The husband and wife entrepreneurial team that makes up Especially Hair, is leaving their law and finance careers to hit the road Fall 2016, with their two-year-old daughter, to bring their “holy grail” products to the curly-haired masses.
The fifteen-city tour will allow Especially Hair to connect one-on-one with consumers: learning their likes and dislikes regarding their current retail hair care experience; polling individuals and stylists on what changes are needed in the beauty industry; and starting a discussion about how spending power can be leveraged to transform the Black consumer experience within America.
The rise of Black spending power is not a new idea. In the last decade, as the demographics of America have been changing, and the number of well-educated African-Americans has been rising many have been wondering how African-American spending will effect various consumer markets.
But we must go further than questioning growing/shrinking consumer markets. When a segment of the population welds approximately $1 trillion in buying power (Nielsen projection, 2013) they can do a lot more than purchase products. They can buy a seat at the figurative boardroom table – they can reshape the entire Black consumer experience in America.
“Empowerment starts with the mobilization of our community spending.”
The first step is holding big-business accountable. When businesses begin to fully appreciate how this consumer group can affect their bottom line, and will affect their bottom line, they will begin to refashion the way they approach and interact with the consumer – product selection will change; imaging and messaging will change; investment choices will change.
Within the hair care industry, signs of this shift are already evident. Large multinational companies are recognizing the spending power of African-Americans and are trying to better diversify their portfolios to capture a segment of the $2.7 billion spent on Black hair products and styling tools.
2014 – L’Oréal S.A.’s U.S. subsidiary acquires Carol’s Daughter for its multi-cultural beauty division.
2015 – Bain Capital LLC invests in Sundial Brands LLC, parent company of Shea Moisture.
2016 – Godrej Consumer Products Ltd. acquires Strength of Nature Global LLC, whose brands include African Pride, Motions, Just for Me, and Soft & Beautiful.
Some within the industry question the sincerity of such investment, concerned that such bottom line driven investments will lead to cost cutting and reduced product quality. However, the argument can be made that with stronger players in the market the interests of the consumer will be given more consideration, and that this will go beyond product development to how retailers approach product placement and customer service.
A great example of this is Shea Moisture. Having the backing of Bain Capital has seemingly had no adverse effect on their product line, but it has allowed the company to leverage their powerful position in the market to seek a better retail experience for their customers. Publicly, they refer to it as their “Break the Walls” initiative. Sundial (parent company of Shea Moisture) founder, Richelieu Dennis, sees it as an opportunity to end segregation within the retail beauty aisle. A great example of keeping big-business accountable.
Yet, even with positive investment in the Black hair care market, the marketing efforts of major players often seem to be a cut-and-paste/one-size-fits-all extrapolation from targeting of the “typical”, white hair care consumer. Despite African-Americans’ representation as one of the fastest growing ethnic minority segments in the U.S., hair care industry strategies don’t connect well with this market segment.
Enter Especially Hair.
Támbia Furrer, Co-Founder of Especially Hair, believes that there is a disconnect between manufacturers and consumers that stems from an overabundance of noise within the market, as demonstrated by the extensive product offerings of most companies with, seemingly, little thought to the resulting complex user application process. In her words, Especially Hair is committed to simplifying the user experience by “offering a streamlined product line that delivers superior results with simplicity of effort. And even more important, we are committed to consumer understanding – which means we are committed to listening more.”
“Curls on the Road: 2016” is our way of launching a national curly conversation. The goal is to understand more about the curly-haired community’s current hair care experience – what they like, what they don’t like, and what’s on their wish list for the future. It’s like a traveling focus group.
The road trip begins in Boston, Massachusetts September 2016 and ends in San Diego, California. In between there will be visits to New York, NY; Philadelphia, PA; Baltimore, MD; Washington, D.C.; Durham, NC; Charlotte, NC; Atlanta, GA; Charleston, SC; Tallahassee, FL; Tuskegee, AL; New Orleans, LA; Houston, TX and Austin, TX. In each city, we will be interviewing individual consumers and stylists about their thoughts on hair care, visiting salons, universities, meet-ups, you name it! And as it’s such a unique opportunity to document the many faces of the curly-haired community, we will be posting all of our interactions online.
We invite people to share our journey. We’d love to receive suggestions of places to visit or people to meet. If we’re visiting your city – we want to hear from you!