Joshica Kiah was born in Prince George County, Maryland. Living so close to the DC Metropolitan Area meant that public service was on her mind from a very young age. After high school, she enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and was stationed in Hawaii for several years.
After leaving the Air Force, Joshica moved to Los Angeles to pursue her dream of acting and enrolled in a modeling and acting school. But life chose a different path for her. “I tried to get into the acting industry but my life took a totally different turn once I met my husband and decided to get married and have kids,” she says.
After the Air Force Joshica literally let her hair down and decided to wear her natural curls after years of straightening her hair for the tight updos required by the military. She soon realized there weren’t a lot of products out there that catered to her kinky curly hair. “I noticed that a lot of beauty brands don’t necessarily cater to that type of hair texture, or at least don’t market them on a grand scale.” So she did some research and started mixing her own products to keep her hair looking beautiful and healthy.
When she became pregnant with her son, she paid more attention to what she put in her body, making sure the products were healthy for her and her baby. When she started receiving gifts from family and friends, she noticed that “a lot of the baby products had a lot of toxic chemicals that had been known to cause cancer and weren’t good for your body.” She was already making her own hair products, so why not skin care products? At her baby shower, she gave out handmade soaps as a thank you gift. Everyone loved the soaps and told her she should sell them. And that’s how Joshica Beauty was born.
Joshica offered her products online and the business took off, but she soon realized that making the products was the easy part. “Some of the obstacles that I faced were learning how to start and manage a business because they don’t teach you that in school,” she says. “There were so many obstacles, so much to learn all at once that I ended up making a lot of mistakes.” Luckily she found someone to guide her.
Joshica was introduced to Melanie Rae, program director for CAMEO’s Women Veteran Entrepreneurs Network (WOVEN). “Working with Melanie Rae helped me a lot. One of the great things about it is having that network of people and having some sort of mentorship, someone to guide you and give you advice on how to do certain things. How to manage, how to scale, where to go to find the resources you need.” Melanie and the WOVEN program also helped Joshica create a business plan and connected her with experts to guide her in the business’ operations and management.
Today, Joshica Beauty boasts six product lines, is one of Etsy’s best-selling brands, and is working on expanding the product selection, including a line of merchandise. Joshica has been featured by national outlets like Vogue and Essence. She wants Joshica Beauty to be about more than selling products – she wants to empower women like herself. “I am looking to put on events that focus on black women, natural hair, and black women empowerment. I want to help women learn to love themselves and learn to care for their hair. And also [I want to] promote self-care: learning to take the time out and take care of yourself mentally and physically.”
Joshica believes that being a woman veteran has been an integral part of her business success. “A lot of the things that I’ve learned in the military – as far as managing my time, having a strong work ethic, being teamwork-minded – have been very helpful. Not only does it empower me to go out there and do it, but it also helps me stay motivated. I tell myself not everything’s going to be the way you want it and not everything’s going to be perfect. But you work at it and push through.”