Myavana: Finding Your Hair Nirvana (Limited Time Offer Inside)
The very reason our own site Cubicles & Curls exists, is because hair, not just natural but for our purposes natural, is hard. We all need some guidance through the process. Trying to keep it healthy, stylish, all-the-while saving money and time is a difficult feat. Money and time slip away as we constantly fight the battle of figuring out what products and salons are just right, which often seems as possible as sneezing with your eyes open – it’s tough. There’s already enough on our plates as we figure out balancing our day-to-days, so a service that can counsel your hair back to health and do so with convenience, deserves its due chops. Luckily, we’ve found that diamond in the rough for you – Myavana.
Myavana started in 2012, under the former name Texturized Inc. (its parent company), by four African-American women engineers (Jess Watson, Chanel Martin, Joy Buolamwini, Candace Mitchell). The current co-founders, Chanel Martin and Candace Mitchell met while in college at Georgia Tech. After dealing with their own natural hair dilemmas, they decided to join forces and create a company that merged science and technology to create hair care mastery. Myavana serves as recommendation system that provides hair analysis, consultation, and suggest and ships products. You send the hair samples in a kit sent to you, your consultation with a hair expert is virtual, and your products are delivered right to your doorstep at your comfort – you don’t need to get dressed or even lift a foot outside your door and voilà, hair therapy – Black Girl Magic at its finest.
Recently honored in Forbes’ “30 Under 30,” Martin and Mitchell have revolutionized the world of hair care and tech. Co-founder Chanel Martin offers helpful advice for young entrepreneurs, natural hair tips, and more.
Tell us about Myavana. What makes it unique?
I’m not sure of any other hair analysis company, I don’t think there’s any other company that does what we do. We are the first and the only at this current moment that does personalized hair recommendations based on your hair texture and condition. We do scientifically-based recommendations so essentially you send us your hair, we do a microscopic hair analysis, and we put together a hair ID. Your hair ID has your texture, hair type, and condition. From your hair ID, we then have built a product recommendation system where we match products specifically tailored to your results, from the microscopic hair analysis. In addition to that, you get a virtual hair consultation with a professional partner, with our hair stylist, that’s 30 minutes. Then you get the recommended products delivered to your doorstep. That’s all in a monthly membership, with a minimum time of three months (you do the hair analysis every three months).
How did Myavana's professional journey begin?
Two things happened – me and Candace both had experiences with hair care challenges.
Candace had experienced breakage from having a relaxer and using the wrong products. While I had left Georgia Tech, and she was a student, she had put together a prototype for this software to help people figure out what type of hair products would work for their hair. That was her initial entrance to wanting to tackle the hair care industry.
For myself, I was actually looking for hairstyles for my wedding. I had just gone natural and I was super frustrated because I had been searching everywhere and it was information overload. No one could really help me. I ended up being so frustrated I took a nap. I ended up having a dream about our mobile app that we ended up developing. I woke up from that dream and I was like, “oh my gosh, I gotta’ do something, I have to." I called Candace, I remembered what she had done at Georgia Tech and I remembered reading about it, and pretty much the rest is history. We ended up meeting two other young ladies who helped us start the company, it was four of us who initially started the company and now currently it’s me and Candace.
Did you guys study engineering at Georgia Tech?
Candace did computer science and I did chemical engineering.
What were some of the initial challenges of starting Myavana?
There are so many!
From the business side
We started out with the website texturized.com “share your hair journey,” where people would log in and tell us stories about their hair. Then we ended up having a more social site called MadameU.com where people could go on and put the products that they’re using on their product shelf. Then we ended up coming up with a mobile app called Myavana, still the same concept of sharing your story because we realized women love to share their stories. But it was around the same time Instagram started getting popular and people began to share their stories on Instagram. It became a competition of taking people away from Instagram to share their stories, even though we were a totally hair specific platform. We ended up having to put the mobile app on pause because we wanted to further develop our hair analysis. The hair analysis in itself went through so many different iterations so just kind of figuring out what the market wants, what the market needs, that’s from the business side.
From the personal side
I’ll say from the personal side, for me personally, I’m married. Then me and my husband had a baby, so having a newborn, running a startup, and being a wife is very difficult. It’s something that I’m just now getting the swing of things and my daughter is almost 21 months, so she’s almost 2. It took a while for it to be like “okay, we have this routine down.” I can’t really speak for Candace, I can only speak for myself but I had a really good job I quit to do Myavana. I made really good money as a chemical engineer. To go from a two-income household, my husband is a chemical engineer as well, so we made really good money together. To make the effort to do the entrepreneurship life, it’s really hard. It was hard on my family, like I said we both made really good money so we had to go down to one income, we had to make cuts every few months, and we had to constantly reassess. That’s really hard when you go to school for chemical engineering because you don’t expect to go “broke.” We weren’t broke but we had to go on an extra tight budget and modify our lifestyles for me to be an entrepreneur. Just having to make sacrifices.
Has the journey been fulfilling thus far?
It is definitely delayed gratification but it’s definitely all worth it. We started off the new year, the first month of the year, on television. The first month of the year Candace was named “30 under 30” and I was mentioned. That’s one way God has made an entrance. He was like “I’m going to start you off in the year on top. Trust and believe everything that I have for you will come to pass.” It has been difficult but me and Candace have a strong faith in God and God talks to me in my dreams very often. He has revealed so many things that have been able to keep us on the right path, to help us understand that though this may be difficult there’s a reason for our struggle. There’s a process we have to learn. There are things we have learned, even if someone had told us about it, we had to go through it. Now we can start other businesses and not even have to go through those things. It’s definitely all worth it in the end. If you would’ve told me I would’ve been mentioned in Forbes, on national TV, or doing half of things we are doing...all I did was have a vision that God gave me, so the public promotion has been awesome.
Best advice you can give for young entrepreneurs in their early stages.
I’m going to share something that God told me last night, this is about to be my new mantra.
I had this dream and in this dream I’m getting ready to speak to a group of women. I ask God in my dream, “God what am I supposed to say to them?” Then he tells me. Once he tells me, then I say it out loud. Then I go to this church and the preacher says it in the dream. I heard it five different times in my dream, at least. Then I woke up and realized this must be a message that is really supposed to be broadcast. Something that hit home for me and I’m reading it, it was “let your light shine by walking in your purpose. As a result you will love yourself and love others.” That’s one major piece of advice. Let your light shine bright, walk in your purpose, and everything else will fall into place, that’s number one.
The next piece of advice I have for anybody who wants to be an entrepreneur, and I know this is Cubicles & Curls, but maybe some ladies want to break away from the cubicle like I did. Anyone that wants to be an entrepreneur, I tell this in every interview, save your money! Save your money! This is what I did. We saved up about four months of my salary. Four months of your salary looks really fat in the bank right? But you really need like 12 months of your salary saved up. Then you need to figure out a way to reduce your living expenses to half of that. That is what I highly recommend. You don’t want the stress of trying to build something coupled with financial issues, or financial stress, or not even being able to make that meeting because you can’t afford to hop on that plane. You have to have money to show up. Unless you are very fortunate with a venture capitalist to infuse your company with a million bucks, which most of us are not, especially those of us with curly hair, you have to be realistic.
Are you feeling the return on investment now?
It is starting to come through but like I said, we've been doing this for four years.
Has funding been a difficult road?
Oh, it has.
Have you gotten any venture capitalist funding?
Venture capitalist funding, we haven’t gotten any of that. I think it’s getting better but we have to really sell black hair care. When we first started four years ago it was kind of like, “black women don’t have any money, I don’t even know y’all" etc. Meanwhile, some of our counterparts, they may have just as much as us, but they’ll think their idea is great. Their infused with capital and then they might link them up with some expert in their field. Those “good ole boy” methods don’t work for us.
Were there different options to help you fund Myavana?
One thing we’re really good at is we rock pitch competitions. We win just about every single one we get into. I don’t know how much money I’ve raised in pitch competitions but it’s been a lot. That was one thing we did for funding.
Another thing we did was a friends and family route. We went and got our friends and family and got them excited about this. I believe we raised $40,000 from that.
We also got angel investors from local people who got excited about what we were doing.
We went into startup accelerated programs. You get funding from being in startup accelerated programs and you can get resources. That’s another thing, money is great but resources can sometimes save your life. We’ve gotten office spaces, we’ve gotten bookkeeping accounts, and this is all from seasoned opportunities. Recently, we got into a program called Indie.VC, it’s a venture capital firm, but it’s not really venture capital money, so they took like nine startups that were not traditional type of startups and gave them an investment of $100,000. We were one of the recipients of that.
That’s pretty much how we raised money. It totals out to around $500,000, which is a lot of money for our demographic. No we’re not raising $100 million, but as two black women to raise $500,000 that’s pretty notable. I call myself an expert at raising capital and finding alternative ways of finding money for your business.
What's most satisfying about Myavana?
I would say the impact we have. To get the emails, to get the phone calls, with people just really happy that we’re doing what we are doing and that we took a risk.
It’s wonderful because you know it goes back to walking in your purpose, it’s all for a bigger reason.
What are the short-term and long-term goals for the company?
We’re trying to position ourselves as the Amazon of hair care; a one-stop-shop for everything. You can get your content from us, you’re going to get your products from us, you’re going to book your appointments with us, you’re going to do everything with Myavana. That is where we ultimately want to go long-term.
Short-term is offering hair analysis and salons. We realize that our salon partners are an integral part of this process. Helping to bring back people to the salons to help them with their hair care challenges.
Any advice for professional naturalistas looking for the best ways to style their hair for the workplace?
Right, I’m probably the worst person to ask about that because I’m like, "wear your hair." First of all, if someone at work says something about your hair that’s discrimination. You need to be as comfortable as your best self. Don’t do things you wouldn’t normally do to your hair just for your job. I say “rock whatever hair you want to rock.”
What’s the biggest misconception women have about maintaining their hair health?
This is the one I talk about all the time - product buildup. Ever since people started doing this whole co-washing movement, because it does make your curls appear like their great, but your hair is disgusting and you have product build up. It causes a lot of issues with women’s hair. I do most of the hair analysis myself or at least touch point to see every single hair analysis. 85% of the women that submit hair strands have product buildup, which is why we have scalp issues, which is why their hair is breaking, which is why they’re having all these issues, because they’re not properly cleansing they’re hair. They think “oh, I have dandruff, oh, I have psoriasis,” no you have a dirty scalp. You need to shampoo your hair and you need to clarify at least once a month, especially if you put a lot of product in your hair.
If you had to pick, what would be your top 5 best brands for natural hair?
My top five would be, not in any particular order:
- Jane Carter Solution
- CoCo Curls
- Design Essentials
- Eden Body Works
Thanks to Myavana for giving us the pleasure of chatting with them. All Cubicles & Curls readers will enjoy a special 10% offer on their services with code "CC10" until the end of February!