In the Familiar Faces series, our Target Accelerators Program Managers check in with companies who have participated in one of our Target Accelerators programs. This is a chance to dig in and learn more about each company’s growth since completing their Target Accelerators experience and our way of continuing to root them on every step of the entrepreneurial way. Welcome to Familiar Faces.
Checking in with Sienna Naturals, 2018 Target Takeoff Beauty alumna.
Interview by Target Takeoff Program Manager, Anne Kitchen
AK: Hannah, congratulations on all of your growth and success with Sienna Naturals. What has changed the most for your business since you completed the Target Takeoff 2018 Beauty cohort?
HD: Thank you so much, it really has been an exciting time for Sienna Naturals. I think the biggest change is that we relaunched our DTC, and we are now sold nationwide at Target. At the end of last year, we also announced that Issa Rae would be signing on as not only the co-owner of our brand, but also the face.
What it took to get to this place has been continued focus to understand what our customers need and want, which is a clean hair care line for textured hair that actually works. I have also been working closely with my buyer and internal champions at Target to gather feedback and continue to learn and prepare for this opportunity. And, to continue to pour into that vision I have built a team and raised capital from angel investors who share the same values of wanting to empower our customers to have the healthiest hair, in whatever style they choose to wear it.
AK: What was it like to first see your product on a Target shelf?
HD: It was emotional. Looking on those shelves, I finally saw a product for me, that reflected my values at a retailer I admire and love. When I was a little girl, I did not see myself or my needs represented at mass retail stores, but now, my daughter will – and that matters.
For so many years I tried to ignore the calling to do this. I was nervous to leave a stable job to follow my dream, but eventually I did. To see it come to life at Target, especially since I grew up in Minneapolis, was amazing, emotional and a full circle moment.
AK: You recently added another star to the Sienna Naturals owner suite – the beloved actress and hair icon herself, Issa Rae. What impact has bringing her on board made so far and what made her the right fit for where the company is currently at?
HD: Issa and I have known each other for a long time and she’s watched the business grow over the years from my kitchen to where we are now. She embodies the Sienna Naturals mission of taking care of hair and scalp health regardless of how you wear your hair, so this partnership has been such a natural fit. The trust her community has for her, has poured over into Sienna Naturals. She believes in these products and has seen the results first hand and now her audience gets to experience it too.
AK: 2020 was no doubt a challenging year for businesses, especially small and growing businesses. What kept you motivated and inspired to keep going? How did you keep your team engaged?
HD: Coronavirus was a curveball no one saw coming. Building a team and culture during a pandemic took thoughtfulness both for how we connected as a team, and also how we would build our DTC and retail business while never being in the same room together.
We stay motivated by having really open and honest conversations about how we were feeling. I feel very fortunate to have a group of extremely smart people who are excited to be a part of what we are building. We also focus on the positives such as the emphasis on buying from Black-owned businesses, on clean and sustainability and supporting BIPOC founders like myself.
AK: Clean beauty products are continuing to rise in popularity and Sienna Naturals is no stranger to making sure the ingredients used in your products are clean. Why are clean ingredients so important in beauty products and why do you think we are seeing more demand for products that are better for people and the planet?
HD: Specifically to our mission in the beauty space, Black women face greater exposure to toxins in beauty products. Historically, there’s a focus on the final results of what textured hair “should” look like regardless of what goes into the product. As a result there are higher levels of endocrine disrupting chemicals in the everyday personal care products we’ve been offered. We’re here to say you have to choose between beauty or your health.
I think people are seeing this more and are understanding that clean does work for textured hair. And I get the hesitation! For a long time it felt like textured hair was completely ignored by the category. Clean beauty is the future of textured hair care and for Sienna Naturals, it’s part of our DNA. The superior performance of our products and the “life changing” results our customers testify to is what sets us apart.
AK: What advice would you share with other founders who are navigating the complex and crowded beauty space?
HD: You have to absolutely love what you are starting. It has to be a calling from deep within because it’s HARD! I’ve had days where I want to sit down and cry, but I don’t because I love it so much.
AK: What’s next for you professionally? What’s next for Sienna Naturals?
HD: When we relaunched in the fall it was a relaunch in every sense. Right now the focus is awareness and growth and proving ourselves in Target, as well as our DTC. We’ve always treated our products as skincare for the hair because they’re the foundation for anyone’s routine, so a goal of ours is to instill how important it is for you to build your regimen with Sienna Naturals. Also I’m excited to say that with the help of Issa and some of our most engaged customers, we’re working on expanding our offerings!