Abigail Opiah co-founded Un-Ruly (@hairunruled), an editorial platform for black hair, alongside her sister Antonia, in 2013. In 2016, the duo launched Yeluchi by Un-Ruly (@weareyeluchi), the at-home braiding service that offers world-class protective styles without having to sit at the salon for hours. Recently, Abigail was selected as one of Bumble's Most Inspiring New Yorkers and featured in their city-wide campaign. Check it out here and read on for our interview on how Abigail gets all worked up!
First off, what changes have you seen in braid requests since launching and are there any protective trends we should be on the lookout for?
When we launched Yeluchi in the summer of 2016, we did so with the goal of becoming the go-to mobile service for braids. Since then, we’ve seen the requests for braids continue to grow with no signs of slowing down (feed in cornrows are our most-requested style). As for trends to keep an eye on, crochets are one to watch. They’ve been around for years but are only starting to get attention. We love their versatility and the fact that they’re the ultimate time hack when it comes to time-intensive styles such as box braids or goddess locs. We love them so much that we shot some new how-to videos that we’ll be publishing to our YouTube channel soon, so stay tuned.
You partnered with your sister to launch both of your businesses, can you tell us a little bit about the dynamics of building a family business?
No one on this planet knows me better than my sister does, and that makes for a really special working dynamic. The fact that we have the shared experience of immigrating to this country at such a young age, our wins are that much sweeter, and our setbacks challenge us to work even harder. Also the fact that our Mom (our biggest champion) gets to be witness to what we’re building, and is on the sidelines cheering us on along the way is such a great feeling because we’re making good on all that she sacrificed for us to even be here.
What have been some of the biggest challenges in growing Yeluchi and/or Un-Ruly?
One of the biggest challenges - which has turned into one of our biggest strengths - is the fact that we’re 100% self-funded. On the one hand we don’t have the resources to scale as quickly as we’d like, while on the other hand, we’ve been able to really focus on the quality of our service and as a result we’ve seen our business grow thanks to word of mouth and client referrals. We’ve also had to challenge ourselves to become resourceful and find novel ways of growing our business, ways that don’t just involve throwing money at an issue to make it go away.
Onto our favorite AWU Q's: Where do you reside and what is your favorite local spot close to home?
I live in New York City, and my favorite local spot would be The Wing in Brooklyn. For a busy bee like myself, I’m definitely a fan of a place that can be more than one thing and serve more than one need. I take meetings there, I can meet for coffee, or lunch as well as take a nap! It’s my little slice of heaven.
It's breakfast time on a weekday, where are you and what are you eating?
I’ve come to realize that I’m not a big fan of breakfast food so I usually have a shake for breakfast. I take the time on Sunday evenings to make my shakes for the entire week then freeze them. This way I can just grab and go in the morning.
It's dinner time on a weekday, where are you and what are eating?
I try my best to “excuse-proof” my life, so if I can’t cook a meal from scratch for dinner, I’m either making a healthy frozen meal from Trader Joe's or warming up a meal I planned and prepped at the start of the week. I’ve fallen into the trap of ordering in one too many times, and it can put a huge dent in your pocket especially when running a startup and living like a college student to keep costs low.
Tell us about your workwear style.
The biggest advantage to running a startup from home vs working a traditional 9-5 is not having to obsess over what to wear everyday for work. As a result, I can get away with only having a few key pieces that I can mix and match. I’m definitely a fan of the Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg-type uniform, so you’ll most likely catch me in jeans and a cute top; paired with a nice slip-on sneaker or flats. I like shopping at The Gap, J. Crew and Zara for basic pieces.
Do you have a favorite workwear item that you can't live without? If so, please share!
I’d have to say my Tumi backpack. I love being hands-free yet stylish and functional all at the same time.
You're about to give a big presentation/have a big meeting, what are you wearing:
Besides a huge smile (which is my secret weapon in disarming the audience, which in turn puts me at ease) I’m usually in slacks, and a fitted blouse.
How do you prepare for said big presentation or meeting?
I give the presentation to just about everyone in my life that’ll listen lol. Family members, colleagues, friends. After going over it so many times, it becomes old hat and only then am I really ready to knock it out of the park come game time.
What constitutes a good day at work?
Hands down, a good day at work for me is destroying my to-do list and getting to inbox zero. Fun fact: crossing things off a list has been known to increase dopamine levels so I’m all for it.
How do you unwind and turn work off?
I do a lot of meditating. I also go to the gym to let off some steam and reset myself for the next day. I try to get in a little bit of reading when I can. My goal is to get into reading fiction and pull myself away from business and self-help books.
Regardless of whether your work is your passion or your path to the weekend, what is your favorite thing to allocate time to outside of “the office?”
I love to travel! The best part of getting out and seeing the world is that it helps bring new perspective to my life and how I live my life. I just love being exposed to different cultures.