CANDACE V. MITCHELL, 27, of West Philadelphia, is co-founder & CEO of Myavana, a North Philly startup offering personalized hair service for women of color. Users send in a hair sample for lab analysis, and Myavana recommends products based on the results.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for Myavana?
A: I've had issues managing my hair. I majored in computer science at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, wanted to be an entrepreneur and thought about my issues as a consumer. Hair products for African-American women is a $3 billion market in the U.S., and I thought technology could improve our hair experiences. I met my co-founder in college - she's a chemical engineer - and with her expertise and mine we could build a Web-and-mobile platform.
Q: The startup money?
A: We entered pitch competitions and we won more than $200,000 in cash and free services. We got accepted into DreamIt Philly's accelerator last fall, and they invested $25,000. Chanel [Martin, co-founder] stayed in Atlanta to run the lab; I moved here.
Q: The biz model?
A: It's a subscription service, so consumers pay a $49 setup fee to get hair analyzed and their preferred recommendations. Then each month they pay $15 to continue receiving recommendations. We take every variable into account - location, weather, budget, hair. We take out trial-and-error and deliver product recommendations monthly.
Q: Your customers?
A: We currently have 5,000 signed up through our mobile app. A typical customer is 18 to 40, someone who prioritizes her hair and beauty needs and often changes her hairstyle. She's also social-media savvy and on her smartphone.
Q: Your competitors, and what differentiates you?
A: It's other subscription services. They send you random products monthly, but we send only products compatible with your hair. Our mobile app enables all our customers to share their personal hair stories.
Q: How big a biz is this?
A: We have 12 employees - five in Philadelphia, three in Atlanta and the rest work remotely from other places. Some are full-time, others part-time because we're still raising money. Revenue last year was $10,000; our goal this year is $300,000.
Q: What's next?
A: We're raising a seed round of $1 million to fund three goals: fully automate the product-development side; get 100,000 users and 10,000 customers to drive revenue; and capture data that hair-products companies use. We want to start a B2B data-subscription service. We got our first B2B client, Kaneka. We're doing a seven-city tour to raise brand awareness in March.