Why Black Natural-Hair Care Is Worth VC Dollars

Racialicious owner and editor Latoya Peterson discusses the lucrative natural-hair-care industry and how wrong a New York magazine article is in describing Silicon Valley's investment in one hair-care website as "dumb."

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Natural-hair care for African Americans can be expensive, from products to specialty hair salons. For proof, just ask a black woman with free-flowing curls in a beauty-supply store as she navigates pricey creams from the likes of Mizani, Miss Jessie's and Mixed Chicks. Unfortunately, New York magazine writer Kevin Roose didn't get the memo. He included the natural-hair-care site NaturallyCurly.com on a list of "dumb" investments made by Silicon Valley, and Racialicious editor Latoya Peterson calls foul.

The viability of the natural hair care market isn't something only discussed in publications geared toward minority markets. Inc. Magazine ran a case study on Mixed Chicks after discovering they faced a huge quandary: their product line was so successful that Sally Beauty Supply allegedly created a knock off called "Mixed Silk." Mixed Chicks is a growing company with revenues of $5 Million a year -- Sally's is an established behemoth with more than $3 Billion a year at its disposal. While the lawsuit may ultimately endanger the business the two founders (both WOC) built, the existence of Mixed Silk proves that even huge brands are looking to jump into the natural hair care market.

And here we come to the problem.

Roose's thoughtless (and factless) comments illuminate some of the problems in Silicon Valley, namely that the space is controlled by people who are fairly myopic. If this market isn't something they understand or participate in, it doesn't exist. And these kinds of perceptions create an environment in the marketplace that disadvantages minority/women fronted businesses seeking investment to create products for their communities.

Read Latoya Peterson's entire piece at Racialicious.

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Latoya Peterson is a hip-hop feminist and the editrix of Racialicious.com.