Shopify traveled to Tulsa to tell the stories of merchants who are reinventing Black Wall Street for the ecommerce age. Read the rest of the series here.
They call her the Queen of Herbs.
Upon entering Sultana Nailor’s downtown Tulsa apothecary, you’re greeted with hundreds of large glass Mason jars neatly lining ceiling-high shelves. Cat’s claw, blue lotus, fireweed, and Irish moss—they’re all esoteric herbs with ancient uses that Sultana’s clients clamor for.
Sultana is a certified herbalist who believes in using gifts from the earth to help heal bodies and minds through natural remedies. And the grandmother of three and mother of seven does it both from her physical space and on social media, where she shares her herbal tips and tricks to the more than 30,000 followers she amassed on TikTok in a matter of months.
Herbalism has been a successful second act for Sultana, who already had a six-figure career in small-business consulting when she decided to follow in the steps of her ancestors, who were healers themselves. She now owns two successful Shopify stores, Vital Melamins and Apothatote, where she provides the supplements and nutrients aimed at helping people achieve peak wellness. Ahead, learn from Sultana about running a thriving wellness business and what it means to do it in Tulsa, the birthplace of Black Wall Street.
ON STARTING OVER IN TULSA
"I started my first business, Sultana Steam, [a vaginal hydrotherapy center] in Houston, Texas. Pre-pandemic, I was living there and I had locations of Sultana Steam across five states. We were killing it, and then, bam, we got shut down once quarantine started.
Once the pandemic hit, my daughter, who lives in Tulsa as an essential worker, called and she said, 'Mom, they put me on the COVID floor. What am I going to do about the baby?' And that's my first grandbaby. I immediately looked for an Airbnb. I just figured I’d go to Tulsa and be there for a couple months. And two years later, I’m still here.
Tulsa has just grown tremendously. There were so many transplants here for the centennial of Black Wall Street—it was just beautiful. I’m enjoying it, but it's so different. Coming from somewhere big—I’ve lived in upstate New York, Atlanta, Houston—it’s so small, but I definitely see the growth happening."
ON THE POWER OF BEING YOUR OWN BRAND AMBASSADOR
"The first thing I did was research. I had a leg up because of my business background. I knew the mechanics, but you’ve got to fine-tune. When I enter the market, what’s going to be my niche? What’s the need, and how can I either fill it or improve it? Once you’ve done your groundwork and you put all your ducks in a row on paper, start really looking at who your market is. Once I figured that out, I started with one client, and then I wasn’t afraid to knock on doors, to go have conversations.
That personal touch is still what sets my businesses apart. With so much emphasis on social media now, you still have to carve out a way to touch people and have conversations. I would encourage anyone starting out to be their own brand ambassador."
ON WALKING AWAY FROM CORPORATE AMERICA
"My degrees were in business management and international business, and I’d done very well in corporate. I walked off of a six-figure position because I was offering services to people who I wanted to help my community, but they couldn't afford it.
I love business. I love entrepreneurship. I love systems and processes and helping people grow. To know that I couldn’t help my own people, I asked myself, What am I going to do? Am I going to keep making someone else millions? There’s purpose in a paycheck. You can take care of your family, but what’s the real purpose? Who am I helping? Whose lives are changing by this? I was just over it. I knew I could do it for myself. And I did."
ON HONORING HER FAMILY LINEAGE AND WALKING IN HER ANCESTORS’ FOOTSTEPS
"My desire to study herbalism truly comes from a line of women in my family. Before herbalism was something that you could get a degree in, it was part of my ancestry. My great-great-great-grandmother, Julia Turnbull, was born during slavery, and she was part Native American. She was a medicine woman, and that just trickled down. It was something already in me.
I was always teased growing up. I was the granola one among my siblings. I’ve always been holistic, vegan, all these things. I always had an affinity toward herbs and just being well.
Then my mom died at 59 of bacterial meningitis. She was a vice-president for Toyota and she retired at 50, just had a great life. We had no idea she was sick, and it took her out in 24 hours.
When my mom died early, and I kept noticing all these patterns [of chronic health problems] in my community, I knew I couldn't keep this knowledge to myself anymore. I wanted to create a platform so people could heal and so that we could normalize being well.
I did my own 'eat, pray, love' journey, if you will. I did a lot of self-study and then got several certifications. I still didn’t feel as though the education out there truly gave someone a herbal education, so I then started my own certification program."
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF WELLNESS FOR BLACK AND INDIGENOUS PEOPLE
"Our community, we have been lied to so much and mistreated. We’ve faced a lack of proper care, and the lack of access to care. We haven't had the right representation in caregivers.
All of those things factor into my decision to return back to what we did naturally in the first place—our Indigenous roots and really living off the land. Let’s really normalize being well, and let's heal. I believe passionately that when we heal our bodies from the inside out, that our community can heal."
ON PAYING IT FORWARD TO OTHER BUDDING ENTREPRENEURS
"I truly believe in building legacy. I first want to do that in my community to really help to build wealth and to just solidify our values. You can only do that when you empower people. When I empower and train entrepreneurs, that’s building legacy, not only in my family, but in my community. That’s my first passion, but I open it up to anyone.
I started out helping Black barbers and stylists get incorporated, create a business plan, and really get away from the cash-and-carry mentality. I wanted to teach them everything I had learned in corporate America about, 'Hey, protect your money, protect your assets, build wealth.' The only way you’re going to do this is to get sound legally, on paper.
I would simply help them get incorporated. Then I would go in and do what would be considered a 'sales' workshop, but really having the barbers think about how the Black hair experience is so deeply rooted in our community. I was teaching them to think more like business people. That grew exponentially, by word of mouth."
ON THE PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE OF BLACK WALL STREET
"There will always be echoes, especially if you are in tune spiritually, because you can literally feel the ancestors. Now, does it look different? Yes, so much different. It's not as expansive, and I would love for Black Wall Street to not just be that strip on Greenwood. For it to truly encompass North Tulsa, which is the predominantly African American area here.
For the centennial, I definitely know that the city was very hopeful. While exciting, it was almost like a covered wound had been exposed. and people were so eager to share, yet it was painful at the same time. This just wasn’t a simple race riot. This was a massacre, this was a travesty, this wiped out generations. For that story to come to light was very, very powerful and empowering for the community. There’s a lot of healing and education that still needs to be done.
I embody the future of Black Wall Street. I am what they died for. What Black Wall Street represents is a return to our values, a standard of excellence, and empowerment. The demographic that’s going to make that happen is that late twenties to early thirties group in Tulsa. They’re educated, they’re poised, they’re tenacious. I think that Black Wall Street rests in their faces. I think that history is in their veins and it’s going to be up to them to really continue to bring awareness. Black Wall Street is not just a story—it’s actually in place and thriving and visible for people to see."