Q&A with Mala Rhodes, Owner and Creator of Afroveda

I know that many of you have heard me RAVE about AfroVeda products on this blog, HappyCurls, Nappturality, and NaturallyCurly. When I first discovered AfroVeda products, I sent an email to the customer service email listed on the website asking a few questions. I had no idea that I would be getting my answers directly from the woman who created the line and hand makes the products! Over the past six months since my first AfroVeda purchase, Mala and I have exchanged many emails back and forth…mostly with my asking questions before I decide to try different items form the line. Each time, I have been impressed with the level of detail and thoroughness of her explanations as well as the level of customer service I have received. When I created this space, it is exactly people like Mala that I want to showcase! The small start up companies (the new face of mom and pop!) that are keeping the spirit of entrepreneurial alive and well for the black community!

I could think of no other fitting way to help her celebrate the FIRST anniversary of AfroVeda than by conducting this interview (which is surprisingly her first!) and giving each of you the chance to win a $25 AfroVeda gift certificate. So, without farther ado, I want to introduce you all to Mala Rhodes!

Please, tell the readers of Naps, kinks, coils and curls a little bit about yourself. Who is Mala Rhodes?     

First and foremost I am a giver. It is a trait that is inherent in most women, but according to family and friends, I seem to have taken it to the extreme. I love natural hair, and I love what it meant to me when I first “became” a natural – freedom! Not just freedom from chemicals, I learned to be free from the negative connotations I used to use for chemical-free hair. I learned to be free from “nappy hair” stereotypes, although there are others around me still in bondage. I am now free to give compliments at will to anyone (sista or brotha) rocking a natural style. I am also free to compliment my relaxed sisters who know how to take care of their relaxed tresses and make it work. I am a poet, a writer, a mother, a grandmother, a wife, a mentor, a business owner and, most importantly, a child of God. I love reading, running marathons, hiking canyons, traveling the world and spending time on the hammock.

Tell us about your journey...where you always natural? What led you towards natural hair? How would you describe your hair type?

I began my journey to natural hair nine years ago, as I began to see the effects chemical relaxers were having on my hair. It was shoulder-length, but getting thinner by the year. I was truly afraid that I would eventually go bald from the relaxers, so I stopped using them. For the next 4 years I wore my hair (almost exclusively) in microbraids, cutting a little of the relaxed ends off every time my hair was re-braided. Once my hair was long enough to pull back into a ponytail, I stopped getting it braided. I have worn my natural 3C/4A hair ever since and have never regretted my decision.

What was your inspiration for creating AfroVeda?

I have never been very good at styling hair (natural or relaxed), and was always looking for styles and products to give me the most benefit. After reading several fotki sites of African-American women with beautiful hair, I decided to post a few pictures of my hair in hopes of getting some advice. One such post was of a product that I created and had been using in my hair for years as a natural conditioner. It was a recipe that was given to me by one of my massage clients at the time, and included Aloe Vera and coconut oil. After posting the picture of the product on the website, several emails came in saying “if you make some for me I will buy it.” Less than 2 weeks later I had a website up and had 3 products in the line. That original product became what is now Curly Custard.

Since I had been experimenting with Ayurvedic hair care remedies for my own hair issues, I knew that I wanted the line to reflect the same. I learned that my thinning hair really didn’t have as much to do with the relaxers I once wore, but more to do with my Ayurvedic body type, which is Pitta. I named the company “AfroVeda” because it spoke to exactly what the company promotes: Ayurvedic care for African-American hair.

In one of our earlier conversations, you mentioned that you work a full time job in addition to being the mixtress/packager/shipper/accountant/all-around super woman for your company. How in the WORLD do you manage to get it all done AND provide such great customer service?

I’m a Pitta woman to the core! As much as I might talk about having “too much going on”, I actually thrive on it! If there is ever an open spot on my calendar I am quick to fill it with something interesting and extremely engaging! I love this business and want to know as much as I can about everything! Hair, Ayurveda, websites, blogs, hair shows, marketing…you name it, I want to know. I am now on my way to becoming a certified Ayurvedic consultant. I don’t just want to know a few good recipes for healthier hair. It is important to me to fully understand Ayurveda in order to ensure that my products are authentic and truly represent their principles. My Biology/Chemistry background helped me with coming up with formulas for the recipes, and having a cousin with 30 years experience as a chemist didn’t hurt either. Starting a hair care line has unleashed the creative side of me that had been dormant for so long, and I have greatly enjoyed creating the brand that is now AfroVeda.

When I tell people I work around the clock, I really mean it. There is a place on the website that says that we are “working night and day to get your products to you”. That is a true statement. Even with two additional people helping me with packaging and shipping products, it is still gets busy. Just the way I like it!!

To me, customer service is number one. I have personally walked away from establishments that had exactly what I wanted, simply because they gave horrible customer service. It is the backbone of AfroVeda and something that we try never to fall short on. Receiving comments of thanks and praise from customers lets me know that we are on the right track. I love being able to personally answer emails and always hope that I am being a benefit to others.

So tell us a bit about the products...are there certain products that are better for certain textures or lend themselves to working better for certain styles?

The system of Ayurveda is based on the principle that everyone has a specific make-up, or constitution, that makes them individual and different from everyone else. Ayurveda calls these constitutions "doshas". There are 3 doshas -- Vata, Pitta & Kapha -- and what makes us different is the specific combination of the three that is unique in everyone.

When your characteristics point to a specific dosha, you are said to be dominant in that dosha. Everything from the condition of your hair, your sleep habits, and even your temperament are factors in determining your dosha type. And once you have this knowledge, you can determine which exercise program, diet and even hair & skin products are right for you. AfroVeda products are based solely on this principle. Having “dry hair” doesn’t specify your dosha type. But being Vata almost always mean you’ll have dry hair.

Now here's the question that I'm sure everyone is wondering about, how do you determine your dosha? I tried using the previous test on the website and I felt like I fit into all of the doshas....so I looked at the various ingredients of the products to make my selections. Is there a secret to getting it right?

There’s no real secret to it. I have listed a few questions on AfroVeda’s website that, once answered, will tell you what your primary dosha is. Very rarely will one person have equal character traits for all three doshas, but it does happen. These people are called “tridoshic” and can essentially use any AfroVeda product on their hair with success. For the majority of people, they will have a dominant dosha type. In Ayurveda, there are specific oils and herbs that are recommended for each dosha. For instance, coconut oil is great for Pitta types because it is both cooling and nourishing
*update: the quiz for your dosha type has changed, and I think the new one is much more effective at helping you determine your dosha*

So what's next for Afroveda? Got any new products you're working on?

Wow! What’s next? Everything!! AfroVeda will proudly make its first appearance at the upcoming Bronner Bros. Hair Show in Atlanta in August. I am also traveling to Ghana, Africa in September in part to establish relationships with vendors for natural shea butter and other items. It will be a wonderful experience. We don’t currently have any new products coming out (we introduced the men’s hair care line just last month), but we are planning to institute “Veda Days”, a spin-off from the Nappy Hair Affair events that have been going on for years. AfroVeda’s hair days will, of course, focus on Ayurveda.

In a previous post, I asked for readers to submit questions that they might want me to ask Mala during our converastion. Unfortunately, NubianCoils and Jazzi, you questions were submitted after the interview was conducted...however, I encourage both of you to email Mala at [info (at)afroveda(dot)com]. She personally answers each and every email herself and I'm positive that she can and will answer your questions!

Reader Submitted Questions:

Naps, kinks, coils, and curls follower "G" would like to know if it is possible to purchase some products fragrance free because of allergies?

That is a great idea and one that I hope to be able to introduce in the near future. We do not currently offer that ability but it is under strong consideration.

Naps, kinks, coils, and curls follower "Nubian Coils" would like to know which of the products do you use/like the best from the line?

My dosha is Pitta, so those are the products that work best for my hair. I mainly use the NU Milk from that line and the Priti Bodhi hair oil. I love the essential oil blend in the “Totally Twisted” butter, but the oils used are for the Kapha dosha and tend to make my hair feel oily. I use it anyway on occasion, just when I’m at home and don’t mind the oily feel. Other than that, I use the shampoo bar, Curly Custard, and all of the Seven line of products. I love the Khorem hair serum!

Naps, kinks, coils, and curls follower "Maria" would like to know your take on this...."I have dry 3C hair that I wear straight and/or curly. What type of products do you recommend for someone that loves to change their hairstyle every day"?
If you are using lots of heat to create the straight styles (blow dryers, flat irons, etc.), then moisturize, moisturize, moisturize!!! If your dosha is Vata, then you’re already prone to dry hair. Any of the hair butters will add mega moisture to your hair and you can seal in that moisture with one of the hair oils. Choosing the products that fit your dosha type will give you the most benefit.

This person isn't a Naps, kinks, coils, and curls follower, but "NaturallyCurlyEnvoy" from NaturallyCurly.com would like to know if any of your products are aloe vera free (she has an aloe allergy). Also, do you offer customization for individuals with allergies to certain ingredients?

Aloe Vera leaf juice is used in almost every AfroVeda product, with the exception of the new CinnaMint Conditioner and CinnaMint Shampoo. It is such a revered plant in Ayurveda with wonderful healing properties. Customization of our products to that extent would be quite expensive, and would not be very cost-effective to the consumer.

Thank you so much for allowing me to reach out to your followers to give a little insight about me and AfroVeda. It has been such a pleasure meeting you and I am all the better for it. Completing this interview allowed me to stop for a moment and smell the roses, and appreciate the enormous gift that I have been blessed with. I am honored to be featured on your site. Take care and be blessed.

So..wanna know how you can win the AfroVeda $25 gift certificate? It's EASY! All you have to do is become a follower of this site! Each person that follows this site will have thier names entered into a drawing to win the $25 Afroveda gift certificate. Wanna increase your chances of winning? Each person that also subscribes/follows Mala's blog will get an additional entry into the drawing. That's still not enough (i know some of you are extreme product junkies...lol), then leave a comment at the end of this post telling Mala why you love (or want to try) AfroVeda products. Each comment earns you another entry into the drawing (limited to 2 comments). The drawing for the $25 Afroveda gift certificate will be held Monday @ 5pm EST.

So...that's a total of FOUR entries into the drawing. So go ahead and check Mala's blog out...it's the best way to say up dated on AfroVeda sales and you also get the chance to interact with this awesome woman!


Shawnystheone said...

I love Afroveda, its the best products and Mala has always answered any of my questions promptly!!

tej kaur khalsa said...

I am studying avurvedic medicine and am so thrilled to see hair products for african-american hair. Just put in my order and I can't wait to try them.

Onyxcabelo said...

Fabulous article! I just recently took my dosha test, so I'm looking forward to trying some Afroveda products that will be a good fit! I love that Mala is very much into excellence in customer service because that's a big thing for me too. I may LOVE a product,but if the CS is lousy, I'll walk away in a minute.

Maria said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Maria said...

Mala, thank you for answering my question! And yes my hair has always been dry. I recently bought your Hemp Seed butter and really liked it. I noticed it wasn't on your website anymore. Is this discontinued?

NubianCoils said...

My favorite is the Shea Amla Cream! LOVE it!! I took the test and I think I'm tridosha so I just ordered what seemed good to me. I can't wait to get my order and try the Nu Milk conditioner and the Hair Growth Serum.

Sofie said...

I love the Curly Custard and Shea Amla. The Curly Custard makes my dry hair incredibly soft and gives me great curl definition. I use the Shea Amla on dry hair, to scrunch out crunch or revive my curls.

SA said...

I haven't tried the line yet but I so want to! I was trying to hold out until a few months from now, but oh well. I think what makes me want to use them the most is 1. I'm starting to get into Ayurvedic care more and more and 2. because of all the great reviews! Seriously, word of mouth is what's driving me the most to try this line, but I do love how she uses all natural ingredients. So cool.

Peacemaker said...

So many products, so little time ;-). I first heard of Afroveda on the Long Hair Care Forum where the general consensus was 'Don't sleep this company.' I looked at the website and the carrot cleasing bar seems like something I would like to try.

Peacemaker said...

According to the website, AfroVeda has stopped their sample sizes. Do they plan to offer all of their products individually in 2 oz sizes?

angel k said...

wow i gotta try these products!

Afroniquely You said...

Awesome!! Thanks for this interview..I really like what she has to say and I am very interested in trying AfroVeda one day!

Desanne said...

I love the Afroveda line. It's the first all natural hair care line I've used, and Mala's products are constants in my regimen. Keep up the great work Mala. May God richly bless you. :)

jazzijenni81 said...

Great interview! I'll definitely email her!

nicole said...

I just ordered my first set of products and I can't wait to try them!

salwalishis911k said...

well i was just telling Mala.. that i am proud that she going by this September into Africa.. and see our culture is way different than here.. its an honor for me to represent her to my people in Ethiopia.. she is a great business women.. and indeed she have the heart to help me understand what does it take to love the way you are.. i am blessed and honored to know her..
first time i ordered her product that is Chocolate mask moisture.. and i can't wait to try it.. and i will most def. give her my outcome of it.. i am just too excited.. and i do pray that she will achieve her dreams.. i am glad that i found her.. cause i honestly i believe that i would be her customer for life.. i am just waiting for next .. that is meeting her in person.. Mala you inspire me a lot.. and i thank you.. God Bless.. peace, love & Smile..

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Who is Nappy.Curly.Crown?

I've been natural for 23 of my 29 years on this earth and for the past 5 years consecutively. In those past 5 years, natural hair care has become a hobby and passion of mine. I created this space to help decipher the massive amounts of information about natural hair care, specifically the science of natural hair care. I'm a scientist by trade andprofession and my hope is to make this spot the go to location for information on how to get and keep your natural hair healthy.