Can the Black Hair Market be a New Greenfield for Blacks in Tech?

You can take the woman out of Tech but you can’t take Tech out of the woman. After over 25 years in the Tech arena, my profile changed from Senior IT Manager @Cisco to Founder of @HeadSpaceNC, a startup in the Black Haircare/Maker space. But even the notion of being one thing or another continues to needle at me and that Venn diagram/intersectional predisposition of mine shall not be ignored. No Suh! Here’s why I think there is a ripe greenfield for technology in the Black Haircare market, especially for Blacks in Tech.

There’s money and a thriving market: The estimated future value of the US Black Haircare market ranges from $2.5 to $500 Billion. Low or high end, that’s a “B” folks! Even more noteworthy for innovators, the market is growing, change is constant and often times profound. African Americans make up 14% of the U.S. population and spend 9 times more than other groups on hair products, where we spent over 84% ($54M) of the $63M in 2017.

http://https://www.cnbc.com/video/2018/08/16/black-hair-business-natural-hair-movement-salon-wigs-weaves-extensions.html

The knowledge is hidden in plain sight: When Rihanna announced Fenty Beauty and its 40 shades of foundation, People of Color responded with a collective “It’s about damn time!” while mainstream cosmetics companies scratched their heads and had a collective “Oh sh#@?t”… they finally caught us” moment. According to a Neilsen report:

“Our research shows that Black consumer choices have a ‘cool factor’ that has created a halo effect, influencing not just consumers of color but the mainstream as well,” said Cheryl Grace, Senior Vice President of U.S. Strategic Community Alliances and Consumer Engagement, Nielsen. “These figures show that investment by multinational conglomerates in R&D to develop products and marketing that appeal to diverse consumers is, indeed, paying off handsomely.”

The dominant markets are well aware of the needs of PoC but their delay could be a gain for savvy Black tech heads. Its not uncommon to disregard what is right in front of you. Perhaps an awareness of the numbers, untapped sources, no legacy systems to hinder and a cry to be heard by our own will move you towards exploring this market.

http://https://www.glamour.com/story/fenty-beauty-rihanna-legacy

…nearly every model of color  Glamour spoke with backstage at NYFW this season said hair is now lacking far behind makeup in terms of inclusion. “They need to have more hairdressers who are equipped and know how to lay wigs and work with black hair,” says Anderson. “That’s the next thing the industry needs to start exploring.” Rihanna, if you’re reading this: Fenty Hair. 2019.

The data needs stewardship: The wide range in market size estimates is itself intriguing. “Missing” data is at the root. Time after time my research finds a data gap that makes my Spidey senses (freshly honed from an immersion in the #Spiderverse) tingle: Why was it missing? Did we have it and threw it away? Who decided it wasn’t important? Is it really missing? Wait, that last question. The biggest trends and trend-makers in Black Haircare are not hiding. They/we’re busy being amazing out loud in small and growing businesses, on YouTube, IG, Facebook, Pinterest. Some have over a million followers so what is really missing? Did we just not ask? Things that make you go “Hmmmm”. The data that most articles refer to is compiled by Mintel, a marketing intelligence company and can be yours for a mere $3250. Again, my innate curiosity wonders how this data is collected, by whom and whether the 4 Vs of Big Data were applied, can it be done better/differently? Single source on this is troubling. OK, back out of the rat hole I crawl. But you get where I’m going, right? 🙂

Blacks in Tech can be collaborators and advocates: I’ll just give a few examples here, hoping to make my point clear and get some creative ideas from brilliant caring minds. How can Blacks in tech and allies help?

  • New online shopping experiences through apps, filters, better facial recognition and style options
  • Supply chain efficiencies can help natural product suppliers. Am I the only one concerned about ensuring the sustainability of the shea butter supply?
  • Healthier communities through data collection & dissemination: Nearly 80 percent of hair products (well beyond relaxers) aimed at black women contain chemicals linked to cancer, infertility and obesity. ScienceDigest‘s study further uncovered links to pre-mature puberty and asthma.

In summary, my ask is for Blacks in Tech to become more inclusive in considering where technology can make breakthroughs. In the Black Haircare space, people of the African diaspora are uniquely qualified because only we fully understand our hair culture, behaviors, beauty standards, economic triggers, etc. The market is thriving but sadly the dollars in large part leave our communities. Connecting our technical and haircare brain trust has the potential to improve our financial and physical health for generations.

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