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Owners Tashni-Ann Dubroy and Tiffani Lash

The Element Beauty Bar in downtown Raleigh hummed with activity. A hairstylist parted and placed rollers in a client's hair as she recounted the details of a recent family visit. A reporter from a local newspaper flitted about the beauty salon taking photographs for an upcoming article. A baby of another client was presented, kissed and cooed over.

This is a pivotal moment for Tashni-Ann Dubroy and Tiffani Lash, owners of the Element Beauty Bar and Tea and Honey Blends, a line of natural hair care products.

"You have to understand what you're about to move into," Dubroy said. "You have to think positively and ensure that you are self-motivated and always working to understand your customers' needs and the nature of your competition."

With help from NCIMED's Women's Business Center of North Carolina writing and developing a strategic plan for both businesses, Dubroy and Lash received $30,000 from a business plan competition, a $50,000 business loan and a $100,000 investment for Tea and Honey Blends. In addition, they received a $25,000 investment for the Element Beauty Bar.

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Element Beauty Bar

They used the infusion of capital to open the upscale beauty salon, develop the raw materials, such as green tea goji berry, to expand Tea and Honey Blends' product line, and hire more employees. Currently a mainstay in 20 beauty bars and beauty boutiques, Tea and Honey Blends is poised to join the shelves of a major national retailer in 2015.

"Tea and Honey Blends has been a great client for the Women's Business Center of North Carolina," said center Director Briles Johnson. "Their enthusiasm, hard work and growth are a testimony of a successful, thriving business. Tashni and Tiffani are amazing, highly intelligent business women dedicated to their success, as well as giving back to the community."

Dubroy and Lash met while doing their post-doctoral studies at N.C. State University. They bonded over their shared loved of chemistry and shared frustration about the lack of natural hair care products for women of color.

"We wanted to create a hair care line that competed directly with Paul Mitchell," Dubroy said. "We thought it was an amazing line, but it was mostly for Caucasian clientele. We used this as our basis to develop Tea and Honey Blends."

The women founded Tea and Honey Blends in 2009. The specially formulated hair care products help repair damage caused by chemical processing and provide the nutrients that maintain natural, healthy hair. The company was the first to market with a proprietary surfactant blend in shampoo that optimizes cleansing and removes oil and dirt build-up without scalp irritation.

Their first break came in 2010 when Tea and Honey Blends was selected among hundreds of companies across the country to participate in an inaugural business mentoring workshop with Macy's. The Women's Business Center of North Carolina helped Dubroy and Lash earn the certification as a minority, women-owned business they needed to participate in the Macy's program.

As their business grew, so did requests to mentor young women. In 2012, the two women founded the Brilliant and Beautiful Foundation, which provides education, leadership and mentorship opportunities to young women pursuing a career in science.

The foundation has teamed with Dubroy and Lash's alma mater, N.C. State University, to offer classes to 100 young women through the university's "Smart Scholars" program on how to apply chemistry to everyday life, such as the "chemistry of hair" and "chemistry in textiles."

"It gives young people a chance to become familiarized with the sciences while, at the same time, it's something they can relate to," Dubroy said.

For more information on Tea and Honey Blends, visit www.teaandhoneyblends.com.