An interview with Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program alumna Ceata Lash, founder, inventor, and co-CEO of PuffCuff.
First things first – tell us briefly who you are and what you do. I am the founder, inventor, and co-CEO of the PuffCuff—the natural hair solution for managing thick, curly, or textured hair. I formed the PuffCuff LLC. in 2013, and the first PuffCuff was available for purchase in February of 2014. We have since launched sub-brands, The PuffCuff Male and Laaayed to expand our offerings.
How would you describe your negotiation style? Friendly, almost familial. PuffCuff is a representation of me, my core beliefs and values. I want investors to understand that the PuffCuff LLC. is a business that represents family. Our customers enjoy the strong sense of community we have built through the years. I aim to be approachable and personable.
How have you stayed motivated in the face of the uncertainty and challenges? … you have to keep your head down to focus on the task at hand. Take the small steps to reach bigger goals. We did face challenges, but we also learned a lot about PuffCuff’s single points of failures—areas that halt the progress of different systems until addressed. These are a part of those little things you miss when you are focusing on just the bigger picture.
How do you nurture and grow your relationships while running a business? Collaboration is key! As small businesses, we have to stop thinking we need these big brands or big names to recognize us. There is so much more we can accomplish networking laterally rather than upward.
I’ll scratch your back even if you don’t scratch mine! I’m an open book.
What does the word empathy mean to you and how is it beneficial in a negotiation? You must have empathy to operate a business. You need to empathize with your team, staff, partners and especially the customer. Empathy means the ability to understand the feelings of another. In negotiation, it’s the willingness to serve another through your business and vice versa. There has to be a level of vulnerability to let your feelings go, for another.
Two or more parties are involved in a negotiation, who all have specific needs, which brought them to this part of the process. It is beneficial to think from the perspective of how can I serve this other party? This will organize your thoughts when tailoring your negotiation proceedings.
With all of the distractions in our daily lives, how do you stay present and engaged?
Calendar blocking. I have so many things that land in my lap from day-to-day, but I am able to schedule most things out. I dedicate my time and attention to really hone in on the task at hand during those scheduled meetings or blocks of time.
I work during my team's off-hours so I can focus. A Saturday in my office by myself, with the company of my 10 year old son, is priceless.
What has been your biggest learning from the pandemic? Single Points of Failure can be the tiniest oversight that stops the whole show! Learning where we falter actually projected us further in meeting our revenue goals. We had a great year in 2020, during the pandemic after we got past a few bumps in the road.
Finish this sentence: “The one thing I can’t live without is _____________.”
My family! My single motivation to wake up and be the greatest woman I can be for me, to in turn, serve them and the people around us.
What is a piece of advice you wish you could give to your younger self?
I would tell myself that I am more than enough. Also, assure that everything will be alright and to not doubt myself, but listen to my gut.
Share your favorite quote. “It is foolish to make hair straight, when God saw fit to make it kinky.” - Cornelia Bowen, circa 1885
For more information, visit www.ThePuffCuff.com
editor's note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.