As more and more women of color turn to natural hairstyles, they need the tools to help them manage and maintain their hair. Tamiah Bridgett, a licensed cosmetologist, is creating such tools through her company Diversam?, which specializes in making hair care easier for those with curls. The company?s first product: a hair dryer specially designed for styling textured hair anywhere on the curly continuum.
Bridgett knows the headaches some natural hair wearers have. The former therapist and now natural hair stylist/natural hair educator went natural while she was in grad school in 2001.? A decade later, she decided to start a natural hair care discussion group where people could share information, problems and discuss products.? This evolved into It?s a Natural Thang, Pittsburgh?s premier natural hair meetup group and natural hair event.? When 2012 came around, Bridgett decided to return to cosmetology school (she went for nails in 1997). She eventually received both her cosmetology and cosmetology educator?s licenses.? Still, her customers needed tools made for women with curly hair.
Bridgett told TNJ.com why she is now creating haircare tools for natural hair.
TNJ.com: What prompted you to start Diversam??
Tamiah Bridgett: I started Diversam? (standard spelling is all one word, long e symbol over the e) as I’d been styling natural hair for 15 years and was constantly tweaking my traditional hair dryers and comb attachments to dry natural hair more efficiently. There’s been so much progress in the hair industry when it comes to hair products for natural hair, but not so much for hair tools. When it comes to hair tools, if one has curls with a smaller diameter or the hair is coarse or abundant, the tools that are on the market are insufficient. However, they are used because they are the only things available.
I met a young woman named Courtney Williamson who’d attended one of my It’s a Natural Thang natural hair meetups. She asked for a consultation and assistance with caring for her hair. She was in start up accelerator, Alphalab Gear. When she saw me making adjustments to my hair dryer to dry her hair, she asked what I was doing and I told her that I wish that I could change the way hair dryers worked, especially for those with curly, thick, tightly curled, natural hair. She said, “I think you should come meet the folks at Gear.” Well, I did and once I applied, I was accepted into the program last fall and Diversam? Inc. was born.
TNJ.com: How does this work?
TB: The first tool of the Diversam? brand is our drying tool. We changed the traditional shape of the blow dryer from gun shaped to linear to allow for better ergonomics. We also developed a patent pending trilayer comb piece that does not fall off of the device during use in even the thickest hair! We are still developing some awesome sauce that will be included when our tool goes to market!
TNJ.com: What were some startup challenges and how did you overcome them?
TB: There were many, many start-up challenges. Finding an engineer willing to work on a tool whose primary demographic will be women was tough. Sorting through which law firm will best represent the company was also tough. But most of all, being in an environment where many of the mentors and guest speakers didn’t understand the concerns of the primary demographic, and those concerns were often dismissed or challenged as insignificant. I worked hard to make sure I figured out the best way to pitch the Diversam? brand. By the time I completed my Demo Day pitch, (the day carved out for all of the Alphalab/Alphalab Gear companies to pitch their work to an audience of investors and the community) there were no more doubts or questions of relevance/need.
TNJ.com: How did you fund the startup?
TB: Diversam? received seed funding through Innovation Works, parent company to both Alphalab and Alphalab Gear. We received $50,000 dollars and are approved for another round of runway funds. Diversam? is currently working on launching a fundraising campaign to generate more revenue.
TNJ.com: What makes the venture so unique?
TB: This venture is unique not only due to the first tool, but more its mission. Never before has there been a company that centered the engineering of their hair tools around the needs of people with non straight hair. Until now, most tools are pretty much solving problems that people with straight hair have as every aspect from the weight, the tooth design on combs and brushes and dryer models have been made for the comfort of people with straight to slightly wavy hair. Again, everyone will use what’s available. We customize our DVRs, our mobile devices, and everything else, but hair tools remain archaic. Diversam? keeps textured hair at the center of design. That alone is special.
TNJ.com: How do you market your venture?
TB: We are an early stage startup so right now, we are marketing online, through social media and at events such as the It’s a Natural Thang meetups. Since Demo Day, our efforts have been noticed by celebrity dermatologist, Melanye Maclin and she has endorsed our drying tool as one that will be a go to to keep people of color from using harsh chemical relaxers. As our tool prepares to go to market, I still believe the power of social media, testimonials and even podcasts will be tools for marketing.