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Tashi-Ann Dubroy and Tiffani Bailey Lash of Tea and Honey Blends

Named Winners of the 2011 Rutgers Business School Business Plan Competition

Growing up in Jamaica, Tashni-Ann Dubroy would watch her hairstylist mother concoct moisturizing conditioners for clients using everyday products – aloe vera from their backyard, eggs and mayonnaise from their refrigerator.

Tashni-Ann, who recently graduated from the RutgersBusinessSchool’s MBA program, is putting those observations to good use.

She and business partner, Tiffani Bailey Lash, had launched a fledgling line of natural hair care products in 2009, and recently their company, Tea and Honey Blends, won top honors and $35,000 in the 2011 Rutgers Business School Business Plan Competition, along with gaining entry into a select Macy’s vendor program.

“The Rutgers contest is all about helping real businesses get off the ground,” says Richard Romano, member of the RBS Board of Advisers and President of the Sales Executive Club of Northern New Jersey Foundation, which sponsored the competition by providing $40,000 in cash prizes. “Tiffani and Tashni put together an outstanding presentation, and I know they will make Rutgers proud.”

The idea for Tea and Honey Blends formed as Tashni-Ann and Tiffani pursued their doctorates in chemistry at North CarolinaStateUniversity.  After meeting in a class, the two became fast friends – African American women who both had issues with their hair, Lash declares, and were both interested in owning a line of hair care products.

What they didn’t have was experience starting a complex business. “Initially we were learning as we went along,” Tashni-Ann comments.  Studying for her MBA, she focused on marketing, branding and public relations – knowledge that went right into the company.  “Getting an MBA from Rutgers has been absolutely necessary for me to really understand business, and that has been the key to our survival.”

Currently, Tea and Honey Blends has just a tiny slice of the $1.8 billion ethnic hair care market. But with the money from the business plan competition – slated for sales, marketing and new product development – the two women are hoping to grow their enterprise on a global scale.

Tashni-Ann asserts that the hair care industry has been trending toward natural or ethnic hair and away from the relaxed, straight-hair look. She and Tiffani have focused their collection of shampoos, conditioners, oils and other products to help African American and Latino women maintain a natural hairstyle.

As trained chemists, they also had the knowledge to come up with formulations that used natural ingredients such as tea tree oil, jojoba and aloe vera extracts.  In fact, according to Packaged Facts, a market research firm based in Rockville, Md., natural and organic formulations are key drivers in the ethnic health and beauty care product market.

The entrepreneurs plan to use their winnings towards developing a PR initiative and investing in marketing. “We’re trying to spread the name of our brand nationally,” says Tashni-Ann, who is an assistant professor of organic chemistry at ShawUniversity in Raleigh, N.C., where Tea and Honey Blends is based.  Currently, the brand is mainly available in North Carolina and Georgia, but plans are in the works for major national distribution. “We are both so passionate about what we are doing,” says Tiffani. “The business plan competition has helped us solidify our strategy and plan of action.”

About RutgersBusinessSchool

Rutgers Business School-Newark and New Brunswick is an integral part of one of the nation's oldest, largest, and most distinguished institutions of higher learning: Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Today, RutgersBusinessSchool is educating more than 4,500 undergraduate and graduate students at two main campuses in New Jersey as well as five satellite locations in Jersey City, Morristown, Beijing, Shanghai, and Singapore. RutgersBusinessSchool is ranked #17 nationwide for the employment rate of its graduates three months after graduation by U.S. News & World Report and has a strong network of more than 30,000 alumni. Full-time MBA, including the option of a One-Year MBA track, and part-time MBA programs provide excellent options for people looking to gain the relevant skills needed to compete in today's job market.

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