How Asha Downes started a natural hair coaching business based on science and self-acceptance
Learn how Asha Downes turned her own natural hair journey into an educational coaching business centered on radical gentleness, science, and self-love.
From a young age, Asha Downes dreamed of having long hair. She loved playing hairdresser with friends and experimenting with different styles, but she was always told that it was impossible to grow her Afro-textured hair to the long lengths she desired.
Everything changed when Asha was in her late teens. While browsing YouTube, she discovered a creator with her same hair texture who was growing long, natural hair. Despite everyone saying that it couldn’t be done, the creator’s hair was healthy and full. Asha knew that if this creator could do it, she could too.
Asha dove deep into the science behind hair growth. As she learned how to nurture and care for her hair, Asha shared her journey with the world and amassed a significant following on YouTube and social media. She launched 1:1 coaching and educational products to better serve her audience, and along the way, learned that growing long hair is much more than achieving a specific style. It’s a radical movement of self-acceptance.
Today, Asha runs Naturally High Hair, a company that helps other women grow their natural hair through personalized mentorship and info-packed workshops . She won Podia’s 2022 Fall Creator Fellowship, and we were wowed by her gentle, holistic approach to caring for her clients. On top of that, she’s working towards an advanced qualification in trichology to deepen her expertise in her field.
Here’s how Asha turned her passion into a coaching and education business that’s transforming women’s hair — and lives — for the better.
Turning a passion project into a creative business through authenticity
When Asha started learning about natural hair care, she wasn’t alone. Other women around the world were also documenting their natural hair journeys. She recalls, “This was before YouTube was the commercial space it is now, so people were just sharing their tips, recipes, trials, and tribulations.”
“It was paradigm-shifting to see so many Black women talking about this together, even though we’re all in different countries. We’re all going through this experience, and now it has a name: The natural hair movement.”
When Asha decided to share her story publicly, she was drawn to YouTube because that’s where other creators in the space were already spending time. “I was joining them,” she explains. “I didn’t know where I was headed. I just wanted to be part of it.”
On her channel, Asha documented everything as she began to unlearn and relearn how to take care of her natural hair. It was a passion project, and Asha focused on sharing her authentic self. Her audience loved following along, and over the years, her YouTube channel and Instagram account grew.
“While I was documenting my journey in the very early stages, I wasn’t looking at the views or the subscribers,” she remembers. “It was a place to share my journey with my hair. People found it interesting and started to follow.”
As Asha’s social media reach expanded, her content creation process became more strategic, and she brainstormed future resources to help her viewers.
Meanwhile, Asha was working full-time and living in different countries across Europe. She looked into hair-related jobs for big companies, but none of them felt quite right.
Asha became a creator just to share her personal experience. Her upbeat and transparent videos resonated with people, and she realized that she could have a real impact. She knew that monetization would allow her to invest back into serving her audience and growing her expertise. In her mind, this passion project was transforming from a hobby to a business opportunity, if only she could give it her full attention. Then everything fell into place.
Asha was between jobs visiting the Caribbean when the pandemic forced worldwide lockdowns. With nowhere to go and time on her hands, it felt like a sign to take the plunge.
“There wasn’t an opportunity in front of me to do what I was passionate about. It was during lockdown when I had that time to myself that I decided I would make my own opportunity.”
So Asha got to work.
The power of a super simple launch
Asha initially planned to sell physical haircare products, but a mentor looked at her substantial online presence and suggested that she offer personalized consultations instead. That advice, combined with difficulties sourcing supplies during a global pandemic, sent Asha down the digital path.
Asha’s first product was a 1:1 regimen-building consultation. She wasn’t sure how her audience would respond, so she kept her launch plan simple. She made a Typeform application and posted the link on Instagram with an explanation of her coaching services.
“I talked about what I was doing and encouraged people to apply,” she shares. “I got over 200 responses. They were only applying to be coached by me, so they didn’t have to pay, but they gave me their email addresses and shared their hair concerns. Then I responded to them and included a booking link.”
This is a genius way to test an idea without a huge upfront investment. Asha made her product attainable and gauged how much interest she had from her target audience.
Through the applications, she learned what her audience needed in their own words and grew her email list. Those who felt like it was a good match became her first customers, and she proved that her idea had legs before spending countless hours and dollars on a big launch.
Asha started meeting with clients, but she quickly learned that her audience’s needs went deeper than recommending products and creating customized hair regimens.
“I realized this work involves more than just picking products and styles. We’re going to have to do some mindset work.”
“There’s a strong connection between self-acceptance and growing your hair long and healthy for the first time. Your hair can only be preserved and destroyed. It’s a dead fiber. You can’t revive it, so everything you do to your hair, your hair remembers and will affect its future.”
With this understanding in mind, Asha shifted to a more holistic approach focusing on hair acceptance and self-love .
“One of the core tenets of my program is this idea of radical gentleness. To be gentle with your hair, you have to accept it. You have to be patient with it and be okay with it looking a certain way. I realized there’s this connection between radical self-acceptance and gentleness and preserving your hair so it can grow longer.”
Listening to her audience helped Asha expand the content of her coaching program and define the shape of her business as a whole. As she continued to work with customers, Asha discovered that one-off coaching was helpful for proactive clients who already had a positive relationship with their hair, but it wasn’t working for clients who needed more accountability.
This inspired her to create a comprehensive coaching program called Longer Lengths™, which provides sustained support over a longer period of time while customers build healthy hair mindsets and habits.
Today, Longer Lengths™ is Asha’s signature coaching offer and the primary way she works with people individually. To accommodate clients at all stages in their hair journey, Asha also offers a 90-minute Grow-Your-’Fro Long Hair Crash Course .
Asha sells her on-demand crash course as an evergreen product so customers can have a quick win any time, and she takes batches of Longer Lengths™ clients a few times per year.
Having an intentional mix of programs is a great choice for creators who offer coaching. Self-serve products are more affordable and scalable, giving customers an opportunity to interact with you before making a bigger investment. Higher-ticket 1:1 programs are ideal for clients who want more hands-on interaction. By having both, you can reach more people in your target demographic.
Up next, we’ll explore Asha’s approach to overcoming challenges and maintaining a sustainable business aligned with her passion and her audience’s needs.
Asha’s tips for getting out of your own way
Every business has hard moments, but Asha has learned to handle obstacles with confidence. Her secret? Bring in experts, wrangle imposter syndrome, and lean into individuality.
Asking for help is a time-saver
Whether she’s working with mentors to iron out business ideas or bringing on video editors and social media consultants, Asha always asks for assistance when she needs it.
Since deciding to go all in on her business, Asha has worked with several freelancers , specialists, assistants, and coaches, including a free mentor provided by a UK nonprofit for early-stage entrepreneurs, to keep her on the right track.
“I know I don’t have all the answers.”
She says, “It’s easy for me to see the value in consulting with somebody specialized in marketing or accountability or selling online courses because I understand that, while there are free resources online, time is worth so much more .”
“I know I don’t have all the answers… Speaking to an expert helps me cut through the clutter and avoid wasting time. That’s why I place a high value on that kind of insight.”
Need help in your business but don’t know where to start?
Take a page from Asha’s book and see what resources are available through your local chamber of commerce, or look for business and entrepreneurship nonprofits in your area. You can also join the Podia Creator Community to get feedback on your work and bounce ideas around with other creators.
Finding proof to face imposter syndrome head on
Everyone feels imposter syndrome in their business sometimes, but Asha has reframed this as a positive sign she’s growing and expanding . To keep her inner critic at bay, Asha has a few tricks.
First, keep a positive record. “I keep a record of anything good that I do,” Asha elaborates. “I have a list of my accomplishments, so I start programming my mind to focus on positive things in my life.”
To create your own positive record, set up a folder on your computer where you save five-star feedback and kind notes from customers. When you feel down or uncertain, open your file and remember how awesome you are.
Second, become an expert in your subject area. According to Asha, “Another way to battle imposter syndrome is to become really obsessed with the thing you’re offering. I don’t mind being obsessed with something to the point that other people think it’s a bit strange. I have a whole database about hair. I’m constantly reading about hair and hair science.”
Diving into your niche and gaining knowledge can lessen those feelings of uncertainty. You can do this through personal research, practice, or investing in higher education credentials like Asha .
Third, be prepared. One of Asha’s most intense experiences with imposter syndrome happened when she sat down to film a YouTube video after taking a break for a few months. Flooded with negative thoughts about her content, she felt paralyzed.
When she spoke with her accountability coach about the incident, they realized that a lack of specifics made it hard to film in the moment — the video script wasn’t fully formed, and the purpose was unclear. Once she defined her goals, revisited her video, and made improvements, her feelings of imposter syndrome faded.
Now, Asha asks herself, “How can I prepare the task so that even if I’m experiencing those feelings, I still feel okay? Why am I creating this video, and what do I want people to do after they watch it? Once I have that answer, it’s easier for me to sit through any discomfort I’m feeling.”
Simply put, imposter syndrome is a part of life for creators, but it doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker. As Asha puts it, “The great thing about facing that situation is that you begin to become the kind of person who doesn’t run away in the face of fear.”
Lean into the things that make you unique
Embrace the characteristics that make you stand out as a creator. Having a particular personality trait or skill set can set you apart from the competition and connect you with more customers.
“Apply yourself and go for it,” Asha says. “And then continue applying yourself in other areas to bring your unique twist to whatever you are doing. In my case, I can also provide consultations in German or Spanish.”
Asha also has a research background that gives her content a special scientific spin.
“Don’t focus so much on the specifics of what others in the space are doing. Bring your unique angle and continue to strengthen those things that make you stand out.”
By asking for help, managing imposter syndrome, and sharing your special skills and traits, you’ll be on the way to creating a business you’re proud of .
“Follow your passion. I’m really glad to have created this program that involves self-acceptance, empathy, hair science, cosmetic science, accountability, styling, nutrition, and health and to merge all of that into one.”
Want to follow in Asha’s footsteps? Create your website , offer your first coaching product , or create a digital product for your audience, all for free with Podia . We can’t wait to see where your passion takes you.
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