Madeline Jackson Interview


“Curly hair is beautiful and we have not been given the right tools to take care of it.”

Meet Madeline Jackson, a Spring 2017 BALSA Grant Finalist and the founder of NanaComb, the wonderfully new way to care for naturally kinky, curly and coily hair!

Madeline’s inspiration for starting NanaComb started with her own hair. She had long, thick and straight hair. Her hair was chemically straightened but one day she decided it was time for a change and Madeline decided to go for “the big chop”. Essentially, she decided to cut off the part of her hair that was chemically straightened in order to expose her natural hair. Her biggest problem after the chop was trying to find a comb that was gentle for her hair but had no luck. Eventually, she started combing her hair with her fingers. It was gentle, it didn’t catch on her curls or fray her hair the way regular combs and picks did. After a while, she thought to herself “why isn’t there a comb that is modeled after our fingers?” This gave birth to the NanaComb, an innovative comb that bridges the gap between the standard afro-pick and a hand that helps care for naturally curly or kinky hair.

When Madeline won the BALSA Grant, she just had a vision and the idea to create the NanaComb. Since being a BALSA Grant Finalist, Madeline has been able to develop a final prototype through a design company, create a website for her company where she sells the NanaComb and also secure a patent for the NanaComb. Madeline expressed that the $1000 cash grant was very helpful but more than importantly, the in-kind services were really key to helping her build her business.

“I would have gotten discouraged a lot long time ago if I did not have people I could talk to.” Madeline expresses that the Learning Series, the contacts and in-kind donations provided for BALSA Finalists have been invaluable to her. She was able to speak with an accountant, a lawyer and other subject matter experts who were able to assist her with certain parts her business. In addition to meeting with subject matter experts, Madeline mentioned that meeting with other BALSA Grant Finalists and bouncing off ideas off each other has been very important and useful for her.

For first-time entrepreneurs considering submitting a BALSA grant application her advice is “just do it, fear wraps you up and immobilizes you and that is the enemy of entrepreneurship. If you can get over the fear and over the doubt, you are not going to fail.”

When asked how being a BALSA Finalist has impacted her community, Madeline conveys that she is glad she can be an inspiration to her children, grand-children and other family members. Her grand-daughters often help her during trade shows by doing product demonstrations and accepting payments from customers. Madeline notes “I want my grand-daughters to know that whatever I can do, they can do. They can use me as an example and I feel more equipped to help them with the things that I have learned.”

Madeline summarized her experience with the BALSA Foundation as meaningful and impactful. The number of things she has learned and people she has met since becoming a BALSA Finalist has allowed her to take NanaComb to the next level.