Global market research firm Mintel predicts that African American consumers will spend only $ 1.75 billion on hair care products. And while the focus has long been on items such as shampoo, conditioner and style products that came to mind with natural hair (still important!), It is also beginning to transition to wigs and extension pieces. This is largely due to the work of a handful of black women who not only want to disrupt the market, but also improve, by introducing quality hair into a variety of textures.
Stephanie Nolan first got the idea to start XOXO Virgin Hair while working as a model in the early 2000's. She noted that hairstylists spent most of the preparation time fighting and fighting with the weave she was destined to wear at the time. "They would have fewer experiences if they worked with hair extensions or wigs that just didn't work together," she says. & # 39; And it would eventually take photoshoots. & # 39; Although she has mostly experimented with tissue in her personal life, the hair she bought did not meet her expectations as far as performing. & # 39; I know the everyday woman doesn't have time to wrestle with her hair in the morning either, because she has to be at work at 8:30 in the morning, & # 39; she says. & # 39; And spending a lot of time on hair just loves eating breakfast, so many things can commute. & # 39; So Nolan created her business in 2014 with ease, convenience and most importantly, quality in mind.
When Ngozi Opara founded Heat Free Hair in 2012, she worked financially during the day and owned a hair salon in Washington, DC at night. That was about the time when the natural hair movement was rising and she was getting a lot of clients who wanted to grow their straight, often relaxed hair and want to embrace their non-manipulated texture. But they did not want to succeed with the big hood and instead chose protective styles such as intrusions.
At the moment, there were no supplement products on the market that could blend properly for women with a powerful hair texture (think 3B and 4C), says Opara. & # 39; Clients have used virgin hair, but the only available options come in straight, wavy and loose curly textures. & # 39; She continues: "It was in front of the lace and the lace closure – it was back when you had & # 39; leave, & # 39; a weave and & # 39; n." This meant Opara had to straighten her clients' hair to blend it right. But she wanted to be able to provide her customers with a warmth without manipulating their hair. "I set myself up to be the first company to make virgin hair exclusively for natural hair textures," she says.
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Gina Knight, based in the United Kingdom, noted a similar gap in the texture expansion market across the dam. After having her first child, she began to suffer from severe hair loss. "My hair fell out in many quantities and I became very bald in certain areas," she says. She started to cover her head, but she was a blogger at the time and a major focus of her content was natural hair. & # 39; It & # 39; s a bit of a mess with my business and the things I did; I was like: & # 39; How should I talk about natural hair if I don't have hair? & # 39; & # 39; She says. Knight began to lose confidence and decided to turn to wigs to give her back what she thought she had lost. Like Opara, she couldn't find any options with hair similar to her own hair texture. "Having more of a Eurocentric wig was just me," says Knight. In the end, she should have sent hair out of the United States, but she ended up making her own wigs that matched Afro hair types.
According to Mintel, the use of braids and extensions by black consumers in the US grew by 64% between 2015 and 2019 and the use of wigs by 79%. Nolan says her clients are about 60% "wig experts", while the other 40% are "wig connoisseurs." And although she does have clients ranging from white trans women to Latino men, she says the majority are black women – and that's the case for all three women I've talked to. These are also black women who see the front of the movie "Oba wigs" and a draw circle of ponytails advertised on their websites. It is on the home pages and in the approximately sections. But until recently, products such as wigs and extensions were mainly created by people outside the Black community. And maybe that's why there were so many problems.
In 2013, after receiving a small amount of hair from her factory, Opara decided to do something unconventional: She moved to China to learn how to make it. & # 39; I told the factory: & # 39; I do not know what you do, I do not know what I sell, and must be ethical about my business practices, & # 39; & # 39; she says. & # 39; I cannot sell anything and not know how it was made nor be part of the creation process. & # 39; She stayed for six months and learned very quickly that the factories not only have an idea of how the product is used, but that many of the people who make the wigs do not know how to create textured hair without using chemicals use. (She also learned about the dark, complicated procurement process and how hair is marketed, which you can read more about here). After many tests, roundtable discussions and education, they finally came to a place of understanding and were able to create a product that all parties were proud of.
Opara owns its own factory in China today and has more than 50 employees (some of whom come from the original factory she worked with), but her story is the industry exception. As Knight explains, there is still a lot of work to be done, just like the move to black entrepreneurship in the wig and expansion space. & # 39; It is us who use the most (the product), we make it modern, make it different breeds want to go in and wear wigs. But I think people should be honest with the fact that we don't have a fortress, "she says. & # 39; Along the line, it falls out of the hands of black possession because we have to come from all over. & # 39;
Nolan adds that some businesses are also white or Asian owned, but that they are black. "It's problematic and needs to be discussed," she says. & # 39; There are many elephants in the room to talk about. & # 39; Opara explains that once many businesses realized that there was a market, they jumped on it without considering the group they were marketing. It is perhaps the most disturbing about the development of the industry since she first started her business. "When I created my brand, I had this customer in mind. I had my customers in mind at the time, I had myself in mind," she says. "I shared the same pain points as the people who took advantage of my product and I didn't even know it would take off, I just wanted to help solve a problem." It's a pity, she says, because the businesses are taking more opportunities away from black female founders who create these products for their community.
But the ground seems to be slowly breaking. Influencer Freddie Harrel recently announced that she has raised $ 2 million in seed funding from female investors for her new venture RadSwan, creating synthetic hair extensions for women in the global African diaspora. Matters of fashion has it already & # 39; Glossier of the Black Hair Market & # 39; named. And it's important to support black women and their businesses so that even more businesses can thrive, says Opara. "I feel like it's almost my duty to encourage people to support black businesses because I know what it has for future entrepreneurs," she says. & # 39; But I also feel that, at least for myself as a consumer, I want to know that the brand I buy is a brand that actually cares for me and not just about the money they earn from me no. "