As a young girl in St. Croix, V.I., Ramona Griggie dreamed of success. Two years ago, the wife and mother hit it big when her at-home teeth-whitening company, Express Smile Atlanta, generated $1 million in revenue within the first 60 days.
“When I started Express Smile Atlanta, I had no idea it would take off the way that it did,” Griggie said. “I initially provided an in-office teeth-whitening treatment that took about an hour and I began receiving feedback from customers that they would love to be able to achieve the same results at home. So, my entrepreneur spirit kicked in and I started researching ways to create an at-home version.”
Express Smile allows users to achieve professional whitening results at home for $99.99 using gel and LED kits. Clients also have the option to schedule appointments in the College Park, Ga., office for $199.99. In addition, the company hosts events like bridal parties and girls-night-out shindigs.
Express Smile has blown up so much that celebrities have readily endorsed the brand across their social media pages. The likes of Monica, Jussie Smollett, Amber Rose and the cast of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” have all touted the brand on their Instagram feeds, but Griggie says some relationships with celebrity clients go further than that.
“I’ve developed some really good relationships with some of the celebrities we’ve worked with,” she said. “One person who has been extremely supportive is rapper Da Brat. From the first time we chatted, we hit it off and she’s been an advocate for Express Smile ever since and has become a good friend.”
Good friends alone can’t run a business, however. For that, Griggie teamed with her husband, Willie, who presents a potential challenge for the mother of four: balancing home life with her business partner. While running a company as a husband-and-wife duo could seem difficult to some, Griggie welcomes the setup. It doesn’t hurt that she considers her spouse to be her best friend, and his financial acumen compliments her creative and interpersonal skills.
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“My family is first and I make sure that my husband and children always know that they are No. 1,” she said. “I’ve been able to involve them a lot because entrepreneurship gives you that kind of flexibility.”
So, there’s no challenge with balancing her family life with her business, but what about getting the company off the ground? The teeth-whitening industry is saturated with tons of LED kits, which Griggie said differs from Express Smile’s own since she said the brand is one of the few that has all-natural whitening gel and is made in the U.S. However, Black entrepreneurs aren’t represented in the trade.
“Going into this business without any mentors or peers, I had to pave the way for an African-American in this industry,” she said. “I’ve had to take classes, do a lot of reading and research to learn about the best products and although it was a lot of work to learn all of the details about the different products and ingredients, it’s allowed me to have a great amount of knowledge.”
That knowledge is something she wants other entrepreneurs to gain, regardless of how tough the road may be to get there. Keeping things simple by refraining from overcomplicating business matters can help, but it won’t replace the blood, sweat and tears required to launch a brand like hers, which has secured tens of thousands of orders.
“Most importantly, you have to put in the work and grind!” Griggie said. “No one is going to hand you success.”