Skip to main content

Paska Juma

Solve a

Your big idea is waiting

Venturing Out

– Paska Juma –

It’s always been my parents who have motivated me to pursue my education. As a family who emigrated from South Sudan, education has always been important. I knew they wanted me to go to college. I grew up in San Diego, California. My family moved to Lincoln when I was 15. When we first arrived, we lived at the City Mission [Lincoln’s primary homeless shelter] for six months. Starting a business has some to do with having financial freedom one day, but it’s also that aspect of adventure, pushing yourself to limits that the everyday person doesn’t. Not everybody wants to take that risk. I like the creativity and the building process.

My business, Jamila Beauty, is an online marketplace that specializes in hair, beauty, skincare for African American women. The idea came from my own struggles with trying to find products that work for me. I started asking my friends “Is this something that you struggle with too?” The answers varied based on what ethnicity they were, but many felt the same. I thought that’s a problem, and I want it to be the person that could fix it.

Putting it all together

I am studying Entrepreneurship and Ethnic Studies with an emphasis on African American Studies, so really looking at the history of what got America here because I grew up in school only knowing the surface level of my history. I got into a class my first year that introduced me to African American Studies, and I fell in love with learning about who I was.

All my classes connect to my business, and I never planned it. It's funny how little bits and pieces of it is what I am pursuing. I kind of put together what I studied into my business plan. All my experiences in one.

cta 1

The entire entrepreneurship department at Nebraska cares about you more than you care about yourself. The business plan class walks you through from A to Z what you need. In the software we use, it has you give an executive summary, which talks about marketing, financial forecasts, the problem you want to solve and the solution. It helped me to put my thoughts together. I have a very big vision, but the nuts and bolts were what I needed help with.

Digging deeper

My business is challenging me to really dig deep. When you're first starting up, there are a lot of pitfalls and there's all the things that you have to learn. I want to make sure that I'm staying close to my values and doing things with integrity, continual perseverance and tenacity.

People want to feel beautiful, and traditionally the standard of beauty has been one thing. That's really been engraved subconsciously to the African American female to where they feel that they need to look a certain way or even not wear their hair in like afro state or dreadlocks or something where they're going to an interview but then change it after. It's just those little things, whether or not people know it, were transferred onto their daughters and to their daughters’ daughters to where there was a lot of self-esteem issues that go on in the world of beauty and wanting to feel better. You feel that no matter who you are.

My goal with Jamila Beauty is to reach people who don't feel seen. I see it being a place of solace and reassurance. You don't have to be racially ambiguous. You could be you, and you can still be accepted. If somebody doesn't accept you, then it's okay.

Gaining experience with experts

I've been working as an intern at Spreetail, an e-commerce site, for about a year, which directly lines up with what I want to do with Jamila. I met my boss at a business meetup. We started talking about my interests in opening up a business. He said “You should apply to Spreetail.” I’m learning from one of the fastest growing companies in the nation.

I'm a product manager intern. I've always been interested in e-commerce, but it really helps to be in a place where they're doing it and they're doing it right now and in your face. The number one rule of business is you never reinvent the wheel. Somebody is already doing it. You need to find who is doing it. And luckily that happened to be my place of work. They're dealing with a lot of problems that in my own business, I will go through, and I'm getting to see that firsthand.

I remember walking into my first meeting with the big dogs. It was intimidating. I feel like you can voice your opinion in anything that you see that there could be improvement at Spreetail. But in that meeting, I really did not know what was going on because there was just a lot of jargon that you have to just catch onto in the tech world. I went home and I remember I talked to my cousin, I said, “I do not belong here."

At the end of the day when you don't know something, you’re so hard on yourself. My cousin told me, “If you weren't supposed to be there, you wouldn't be there.” From then on, I just delved into learning about product management to another level. I read as much as I could, did as much as I could, and I'm still not even 50% to the point of all that I need to know.

“Continue pushing forward. You're not that big to where the mistakes you make in life are able to deter you from where you're trying to go.”

— Paska Juma

Pushing your dreams forward

It's hard to do both my business and my job, but I have always overbooked myself naturally. I feel like responsibility has always been part of the way that I was raised. Juggling multiple things was kind of like engraved in me, so it's easy but hard. It's hard because I know that's not the reality of many college students.

Students looking to start a business now can find time. Most college students are watching Netflix for a couple of hours. If you take half of that time, four days a week, you'll get somewhere very quickly.

Continue pushing forward. You're not that big to where the mistakes you make in life are able to deter you from where you're trying to go. One mistake is not going to set you off to the point where you should just give up on all your dreams. It might have a consequence in that point in time. You might struggle for a little bit based on your decisions, but it's never ending. There's always a new beginning that comes after the dust has settled.

Graduating with a degree for me means “Mama, I made it.” I really got here, and it wasn't easy. I had those times where I thought maybe I should drop out and just not pursue this. But continuing to push forward and getting to that point means everything. Because I did it that means those after me who come from a similar background can do it too.