Name: Candace Mitchell
Favorite read: A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson
Recent read: Customer Centricity by Peter Fader
GirlfriendsInGod (daily devotional)
Pandora (streaming music while working)
Pando (tech news)
StackOverflow (community of coders)
Most inspired by: Creating generational wealth for my family and the African-American community as a whole, so that we can overcome poverty and be in a greater position of ownership and economic opportunity.
One quote that inspires you: “Faith sees the invisible, feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible” ~Author Unknown. With faith and belief in yourself, you can achieve anything.
Whether your hair is natural or relaxed, curly or bone straight, one thing is certain: You can relate to trying to find the right product, regimen and even stylist to finesse your tresses. Candace Mitchell knows the feeling all too well, and decided to use tech to solve her dilemma.
After joining forces with her co-founder Chanel Martin, Mitchell launched what is now known as Techturized in 2012. And although the co-founder and CEO didn’t know it at the time, Techturized would go on to become a network that resonates with women of color across the globe, garnering attention from various press outlets such as EBONY, Essence, Black Enterprise, Business Insider and Melissa Harris-Perry, to name a few.
Fresh out of the DreamIt Ventures accelerator program, MadameNoire caught up with Mitchell to chat about starting Techturized, working through challenges, and her early dreams of becoming the female Bill Gates.
MadameNoire: How did you get your start in the technology space?
Candace Mitchell: I’ve been in love with technology ever since I was a little girl. When I was around 9 or 10 years old, my dream was to become the female Bill Gates when I discovered what Microsoft was. I taught myself how to code websites in high school then decided to take my computing pursuits to the collegiate level by attending Georgia Tech and majoring in computer science. That was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
MN: What inspired you to create Techturized, a company that leverages scientific and social data to provide personalized hair care recommendations for women of color around the globe?CM: I was inspired by my personal frustrations with my hair after it was severely damaged from using color, relaxers and a boatload of products. I thought to myself, there has to be a way to know which products are compatible with your hair type and how certain hair products will react on your hair. My approach was always from a scientific point of view and I imagined the different factors that affect our hair as variables in an algorithm that could be created to predict and recommend products in order to achieve different results. I competed in a student invention competition with this ‘hair tech’ idea that caught the attention of former classmates who later became co-founders of the company. My co-founder, Chanel, called me after she had a dream about a hair care social network, so we decided to collaborate. The rest is history!
MN: When you first had the idea to create Techturized, what steps did you take to get it off the ground?
CM: We first had several brainstorm sessions on Google Hangout (we were living in different cities at the time) to organize our thoughts and do some initial market research. We later applied to a startup accelerator based at Georgia Tech called Flashpoint. We were accepted and funded $35,000 to further develop our idea and validate our assumptions in order to build an MVP that we later tested at the Bronner Brothers Hair Show in Atlanta, Georgia. We were able to get critical feedback from attendees at the hair show, as well as founders of several hair product companies, which helped us further refine our value proposition within the market.
MN: Your first product is Myavana, which stands for my “my hair nirvana.” How does the product work and how is it revolutionizing the roughly $3 billion African-American hair care industry?
CM: Myavana provides personalized recommendations for hair products, hairstyles and local salons in your area by analyzing a strand of your hair. You purchase a personalized hair care plan from our website (only $49 to start), then we send a prepaid mailer to your home with instructions on how to provide a hair sample. Don’t worry; it’s an easy combing process! Our hair naturally sheds every day.
You slip it in the envelope and send it back to our lab for analysis. We’re able to detect your current hair condition, breakage or damage to the hair strand, and record any hair issues that you’re experiencing or goals that you would like to achieve. This creates a unique hairprint that maps the consumer to the right products, styling techniques, and salon services in your area. Our proprietary technology and data solves a problem that women of color have experienced for generations due to our extreme hair texture variety.
MN: As an African-American woman in tech, how has your experience been in maneuvering through the space?
CM: It has been quite a challenge simply because many key players in the tech industry don’t understand our market, in particular the cultural significance of hair for women of color. Our product is so unique and innovative that we can’t follow the blueprint of poster child tech companies; we are pioneering our own way in the market. It can also be disheartening since there are so few of us in the tech space, but we are also encouraged that we are opening doors for other African Americans to follow through.
MN: Your startup is based in Atlanta, which has a burgeoning tech scene. What does the Atlanta tech scene offer tech entrepreneurs that San Francisco or New York City may not?
CM: The advantages of growing a tech company in Atlanta is the ecosystem of universities, enterprise companies, and rich cultural fabric that the city has. Georgia Tech is right in our backyard and provides an invaluable network of experts and resources, as well as Emory, Georgia State and the nearby HBCUs in the Atlanta University Center (Clark Atlanta, Morehouse and Spelman).
In addition to that, there are several business organizations, incubators and coworking spaces that support the growth of tech companies such as the Technology Association of Georgia (TAG) the Atlanta Technology Development Center (ATDC), Atlanta Tech Village (ATV) and the Opportunity Hub (OHUB). This is all anchored by top global corporations such as Coca-Cola, Home Depot and Turner Broadcasting, just to name a few. Lastly, the music and entertainment scene is booming and will take off greater than it ever has before. These unique ingredients combined make Atlanta an ideal city to tap in several industries using technology.
MN: What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received or given?
CM: “Be so good they can’t ignore you”… a renewed sense of excellence day in and day out, no matter the obstacles, will garner the attention of those you need to help take you to the next level of success.
MN: What’s next for Techturized?
CM: Growing our customer base for the Myavana personalized hair care plans. Partnering with major salons and hair care organizations to expand our reach in the market.
Based in New York City, Janel Martinez is a multimedia journalist who covers technology and entrepreneurship. She is the founder of “Ain’t I Latina?” an online destination geared toward Afro-Latinas. You can follow her up-to-the-minute musings on Twitter @janelmwrites.