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Life & Work with Tonya Cross

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tonya Cross.

Hi Tonya, can you introduce yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today.
My brand Accented Glory started from a need! I’ve been creating things by hand since childhood, and I’ve been wearing my hair naturally (without chemical alterations) since 2001. When I returned to wearing my natural hair, I could not find accessories for textured hair. The hair accessories in retail at the time also catered to primarily young girls. I shared my struggle to find “natural hair-friendly” accessories with a friend, and she suggested that I make them! So, I did.

I handcrafted hair accessories with fabric and materials that minimize damage to kinky, coily, and curly hair for women. The materials didn’t dry out my hair or cause friction or breakage. My three daughters, who are also natural, liked the accessories I made and asked me to make them some too. People started asking where we got our hair accessories and were willing to pay for them. That’s when I knew I was on to something!
My first and signature hair accessory design is the Afro Puff Holder. The Afro Puff is the most common style worn by women with natural hair. My design styles and hold the Afro Puff in place at the same time. I initially started taking orders from people that I knew. I decided to expand my reach and opened an Etsy Shop. I then added jewelry to my accessory line. Being on Etsy gave me great visibility, and I got my first design feature on Essence. This validation was a great inspiration to continue to grow my brand.
As of today, my designs have been featured in Martha Stewart Shop, Refinery29, and Good Housekeeping. They’re also available on Amazon, Shopify, and Milton Rhodes Center of the Arts gift shop in Winston Salem, NC.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Boy, were their obstacles! First, I needed to gain experience with running a business. I spent a lot of time taking classes and have had a few business coaches. As my brand grows, my business knowledge has to grow with it. Second, I needed to gain digital marketing experience. When selling online, it is a must. It’s a learning curve and ongoing because things continuously change.

Thanks – so, what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I am an artist. The art of accessory-making fascinates me. Creating things by hand brings me joy and peace. Positive energy is passed on to each design I create. My hair accessory designs include Afro Puff Holder, headbands, hair jewelry, and floral hair pins. The pieces are created with fabrics and materials that minimize kinky, coily, and curly hair damage. All my headband designs are adjustable, allowing the wearer to control how tight it fits. This feature provides a solution for headband headaches. My fabric and woven headbands are satin lined to protect hair from drying out and breakage.

My jewelry designs include earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and rings. My earrings are lightweight, so no worries about earlobe droop. I can customize the pieces to clip on if your ears are not pierced or keloid.

My primary creative muse is cowrie shells. The shells have African roots and portray a message of respect, honor, and inspiration; numerology is also a part of my design process. I’m very conscientious of the number of shells I use and what the number signifies. I’m currently experimenting with handbags! I have a hand-altered cross-body bag in my online shops; I gave it an island/beach vibe by adding a cowrie shell design. I have some cloth and leather bag designs that I hope to launch this coming year.

What does success mean to you?
Personal success is being able to do what you love. This creates overall well-being; you can’t pour out of an empty cup. Business success is positively impacting my customers’ lives. I love getting customer reviews that state how my design made them feel. People can get hair accessories and jewelry from anywhere, but they choose to purchase from me. In choosing me, I want to ensure their experience with my designs is memorable.

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