More Natural Hair Businesses are Crowdfunding — But Not All Are Finding Success

Crowdfunding is the new black. Almost every day, I receive another alert for a Gofundme, Indiegogo or Kickstarter campaign with people asking me to donate for anything and everything, from funding weddings to medical procedures, to business endeavors. Businesses are finding ways to capitalize off of these initiatives, which may not necessarily be a bad thing. In this day and age, it’s difficult to get a substantial loan, especially for small businesses. But is there a way to crowdfund efficiently and effectively?

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Companies may utilize crowdfunding for a number of reasons – to expand their inventory, grow staff, open a new store, or even get them out of debt. Earlier this year, there was a lot of buzz about the production of “CWK Straight Plates,” which promised nearly silky, straight hair without the use of heat, answering the prayers of many naturals. The project was successfully funded and backers are expected to receive their plates this fall in the first production run. 

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The owners of PuffCuff, an innovative hair tool that is NOT a banana clip, started an Indiegogo campaign to expand their inventory to various sizes of the PuffCuff, rather than produce it for the first time. They requested $3,700 from supporters in exchange for bundles with the new different sizes of the tool once funded. Unfortunately, the campaign did not meet its goal, but the original PuffCuff is still available for purchase.

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In a bold move, ayurveda-based line AfroVeda started a gofundme campaign in order to get their “business back on track.” At the time, there were several complaints on the AfroVeda Facebook page about customers not receiving orders, so it seemed that they needed the funds to buy ingredients for their products and fulfill back orders. The owner stated that she would need to come up with “$7,520 in loans and over due debts that must be paid by the end of the first full week in August in order to keep the business open.” This campaign seems to have been deleted from the gofundme site, and you can still place orders on the AfroVeda site, though several items are on 3-4 week backorder.

What made the “Straight Plates” campaign successful while the other two were not? Opinions regarding crowdfunding vary among consumers. Ultimately, it depends on the presentation of the cause or product. This determines whether people want to contribute or not. If there is a great need for a product or it looks like a game changers, people may be more likely to contribute as opposed to an updated version. I asked some of my curlfriends what they thought of crowdfunding, and the opinions were certainly different:

“I don’t believe in donating money. To put it bluntly, you want me to give you money now to enable me to pay for product and give you money later. Ummm NO! I do believe in supporting, I do videos and advertise sales and new products on my FB sales page. I basically give loads of free advertising.”

“It depends on how much money they need to raise, the circumstances behind it, and whether or not they’ve fallen on bad times before and whether or not it relates to how they handle (or don’t handle) their finances. It also depends on their customer service. You can’t be crappy to people, then turn around and ask for a handout. I’m a nice person, but I’m not a fool so don’t take me for one.”

Okay, so the “bad times” point is a big deal to me. I’m all for supporting businesses and helping them grow, especially black-owned businesses, but please, don’t expect customers to pull you out of your debt. We’re consumers, we are not a bank. I also take issue with companies who have not shown their business savvy in the past and depend on consumers to bail them out of their situation. There is a difference between expanding your business and keeping your business afloat.

Obviously, people will contribute if they believe in the company or the person, but make sure you know where your money is going. And that’s all there is to it.


Do you contribute to crowdsourcing campaigns? Do you think crowdfunding is an efficient business strategy?

This article also appears on Black Girl with Long Hair.

History Repeating: Texture Manageability Systems On the Rise, Will Relaxers Make a Comeback?

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Okay, before you think I’ve absolutely lost it, hear me out. I think that my thought process starts with most of us (well, me at least) considering the moment we began to “reject” our natural hair as the instant we received our first perm. When in fact, we were exposed to hot combs and pressing grease way before the “creamy crack” ever touched our scalps. But because this wasn’t a permanent alteration, it was easy to forget and focus on the perm.

Enter these new “texture manageability systems.” If you’re not familiar, texture manageability systems are product bundles that include a smoothing shampoo, conditioner (usually with shea butter and/or coconut oil), and a “special” leave-in conditioner that usually has essential oils and amino acids or proteins that claim to get hair straight and silky without the use of harsh chemicals. The leave-in conditioner, which is marketed as the “key” to the process, is also said to help prevent reversion of the hair back to the curly state, even in humidity. Additional benefits to texture manageability systems are easier detangling and softening the hair.

So, this whole resurgence of the “silky straightening without the perm” process got me thinking about Madam CJ Walker and her shampoo-press and curl system that included a straightening comb, her claim to fame. Replace our now “activated” leave-in conditioners with her Glossine pressing grease and a flat iron with a straightening comb, and you have some pretty similar product lineups. There are even similarities between the marketing used for TMS and the products on the Madam CJ Walker site (although yes, the current Walker site is not from the 1900s).

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“Helps control unmanageable hair.” Aligns with TMS? Check.

Madam CJ Walker also apparently said that she was in the “hair growing business” with her own system and methodology. Interestingly enough, one of the main “natural mantras” focuses on growing an ample head of healthy hair using your own regimen (or using a regimen based on a kit you bought), i.e., your own system of sorts. TMS are said to make and hair more manageable and help the user retain length.

I know you’re wondering, “Elle, why the heck does any of this matter?” Well, it matters because I wonder if how close we are getting to taking one more step back to relaxers. However, his time, they would be revamped with the hottest buzz ingredients and new treatment name, just like they were revamped before (no lye is gentler!) and multiple times before that looking back to the first relaxer invented in the early 1900s by Garrett A Morgan. When will enough be enough? How many different kinds of kits will we need to buy to make our natural hair “manageable”?

There may come a time when texture manageability isn’t enough and more permanent solutions are once again desired. As trends in black hair care shift, I am interested to see what styles remain popular, and what haircare systems remain on the market.

Are texture manageability systems one step towards relaxers or a more permanent straightening solution? Do you predict that natural hair will increase or decrease in popularity in the next few years?

References:

1. Thirsty Roots

2. Madam Walker

3. Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America

This post also appears on Black Girl with Long Hair.

Natural Hair Recruiting: Are the Scare Tactics Really Necessary?

It’s no coincidence that the natural hair business and communities are booming. When I went natural almost five years ago, I was excited. With an absolute foreign sense of my own hair, I embraced my natural hair because I didn’t “know that it could do that.”

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When I finally big chopped and came to grips with my natural hair, I felt conflicted. Yes, I was happy to be in love with my hair, but I saw dissonance among the natural hair community; dissonance that although one was natural, you needed to be a certain kind of natural, that you had to enter the cause in another way and usually due to a political reason. It was in that space that I learned about a kind of “natural hair recruiting.” Not nearly as in your face as some other groups, natural hair recruiting can also be introduced as education or enlightening. I saw women show powerpoints and slideshows to their friends and their daughters because they wanted to “show them what we could be.” I was never opposed to the principle, but questionable of the method.

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Uncle Funky’s Daughter vs. Hello Curly: What’s Really Going On Behind this Popular Natural Hair Care Brand?

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Sometime ago, I wrote about the annoyance of natural hair companies changing their ingredients, and named Uncle Funky’s Daughter (UFD) as an example of changing a cult product and upsetting several curly girls. However, the original UFD Curly Magic returned in the form of Hello Curly’s (HC) Curl Stimulator and faithful users flocked to the newly designed site to snatch up their old favorite.

Then…something kind of strange happened. On UFD’s Facebook page, they announced that they were bringing back the original Curly Magic and that they had the rights to the formula. Confusion ensued. This announcement, meant to excite consumers, only brought more questions. How could UFD hold the rights to the formula while HC claimed to own the rights? If they retained the rights to the formula, why did they change in the first place? Why didn’t the new owners introduce themselves sooner (it seems as if they only did after I specifically asked who they were on their Facebook page)? I, among others, didn’t know what to make of this. I had several people even contact me to see if I knew what was going on.

 

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Well, I did some research and got some answers (kind of). I was fortunate enough to speak with Tonya Goff, HC’s owner, about the potentially brewing conflict. Of course, this is only one side of the story, as I was not able to speak with UFD.

Tonya, who let me know that the original formula to the curl stimulator gel is not patented, made it clear that she does not want to be compared with UFD or their formula. However, it’s quite common in the marketplace for one company to analyze the formula of another product and attempt to copy it. Kind of like when you go into Sally Beauty Supply and see their GVP brand, which mimics products from Paul Mitchell, CHI, Clairol, and more, for a discounted price. Do they perform exactly the same? Usually not, but the ingredients lists are nearly identical.

However, Tonya doesn’t see this as something negative or deceitful (I may beg to differ as a consumer if UFD does not have the old formula). She said, “If there’s anything I can do to bless anyone if they want to start something on their own, I send them blessings, and if it’s for you [the consumer], then that’s good. It’s all about energy and I’m willing to share that with anyone. Hello Curly is about the energy of the brand, I remade the product the people wanted and it satisfied a need for them.” Well said. When asked about the formula, she added, “We can’t say which is which – I know she doesn’t have this one but she might have something else.”

I appreciate Tonya’s positivity, but it seems as if the decision to purchase UFD or HC is more of an issue of brand loyalty and using whatever formula works best for you. Personally, I bought the new HC Curl Stimulator and will assess how this product compares to the original formula of Curly Magic. At least I know the quality of that product was undeniable.

UPDATE: Before this article went to print, I was also able to speak with Renee Morris, who is now President of UFD. She likened their ownership of the original curl stimulator formula to the situation regarding Coca Cola changing their formula to “New Coke,” then changing it back after everyone demanded the original flavor. When I asked how the acquisition of UFD would impact this kind of situation (as the original curl stimulator was not the current formula when ownership changed), she assured me that they obtained all of the formulations associated with the brand in the acquisition, even the “archived” versions.

Confused yet? You’re not alone. Honestly, I am now uncertain as to whether I want to support either company further, because something doesn’t sound right. But, as mentioned above, it the product works for you, it works, whatever formulation it truly is.

Have you bought Hello Curly’s new Curl Stimulator? Will you purchase the revamped Uncle Funky’s Daughter Curly Magic? How do you feel about the transparency (or lack thereof) of natural hair companies?

 

This article also appears on Black Girl with Long Hair.