My Early Hour: Princess Onitilo, Founder of Tress Free

Financial analyst by day, entrepreneur by night – Princess Onitilo is the founder of Tress Free: the UK’s first ethnic hair and beauty booking platform. We catch up with the 23-year-old to talk mornings, living with her parents and running a business while working full time…

Princess Onitilo, 23, lives in Edgware, North West London, with her parents, and younger siblings – a brother and a sister.

What’s your home like?
Home is great! Living with family as a recent graduate is good because I can save money and also enjoy mum’s cooking daily. It is also nice to be around loved ones on days where things are not going well – their support is comforting.

What time are you up in the morning?
On a weekday I usually wake up between 6am and 7am. On weekends I am up by 9am.

What wakes you up?
I naturally wake up around the same time everyday (which can be quite upsetting on days when I want a lie in). Otherwise the sound of my brother watching TV in the morning will wake me up.

I am creating something that will have a profound impact on the Afro-Caribbean hair and beauty community

How do you feel?
Despite waking up early every day I am not a morning person and I don’t feel great. There is definitely a time lag between waking up and actually getting out of bed. However what motivates to get up and start my day is that fact that I always have a lot of things on my to do list and I want to hit the ground running.

What do you do first thing?
I’ve got into the habit of reading the Word For Today on United Christian Broadcasters. It definitely motivates me, and helps me stay grounded in my faith. Afterwards, I flick through my notifications to check any emails or updates I received overnight.

In three words, describe mornings in your home?
Fast-paced, loud and fun.

What’s for breakfast?
I rarely have breakfast. I’m usually happy with a tea and a few biscuits. However once in a while I have sausage rolls and if I have a lot of time, I opt for a full English breakfast.


How might the rest of your day pan out?
For me no two days are ever alike, but one thing I can guarantee is that it will be a long and busy day. Things that remain constant are managing my 9-5 days job and its requirements; managing the social media for Tress Free which includes regularly posts on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook; replying to the customer and partner queries; as well as creating the strategy for business development and getting more stylists signed up to the Tress Free network.

What’s your workspace like?
For my 9-5 role as a financial analyst, my workspace is a desk in a Canary Wharf office. My Tress Free workspace is very mobile and can be anywhere – replying to emails on the train, meetings in coffee shops and restaurants, or laying in bed with my laptop. This is the joy of having an online business.

Launching Tress Free

Tell us about your business…
Tress Free is the UK’s first ethnic hair and beauty booking platform. Customers will be able to search for stylists in their area and benchmark them against different criteria for example: customer rating, price and quality.

The concept itself is something new for the Afro-Caribbean hair community. It is one centralised place where you can not only search hairstylists and makeup artists, but also review their availability, compare and contrast portfolios and reviews as well as book appointments directly with them through the portal.

Tress Free means stylists can manage bookings and communications with customers in a centralised manner, rather than relying on phone and email communication. It gives smaller mobile stylists the opportunity to increase exposure and maximise their booking potential.

My inspiration to start Tress Free came after I was let down by a lady who I had booked an appointment with to do my hair. It was a Sunday before returning to work on Monday and I was very desperate however I struggled to find an alternative hairdresser. I dreamed of a platform that would allow you to search for hairdressers based on availability and location, as well as being able to see example of their work to know whether they are good or not. Something like this didn’t exist for the Afro-Caribbean hair market and I believe a central database like this is something that customers really value.

What’s the greatest challenge when running your own business?
My greatest challenge at the moment is juggling my time and making sure I am giving my best efforts into everything I do. It can be very hard at times, but I have learnt to plan ahead and prioritise tasks.

What makes it all worthwhile?
Knowing that I am creating something that will have a profound impact on the Afro-Caribbean hair and beauty community. Being part of driving that change is very fulfilling for me.

An ideal weekend for me would be lying in bed all day with snacks and Netflix – I am definitely in need of a break.

Are there aspects of the production that you delegate to others?
With my business I am a jack-of-all-trades. I am the director, the assistant, the graphic designer, the account manager and more. The only two things that have been outsourced are the development and technical management of the website and PR – other than that I manage everything myself (with the help of family members at times).

Are you a happy lone worker, or do you enjoy the buzz of a shared workspace?
I’m a happy lone worker. I get more done when I am in the zone and on my own, yet I do appreciate the company of others. Because I know I can get distracted easily I would opt for shared workspaces when I don’t have many tasks to complete in a day.

What’s the secret to career success?
Determination and perseverance! With everything in life there will always be setbacks, but you have to look ahead knowing that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The road may be long and difficult but it’s your determination and perseverance that will pull you through.

Is the juggle real for you… do you find it difficult balancing the various aspects of your work life and home life?
The only part I find difficult is waking up on a Monday morning feeling tired, as I didn’t take time over the weekend to rest. I am quite good at juggling my commitments and making my schedule work to fit in everything I need to do. The downside is that I often compromise me-time. However, recently I selectively pick a weekend a month where I stay at home, just to catch my breath and reboot.

Describe an ideal weekend?
An ideal weekend for me would be lying in bed all day with snacks and Netflix – I am definitely in need of a break.

If you could wake up anywhere tomorrow, where would it be?
I would love to wake up in the Maldives. Have a nice relaxing break, hopefully without any internet connection.