Detara Williams, 35, Entrepreneur
It started with a single product, designed to solve newborn teething chronicles.
Detara grew up in Jamaica raised by a single mom, who migrated to the US to make a better life for the family when Detara was 10 years old. Her three siblings were sent to live with different relatives until they all could reunite in Brooklyn, NY, five years later.
“We left one hardship to go to the next,” she says. “We conceptualize the US like the land of milk and honey, money flowing off the trees. That was not the case.”
She was bullied for her accent. In New York, school officials automatically put her two years back. She ended up graduating with honors. Having no college fund and wanting time to figure things out, she decided not to attend college.
Instead she went straight to work in the food service industry and saving for her own place. Detara learned a lot about customer service working with corporate clients. “You weren’t allowed to be rude to the customers. You had to make it right,” she says. “I really started to see customer service mattered.”
She later got married and their youngest, Alethia, was born in 2014. When she started teething, they couldn’t find a teething product she liked. “At the time there was a lot of baby gadgets in the market. They were solving problems that weren’t problems,” Detara remembers.
Alethia kept chewing on her hands, which didn’t seem hygienic. They built the first prototype out of a tiny snow glove. It was a hit. They dipped into their savings to work with a manufacturer to develop a version with medical grade silicone and cotton.
Detara posted a little video of Alheia chewing away on the Yummy Mitt. It went viral. “It was scary viral, because people were in our DMs, ‘Where is this product? When will it be ready?’” she says.
Every day, while she cared for her infant, Detara would research. She learned how to trademark the design via “Google University”. She would stay up late, nursing, talking to the factory. And she pitched and pitched and pitched the product everywhere she could.
“I was doing everything wrong, but it turned out all right,” she says.
Their big break appeared in the form of the daytime talk show, “The Steve Harvey Show.” They were doing a Mother’s Day episode. They wanted to feature Alethia and Detara. They filmed in March, used their savings to buy their first stock, set up a website, and waited patiently.
The show ran in May, and the stock sold out quickly afterward. Their two-bedroom Brooklyn apartment became their headquarters, warehouse, and shipping center. They personally packed and shipped out every item.
Online, their reputations grew. An army of moms online posted their babies loving the Yummy Mitt. They were on the cutting edge of what would soon be known as influencer marketing. “It was definitely a cult following back then,” Detara says. When they started selling on Amazon, the business exploded.
Soon she realized they needed more products. Her son Amir was born in 2016, and he inspired a whole range other products, like the suction cupped plates used to combat his penchant for hurling cups across the room at dinner time. They sold their products in stores and online in the US and overseas.
By 2018, the home-based business was simply too big for their Brooklyn apartment. After doing a bit of research they realized they needed to move to a different community. They landed on Greensboro: a place where they could buy a home with plenty of room to expand their work. They had never had so much space before.
“We turned our garage into an Amazon fulfillment Center, but we grew that out, too,” she says. They got a warehouse space, and decided to launch a new business: Peculiar Roots, a haircare line design to care for locs.
Detara had long been a loc crush. But she didn’t always love the product available for her hairstyle.
They partnered with a black-owned beauty business to develop the products. And Detara started pushing out loc content online. The business launched in 2020 and swiftly sold out its first set of stock. Then the pandemic hit. Manufacturing came to a standstill.
They were selling 400-500 products a day across their brands, but it was rough managing a warehouse staff as coronavirus spread.
Still the pandemic proved a moment of opportunity for the entrepreneur. With the pandemic shutdown of events like baby showers, she launched Darlyng & Co., the first online Black-owned online baby registry. It helped grandparents support their families from afar.
“It took off. It was honestly a test. I didn’t know it would take off when I did,” Detara says. Now she’s partnered with Chase to send baby gifts to their clients.
She also snagged a chance to work with Sally Beauty and get the Peculiar Roots products out into stores across the country. Soon, they were selling in Walmart.
Today, Detara has a warehouse fulfillment partner managing her product sales while she works on her Dream Inspire Reality podcast, which aims to help other entrepreneurs. She also runs Launch a Great Idea, a small business accelerator helping developing entrepreneurs in underserved communities.
“Creativity and passion align with the ultimate goal to serve,” she says. Detara’s favorite trademarked quote is, Dream Big, Execute Hard®
“That is what makes us successful. I can make all the product I want but if I am only making it for me, it doesn’t matter. I am thinking about the impact across the world.”