by Tarice L.S. Gray
When it comes to black hair care products, women of color are rarely faithful to one line. The dilemma can lead to overwhelmed bathroom cabinets for many women but also aid a vast open market market for hair care manufacturers.
That’s what Dr. Tashni-Ann Dubroy and Dr. Tiffani Bailey Lash are counting on. In December 2009 they launched Tea and Honey Blends, a new hair care line specifically for women of color. As chemists with an interest in cosmetology, they took a scientific approach to solving the commitment quandary and asked themselves before creating the products ‘what would make this the last hair care product I would ever buy?’
Their commitment to answering that question resulted in a line including shampoo, conditioner, leave-in conditioner and styling aids designed to address lingering problems related to African-American hair, like hair breakage and dry scalp.
Dr. Dubroy believes their ingenuity as chemists allowed them to create a specialized surfactant, which is a group of organic compounds fortified to offer the best results. “When we thought about all of the shampoos that were on the market, they were using surfactants that were really outdated so we came up with a secret surfactant blend that allows excellent cleansing properties.”
According to Dubroy and Lash, too many products on the market advertise remedies to issues including dandruff and split ends, but fail to deliver black women from their hair woes. That realization made it clear to Dubroy and Lash that there was a lot of potential within their market.
Last year Mintel, a market research company, released a report on market sales of black hair care products. According to their findings, sales in 2008 hovered around $165 million. L’Oréal USA and Alberto Culver Company, the two largest corporations, cornered more than a third of market. But Mintel also reported, ethnic-specific marketer Namasté Laboratories had an 18.8% increase in sales in 2009.
That’s encouraging news for small, independent black hair care product companies like Tea and Honey Blends. Dubroy, 29 and Lash, 30, want to appeal to the consumer in search of something new. Their target audience is made up of a younger clientele that wants to be educated about healthy hair care.
If she wasn’t the product developer, Lash would have been an ideal consumer. Launching the company was a dream come true for her. Since her early teens, Lash wanted to pursue a career in beauty. Her intention was to attend cosmetology school, but her parents persuaded her to pursue a four year degree. It was then that she entered the world of chemistry and started carving out a unique career path. “I was speaking to my chairman [one day], and I said ‘I’m interested in being a cosmetic chemist’ and the first thing he said was ‘what is that?’.” Lash soon was able to answer that question.
Through aligning herself with like-minded individuals like Dubroy, she found the road that both women are hoping will lead to success. As a fledgling company, Drs. Dubroy and Lash are the only full-time employees. Their support staff is made up of mostly part-time volunteers who simply believe in the product and the women behind it. The cofounders, who graduated with doctorates in chemistry from North Carolina State University, invested around $50,000 in Tea and Honey Blends. They hope to see a return on their investment soon.
In the meantime, they remain focused on their mission of education and beauty as the perfect blend, according to Dubroy. “We are really focused on promoting young women in the sciences,” she said. “Women will be able to pick up information from our brand. We will be able to get a group of consumers who can be brand ambassadors.”
Tea and Honey blends is available online or in salons near its manufacturing base in North Carolina.