After graduating from Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada in 2006, Kristen Heaton knew she wanted to start her own business. She had $70,000 in college debt and needed $700 to buy her first set of inventory, but that didn’t stop her. In 2013, she launched a brand on Amazon called Crave Naturals.
“I didn’t even have $700 in my name, so I had to ask my best friend’s husband for that money,” Heaton said. “And because he believed in me, he was happy to help.
“So one piece of advice I would give is don’t be afraid to ask for help, especially when you have people in your life that you know believe in you,” she added.
Nearly a decade later, she’s sold over a million of her brand’s signature Glide Thru detangling brushes. The product has over 60,500 reviews on Amazon, and Heaton has garnered nearly $15 million in total revenue during that time. When the money started coming in from the sales, she knew she wanted to use it to pay off her student loans.
“When I started the business, all I thought was that it would be the perfect side hustle,” Heaton said. “And whatever I earn from here, I’ll just throw it away for my student debt and just the bills I had.”
In two years, she was able to pay off that $70,000 student debt.
“I focused more on growing the business and getting to a level where we had inventory constantly, we weren’t running out of stock,” Heaton said. “And then once we got to that point and were profitable, I started paying off the debts.”
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Passion was important in helping Heaton through the early days as she juggled her full-time job and running a business on the side.
“When it was my lunch, I would phone the vendors,” she said. “I was constantly chatting with them and checking my emails when it was late.
“I never really felt like it was something I didn’t want to do,” Heaton added. “So finding something that you really love and are passionate about, I think will help you have fun along the way.”
The success of Crave Naturals brought her to a crossroads familiar to those who have followed her entrepreneurial journey: quitting her full-time job and accepting that her side hustle is now her main event.
“I definitely chose the path to continue to grow the brand because I also saw the opportunity for brand growth,” Heaton said. “But not only that, it really made me happy.”
In July 2021, Heaton sold Crave Naturals to aggregator Amazon Perch in a seven-figure deal. Now she wants to pay it back so her own kids won’t have to worry about student debt.
“We can fund their creative ideas and any business they want to start down the road,” she said. “And I think it’s important that you do what makes you happy and follow that passion.”
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Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in tassels.