“My life changed drastically because of just six months with NFTE.

—Kelsey Johnson
  • Kelsey came up with the idea for her first product when she took a NFTE class in high school.
  • She took her idea all the way to the National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge, where she won the top prize of $15,000.
  • She used that prize as seed capital for her company, Kinky Kaps, LLC, expanding production of her first product, The Shower Turban.
  • She developed other innovative hair accessories for women of color.
  • By age 18, she was the CEO of a business, her debut product was on sale at salons and beauty supply stores, and she was a featured speaker at the EY Strategic Growth Forum.

As Kelsey Johnson approached her senior year of high school, she had “no direction, no passion, no spark.”

After studying dance for eight years, she’d given up pursuing it as her passion. This left her with a lot of free time but no direction. It was then that Kelsey found the NFTE program that changed her life. She acquired business skills and, most importantly, she learned how to think and act like an entrepreneur. Part of that involved thinking creatively about solving real problems for herself and her community. And that’s how Kelsey’s business Kinky Kaps, LLC was born.

Kelsey always had an issue fitting her long braids into a traditional shower cap. One day, she had an idea to use a pair of stretchy leggings to protect her hair in the shower and realized she had stumbled upon an idea that might benefit many people. She developed her first product, a shower cap for people with long, heavy braids. The product idea became the foundation of her NFTE business.

She honed her business plan and pitch with the help of NFTE coaches and mentors. Once she entered the Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge, she took her idea right to the final round of NFTE’s national championship—where she won $15,000 and the title of top young entrepreneur in the country with her pitch for the Kinky Kaps Shower Turban.

Kelsey says she is moved by the community of support she discovered through her NFTE experience. “The most important thing I learned from NFTE is there are people – other than your friends and family – that are willing to support you. When I started to notice all the people around me who were excited for my business and the things that I had going on, it really helped me understand that I have a lot of potential. It made me hopeful for the future.”

NFTE not only helped Kelsey regain the confidence and passion she’d lost when she stopped dancing, it helped her see herself as a business owner and entrepreneur. As she continues to grow Kinky Kaps, Kelsey aims to empower and inspire African American women to embrace their natural hair in all its untamed beauty.