This content is the third installment of an interview series with the 2020 Target Incubator cohort. Participating companies are sharing, in their own words, details on what inspired the creation of their companies and how they are all working to change the world for the better. All interviews have been conducted by the Target Incubator (TI) Program Management team.
D’azhane Cook, Co-Founder and COO
Ariel Lee, Co-Founder and CEO
TI: When meeting someone new, how do you explain what Remane does?
D’azhane: Remane is a haircare and lifestyle brand that aims to make the process of going natural, clearer and fun for people with textured hair while also taking a stab at removing the stigma that surrounds natural and afro-hair textures within our society. We do this by empowering naturals to better our relationship with our hair through recommending customizable hair care steps based off of their unique hair profile, lifestyle, and hair goals in the form of a personalized hair care regimen.
Ariel: I explain to them that hair care and self-care should and can go hand in hand! I remember dreading wash days and meticulously planning out when I would get my hair done. While at times it felt tiring and frustrating, because I felt that I was navigating figuring out my hair and self, there are many moments along my hair journey that I feel excited about and recognize that I have achieved true agency over my identity. Remane helps empower people with kinky curly hair to spend time with their hair and self.
TI: What inspired you to start Remane?
D’azhane: I have faced my own struggles throughout my natural hair journey, and it was extremely hard because I did not have anyone in my immediate family to go to when I had questions. There is so much information out there already but it’s tainted with biases, opinions, and sponsored content and it can oftentimes be very confusing to figure out what will work for me personally without getting caught up in the YouTube video loop. When I got to college, I enjoyed being able to talk to other black women about their natural hair experience, what worked for them, what didn’t, and how they grew to care for it on their own. Unfortunately, school became very stressful and demanding very early on and I did not know how to consistently fit my hair care into my daily routine. Furthermore, I would get calls from my newly natural sister, friends, and family members who wanted information on how to better care for their hair. So, when I was asked in Ruben’s class to pinpoint a specific problem for a specific group of people I immediately knew where I wanted to invest my time to create a solution. Through a human centered design approach, Ariel and I gained over 200+ unique user insights from women who share a similar experience to my own which have helped guide our product development and steer Remane into the direction it is following now. Listening to the needs of those we are creating Remane for is how we know for sure if what we are building is actually solving their problems.
Ariel: Remane almost never existed. It was one of our earlier partners in the Product management class we created Remane in that encouraged us to pivot and go forth with the idea. I remember we had chosen to work on his idea. It was a solution to help fight gentrification by uplifting local businesses. I still remember when I got that text from him insisting that we pivot and work on the “hair idea” it was really inspiring that someone from outside of our community could see how important what we are doing is and was impassioned to also empower people to own who they are and have agency over their identity.
We created Remane at UT within Ruben Cantu, a social entrepreneur based in Austin’s product management class. His class helped teach us how to build our company and also the importance of building human centered companies that serve our communities.
TI: What impact do you hope Remane has on the world?
D’azhane: I hope Remane will become a trusted source for natural hair care information that actually helps naturals reach their hair care goals. I hope people will come to our brand when they want to do something fun with their hair, when they want to research about hair care/self-care topics, when they just want a second opinion on whether or not a product will work for them, when they want to find similar people to share their experiences with, or even when they want to rant about their hair being so thick and breaking all of their hair ties. I hope Remane will be able to build a community of diverse and unique individuals who love and enjoy caring for their hair and showing up as their authentic selves without fear of judgement from others. I hope Remane can change the conversations we are having about natural hair and remove the stigma attached to it within our society.
Ariel: We hope to make the experience of caring for your hair and self more seamless and to inject joy into the process of caring for one’s hair. I want for Remane to truly democratize the hair care space and give men and women with kinky curly hair textures agency over their hair and lives! I want anyone to feel like they have the ability to create a hair care routine that will work for them and also get in the habit of caring for themselves as well.
TI: What has surprised you about yourselves as Remane has grown?
D’azhane: I was not consciously aware of this before, but prior to my entrepreneurial journey I was a risk averse person who would automatically default to the safest route possible. I even decided to pursue a business degree because I did not know what i wanted to study and felt that business was the most practical choice. Throughout this journey of building Remane, I have been placed in numerous situations that forced me out of my comfort zone of safety and familiarity but these were the experiences that allowed me to grow. Pitch competitions forced me to overcome my fear of public speaking, learning to network and negotiate allowed me to become better at making conversation, and conducting user interviews and sharing my elevator pitch showed me that I can come up with great ideas that are worth mentioning. As my business has grown, I have been most surprised by the person I have become. I have gained confidence, self-discipline, and a thicker skin from this journey and can’t wait to see who I will become next month, 2021, and in the coming years.
Ariel: I think I was so surprised that the ambiguity would be so daunting. I feel as we launch our product, like I did when I was 12 learning to do my first back handspring. I feel well supported and like I have put in a lot of work but nevertheless scared! I realize now that entrepreneurship is not about never being nervous/scared but harnessing it and going forward. Resilience and self- management have been two of the most important skills that I have had to work on this journey. I am so excited to be here but also, I feel like I have so much work I need to do internally to prepare for where we are headed!
TI: What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs who are navigating the impact of COVID-19 to their business?
D’azhane: Look for the free money. There are tons of local and state grants as well as money offered by large and small corporations all targeted toward small businesses. Take advantage of this capital and use it to better your business. If it’s possible and makes sense for your business, brainstorm innovative ways to digitize your product offering. Conduct some user research to understand your customer’s current pain points in the context of your business and how you could differentiate your offerings to fit these new problems they’re facing. Also, research your industry and understand how things are changing on the consumer and business side of things.
Ariel: Keep your head up and serve the market. It does not matter that the market changes, it matters how you roll with the market. I think opposition and hard time can cause some of the best innovations. Many of the companies and solutions we have today comes from “pain-points” innovation is not created from everything going well. Do your best to seize the moment! Also be kind to yourself these are difficult times before business and others you have to support yourself
TI: How did you learn about Target Incubator and what encouraged you to pursue the opportunity?
Ariel: I had heard about the Next Gen Summit and I was on the east coast for a conference. I had just started my job and had maybe $40 in my account. It was my first time to NYC and I hopped on a greyhound and slept on a stranger’s couch all to attend an Entrepreneurship conference with Remane in its earliest stages. I met the Program Management team then! Anne Kitchen encouraged me to apply, encouraged by the whole ordeal I remember setting the intention there. Then upon coming back to school in the fall I met another one of the Program Managers Courtney Ready at a Longhorn Startup Fair in Austin Texas. It almost felt like fate. After receiving more encouragement from those around me my cofounder and I knew we had to complete the application and try!
TI: As a founder, how are you functioning today that is different than how you were functioning 6 months ago? What keeps you motivated?
Ariel: Yesss, we have way more systems and experience. I have developed and solidified trust with my cofounder and I feel like we truly understand how to move our product forward and understand what we need to do to keep going and be successful. I feel like we have more sophisticated methodologies around what we are doing as well. I am motivated by D’azhane; she keeps me centered, as well as the people we are building Remane for. Whenever I do user testing it really validates what we are doing and makes me want to keep going.