City: Atlanta, GA
Entrepreneurs: Candace Mitchell and Chanel Martin
It took me 27 years to learn how to do my hair, and even now, I’m not sure I’m doing it right. Growing up biracial, I thought I had a frizzy mess of curly hair. It was unruly and I couldn’t figure out what to do with it. Even more stressful, everyone else had an opinion about how to do it. “Straighten that hair” or “you never wear it down enough.” Eventually, I gave up, and opted for buns and ponytails as my style of choice.
In working with the entrepreneurs, Candace, Chanel and Robin, I realized their venture, Myavana, was about more than hair care. Starting the week, their hair technology solution was immediately exciting to us. They explained to us, “your hair is as unique as your fingerprint.” This made a lot of sense to me, as I had tried all my friends’ hair products, much to no avail. Their offering was they could take my hair, analyze it in a lab, and create a unique hair profile that could then be used to recommend hair care tips and products.
The idea was compelling. Women spend billions of dollars on their hair and associated products. In particular, there is a huge market for black hair care products and services that work. In recent years, many black women have opted to not straighten or chemically relax their hair, increasing the demand for products that work with a broad array of natural hair types. But hair products are expensive, and the trial of and error of purchases can be frustrating and unproductive.
That’s the challenge Myavana is addressing: a solution that finally takes the guesswork out of hair. Their hair analysis kit includes a hair collection kit that can be mailed back, along with personalized recommendations in a care plan and a set of products tailored to your specific hair needs. While Myavana had a compelling value proposition in our minds, they were unsure how market and package a service people have never experienced.
To validate Myavana’s value proposition, the team immediately began surveying women to understand how Myavana would best fit in their lifestyles. Through those conversations, it was clear that each woman’s hair experience was truly a journey. We learned that women’s hair is much more than a physical attribute. Life events are chronicled through changes in our hairstyles. Changes in our health or life milestones, like childbirth, impact the health of our hair. And through these pivotal life stages, every woman had a story of how their hair either made them feel empowered or insecure.
On our second to last day, we collaborated with Myavana and had a number of epiphanies about the direction of the company. As we talked about the business, it became crystal clear that Myavana needs to partner with women to make our hair journey easier. Myavana can be the sister or friend to answer questions, and through technology, be the expert for the advice we can’t find. While technology is the vehicle, it’s the personal connection, understanding and support that differentiates Myavana’s offerings.
As we had conversations about how this would all look, I couldn’t help but feel inspired. While black women are grossly underrepresented in tech, we had five black women sitting around the table brainstorming how to take this idea to market. Our entrepreneurs are having impact in so many ways. I thought about myself as a little girl. Certainly I could have avoided many frustrated mornings using what they’re offering. But more than that, I could have realized sooner that my hair, just as it is, is beautiful. While it took me a bit longer, I’m thankful that my future daughters will have more support in embracing who they are. And even more importantly, that they will have examples of women in technology and business to look up to.