not to talk about business when we should be just relaxing as a family, and not to let family dynamics jeopardize our success. I would recommend working with family if they possess the talents required for building a successful venture. When I started to list all the talent I would need to realize the vision for My Crowning Jewel, I didn’t have to go too far to find it — they were all sitting around my aunt’s kitchen table having morning coffee!

What led you to pursue this market?
This venture grew out of my frustration with how unattractive the current options are for wrapping my hair at night. I conducted a survey of women who wrap their hair at night — the sample size was 40 women — and found that 68 percent were also frustrated, primarily because their wraps don’t stay on. So our priority changed from just making more attractive head wraps to making head wraps that stay on and are beautiful.

What percentage of your likely customers are African-American women, and how (if at all) do you plan to expand your consumer base?
We have three kinds of wraps: Night Jewels, Day Jewels and Red Carpet Jewels. Our Night Jewels address the need for a reliable head wrap that stays on. These will make up the majority of our initial product launch and will be targeted to black women between the ages of 20 and 60 — a population of 10.5 million — and other women who require reliable head wraps while they sleep. Many women of all races who are undergoing chemotherapy have expressed interest in our Night Jewels as well.

Do you have any plans to expand your apparel line, or even dabble in men’s fashion?
We’re considering designing a “Workout Jewel” after we launch and possibly offering matching lingerie for some of our Jewels within a year and a half following our launch. We also want My Crowning Jewel to become synonymous with “finishing touch” by offering a platform where select independent jewelry designers can showcase their work by matching their pieces with some of our Jewels so our customers can find one-of-a-kind jewelry that complements their style. As for men’s apparel, after watching an old movie over the holidays I want to help bring back ascots!  I have already begun talking about that with my aunt.

Your first entrepreneurial venture, Boxxout, sought to help provide career and life skills to teens in low-income urban communities. Is that still active?
One of the reasons I’m launching My Crowning Jewel is so I can help fund what I’m calling Boxxout 2.0. Boxxout is still active, but we’re relaunching it to assess the interests of disconnected teens, then connect them to select partner organizations — thus expanding their network and the number of people invested in their success. For many teens, one major barrier to engagement in educational enrichment programming is their need for jobs to help support themselves and their families. I want to be able to offer Boxxout teens jobs in My Crowning Jewel’s Fulfillment Division once we’re fully operational. That way the teens can both work and be trained to access the resources that will help them forge their path to success. •