CEO of tgin, and current Oracle Lawyer, Chris-Tia Donaldson was featured in Crain’s Chicago Business, and we couldn’t be more proud. Thank you to the team at Crain’s for the wonderful feature! Want to get to know our CEO a little better? Make sure you check out the full article below, by Marcia Wade Talbert, where Chris-Tia talks about how she never set out to be an entrepreneur, and how she battled her way through breast cancer, all the while making sure she didn’t miss important Target meetings.
Every entrepreneur declares business always comes first. For Chris-Tia Donaldson, it’s more than a cliche. Just a month before she was scheduled to pitch Target on adding her hair care products to 500 additional stores, she was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. Her biggest concern, she says, was not letting her condition prevent that meeting from happening.
It didn’t, nor did more than a month of daily radiation treatments stop her from flying out on day trips to line up distributors or from making sales calls locally to Walgreens and Whole Foods Market. Today her line, Thank God It’s Natural, is sold in six Whole Foods and 30 Mariano’s supermarkets in metro Chicago and 500 Sally Beauty Supply stores. Next year, TGIN shampoos, conditioners and soaps also will be available at Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid drugstores across the U.S. and 1,000 Target locations.
“I had to figure out how to make it work regardless of how I felt,” says Donaldson, whose cancer is now in remission.
A 37-year-old transplant from Detroit, Donaldson didn’t set out to be an entrepreneur. After earning both a bachelor’s degree in economics and a law degree from Harvard University, she became an M&A lawyer at Sidley Austin and Jenner & Block and then a staff attorney at Oracle in 2006. About the same time, she began promoting alternatives to lye-based hair relaxers for African-American women. That led in 2008 to her self-published book, “Thank God I’m Natural,” on natural hair care.
She began mixing products in her kitchen and selling them in 2013 at festivals, churches, bookstores and farmers markets, backed mostly by $40,000 from her own savings. It was hard work. “When I was selling things from the trunk of my car, I could feel people looking down on me,” she says. “They thought they were better than me.”
She has six employees who make her products by hand in small batches in the Industrial Council of Nearwest Chicago incubator on the West Side. Her TGIN green tea leave-in conditioner retails for $14.99 for a 14.5-ounce bottle.
Shelby Parchman first met Donaldson in 2011 at an alternative financing workshop sponsored by his then-employer, the Jewish Vocational Service. “Chris-Tia worked with as many people as she could to develop a very strong foundation for her business,” says Parchman, now director of programs at Sunshine Enterprises, a neighborhood business development center in Woodlawn. For example, he says, he advised her on how to approach Walgreens. She also turned to social media and focus groups for feedback on her product formulations.
He says Donaldson is relatable and down to earth. “People really like her,” he says. “That really catapults her sales.”
Click here for the full story on Crain’s Chicago Business.