Posts tagged with "Warby Parker"

‘Wigs are the next big thing’: Boston beauty startup simplifies purchase process for Black women

June 24, 2021

Mary Imevbore bought her first wig online in 2017 when she was attending Williams College in Massachusetts.

Like many Black women, she had decided to “go natural” years ago—forgoing damaging hair straightening treatments. But she had trouble finding a Black hair stylist in the rural Berkshires, and as a double major in political science and computer science, didn’t have much time to style her hair in a dorm room.

“I wanted something quick and easy, so I discovered wigs—but the shopping experience was terrible,” Imevbore recently told The Boston Globe.

It struck Imevbore that a better buying option didn’t exist “because the consumer is a Black woman.” So she teamed up with two Williams classmates, Tiiso McGinty and Susana Hawken, to create the kind of brand they would want to patronize.

After three years of work, the cofounders have officially launched beauty startup Waeve —pronounced “wave”— dropping a product line of six trendy, beginner-friendly wigs on a website designed with bold colors and a Gen Z aesthetic.

“We believe wigs are the next big thing in beauty and fashion,” Imevbore said. “We are building the ultimate destination.”

The 24-year old, who was born in Nigeria and grew up in Connecticut, said wigs are popular among Black women because wigs allow them to reclaim the time they would have spent styling their natural hair. She called them an “extension of the natural hair movement,” since Black women who ditched chemical relaxers were looking for other ways to express themselves through their hair without ruining it.

“The perception is that a wig is a utility, like you have one umbrella,” she explained to the Globe, “but that is not how people are wearing wigs … people are building wig collections.”

In college, she and her friends would spend hours vetting companies, comparing contradicting product reviews on YouTube, and grappling with varying delivery times and changing prices. That was in 2017, when companies such as eyewear retailer Warby Parker and beauty products seller Glossier were disrupting markets by reaching customers online instead of through stores.

Imevbore figured the same thing could happen with wigs, and although she never considered herself an entrepreneur, she began thinking like one.

“Wigs are an expensive product that is growing in demand; people are spending hundreds of dollars on them multiple times a year,” she said.

The market for wigs and hair extensions in North America is expected to reach $2 billion by 2026, according to French research firm Reportlinker, with Black consumers accounting for a big chunk of that spending.

The trio started with $30,000 after winning two business competitions in 2018—one at Williams and the other at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology—to launch a direct-to-consumer wig business.

That same year Imevbore, McGinty, and Hawken were finishing up their senior year of college, and they all happened to be headed to Boston and moved in together. Imevbore worked as a software engineer at online pharmacy startup PillPack in Somerville — which was acquired by Amazon that year — while McGinty pursued a program at Boston University, and Hawken started on a PhD at MIT.

The momentum started building in 2020 when the company raised $2 million in a funding round led by Boston venture capital firm Pillar VC, with participation from Maveron, an investor in consumer companies such as Allbirds, eBay, and Everlane. Waeve also garnered high-profile support from three current and former executives of Glossier. And TJ Parker and Elliot Cohen, cofounders of Pill Pack, also participated in the round. (Imevbore worked at Pillpack through the Amazon acquisition until last year, when she decided to pursue Waeve full time).

Waeve exists in a world that hasn’t always welcomed, understood, or catered to Black hair. While that allowed the startup to fill a gap, it also led to challenges behind the scenes. Imevbore said there was a learning curve with potential investors, who didn’t immediately understand why consumers would buy more than one wig.

The numbers were not in Waeve’s favor, either: Crunchbase found that in 2020, less than 1% of all venture capital funding went to Black founders, and a similarly small slice of money went to startups founded by women.

“As a team, I remember us griping,” Imevbore said. “If we were selling lipstick or shoes, we wouldn’t have to explain why someone wants those things. People are buying [wigs] like handbags and sneakers, but [that] is something I had to convey to investors.”

The Waeve team began interviewing Black women about their hair experiences, gathering testimonials and videos to show investors they were tapping a segment that had long been overlooked. It worked and also became the foundation for Waeve World, a grassroots effort to build a community around the brand through shared experiences and hair advice.

According to the Globe, Waeve’s first collection, “Days of the Week,” is inspired by the idea that wigs are an accessory that can constantly change. The company worked with a manufacturer in China to design six initial styles—which range from a curly, middle-part wig to a platinum blonde, straight cut—and it will drop a new line every quarter. Ranging in price from $72 to $398, the wigs are delivered to the company’s distribution center and office in Boston, where employees package them into “starter kits” filled with additional supplies.

Imevbore said she wants to build the type of cult-like brand loyalty for Waeve that other online brands enjoy, and it’s starting with Boston. Waeve has nine full-time employees and more than 5,000 followers on Instagram, and is already hosting community events, such as a recent picnic in the Public Garden.

Research contact: @BostonGlobe

Warby Parker’s Super Concentric Collection: Think inside the box!

September 30, 2019

glasses. Many of the new frames are high on sophistication and style—but low on price—like those offered by online pioneer Warby Parker.

The New York City-based company—which was founded in 2010 after being developed in the Venture Initiation Program of the Wharton Schoolactually wants buyers to “think inside the box.”

In fact, Warby Parker has hurtled to the top of the eyewear industry by shipping boxes to customers’ homes that contain the five frames each person likes the best online.

Try them on at home, the company says. Then return them—designating your favorite, which will quickly and economically be produced by Warby Parker, using your doctor’s eyeglass prescription.

Now the company has released a new line of frames for fall 2019. Unlike the black and gray frames that have been popular across America for the past few years, each of the styles in the Warby Parker Super Concentric Collection features a complex combination of colors and materials.

According to California-based stylist Rachel Zoe, You may remember in 2014 Warby Parker released its popular Concentric Collection, which featured a bold ring of acetate around the lenses in a complementary hue. Well, now the brand is taking this concept to the next level with its latest offering. The best part? the collection is available to shop now.”

For this new collection, Zoe says, the brand developed a technique that uses seven pieces of acetate in three colors to create multicolored face fronts on three new optical styles. The three colors of acetate are layered on top of each other by hand and fused together to create tri-color blocking and concentric silhouettes. The elaborate design process takes over three months, but results in special styles that are striking yet sophisticated.

The collection comprises three different silhouettes—The Darrow, The Percey, and The Francis—and starts at $195 (including prescription lenses). Each of the styles incorporates the same color palette that consists of the clear “Crystal,” the warm brown shades of “Oak Barrel,” and the vibrant deep blue hue called “Blue Bay.”

“No matter which shape you choose.” Zoe says, “you’ll notice each one finds the balance of being both classic and interesting. So, while they’ll certainly bring a lot to your look, they can easily be worn for everyday — and that’s a win-win.”

Even better? Like with any pair of Warby Parker frames, for each pair of glasses purchased, a pair is given to someone in need.

Research contact: @RachelZoe

Nearly 200 CEOs sign letter calling abortion bans ‘bad for business’

June 11, 2019

More than 180 CEOs from a who’s who of U.S. and global consumer-facing companies have signed a letter opposing laws and regulations that restrict women’s reproductive healthcare, including abortion, CNBC reports.

Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey, Glossier CEO Emily Weiss, fashion designers Rebecca Minkoff, Eileen Fisher, and Diane Von Furstenburg; and the chief executives of companies including Yelp, Warby Parker, Ben & Jerry’s, Birchbox, United Technologies, Amalgamated Bank, Atlantic Records, and The Body Shop, say they signed the letter to send a clear message that restricting access to reproductive care, including abortion, is “against our values, and is bad for business.”

Such legislation, they say in the ad, inhibits “our ability to build diverse and inclusive workforce pipelines, recruit top talent across the states, and protect the well-being of all the people who keep our businesses thriving, day in and day out.”

The letter appeared yesterday as a full-page ad in The New York Times under the heading “Don’t Ban Equality”— and comes less than a month after Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) signed the most restrictive abortion legislation ever in the United States— banning doctors from performing abortion at any stage of pregnancy, punishable by 99 years in prison. The law includes no exceptions—period—even for cases of rape or incest.

Several other states— including Georgia, Arkansas, Indiana and Missouri—have adopted similar laws this year, CNBC noted.

Andrea Blieden, U.S. general manager of The Body Shop told CNBC Make It that “access to reproductive healthcare is recognized as a human right” and says the letter emphasizes the company’s outlook that it is essential U.S. law to “respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of women.”

“We believe that a woman’s ability to access reproductive health care is critical to her autonomy, economic success, physical and mental health and general empowerment in the workplace,” said Blieden. “As a brand that stands for equality and women’s empowerment, we believe it’s important that we take a stand and join this cause.”

Seventh Generation CEO Joey Bergstein told the news outlet that now, more than ever, it’s essential for CEOs and executives to speak up. “We’re deep believers that companies and businesses can and must be a force for good,” he says. “You’ll notice in our mission that we don’t talk at all about selling eco-friendly home and personal care products. We talk about the change we’re trying to create in the world, and that’s inclusive of social change, with this being a pivotal issue.”

A 2017 survey conducted by public relations firm Weber and Shandwick found that 47% of Millennials believe CEOs have a responsibility to speak up about issues that are important to society. Additionally, 28% of Gen Xers and Boomers agreed.

The letter that appeared in the Times was spearheaded by a group of advocacy organizations that comprises the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Planned Parenthood Federation of America, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and the Center for Reproductive Rights. These organizations also have partnered to launch DontBanEquality.com, a site where people can learn more about the group’s mission and where CEOs can add their names to the letter.

“It’s critical that business leaders stand up and use our voice on incredibly important issues,” says Bergstein. “And I think reproductive rights and women’s equality is one of the most important issues of our time.”

Research contact: @CNBCMakeIt