Designer’s fashion brand rooted in family tradition
By Bailey Black
It has been more than three years since Charron Leeper-Martin ’09 started her now-flourishing business, Perfect Pineapple. It all started with a satin hair scarf her grandmother gave her that she knotted up and could never untie. Leeper wore the hair scarf to bed as a protective style solution and a way to preserve her curls based on the “pineapple-ing” method.
She ended up liking the style enough to wear it out, which led her to buy new fabric and recreate the original scarf. After trying many new styles, the lightbulb went off: she could sell them. Using the sewing machines in the office of her grandmother’s basement, Leeper-Martin started making scarves, and Perfect Pineapple was founded.
“There was this surge in black women wanting to wear their natural hair and understand how to style it. I went natural in college and wore sew-ins because I struggled with styling my natural hair,” said Leeper-Martin. “My grandmother played a huge part in helping me and my family members appreciate our African heritage, which included wrapping our hair.”
She dedicates Perfect Pineapple to her grandmother, who was battling cancer as the venture took off. Not only did she test and wear the scarves, but she was also the one who encouraged her to move forward with the business.
“Before she passed away, she grabbed my hand and said, ‘Charron, promise me you’ll start a family business.’ That was the defining moment. She believed in me enough to tell me to do this. It was so impactful, and she is the inspiration for me to continue in this business. I want to fulfill that promise,” Leeper-Martin said.
Her grandmother passed away on Sept. 11, 2017, one day after Perfect Pineapple debuted on the runway of a local fashion show.
Perfect Pineapple has grown into a brand that manufactures and distributes head wraps, headbands and other hair accessories worldwide. Leeper-Martin’s favorite part of watching the business grow is the brand recognition and seeing those she admires enjoy the product. Most recently, in May 2020, she celebrated actress and social media influencer Tabitha Brown posting the product on an Instagram story.
Leeper-Martin was able to apply many of the skills she acquired as a student at Radford University to being a business owner.
In 2007, she created Women of Purpose and Power, a nonprofit women’s community service and support group at Radford University. She saw a need on campus for an organization that would cater to and empower women — specifically, minority women. She is proud of creating the organization and how this work helped her foster her entrepreneurial skills.
“Radford showed me a lot about my character and personality that I didn’t know before. Understanding your limits, understanding your expectations and knowing who you are directly affect how you operate in business, and I took that away from my Radford experience,” Leeper-Martin said.
She also had many professors who influenced her along the way, including John O’Connor, assistant professor of graphic design, who encouraged Leeper-Martin as a graphic design major and understood the balancing act she was struggling with as a student-athlete on the women’s basketball team.
Another faculty member, former Assistant Professor Kevin Smith, also left a lasting impression. He told her, “Never stop designing until what you create is exactly what you envisioned it to be,” which is a mantra she has held onto and continues to draw from as the founder and CEO of Perfect Pineapple.