November 19, 2020 4 min read
In a recent interview with Black Beauty Bytes, our founder Susan Edwards spoke about her background, journey through the African continent, the Uhai origins story and what she hopes to accomplish as we look towards the future.
With a degree in chemical engineering and some experience as a pharmaceutical manufacturer, entrepreneurship wasn’t always in the cards for Susan but after going to business school and working with small businesses, she started to develop a passion for entrepreneurship and decided to take the leap and enter the hair care industry. Susan Edwards is the founder of Uhai Hair, a line of versatile hair care products infused with high-quality African ingredients such as superfood baobab, coconut oil, and shea butter. After living in both Kenya and Liberia for 8 years, Susan was able to perfect a multitude of formulas to help solve common haircare problems like dry scalp, flaky hair, and hair breakage.
When asked about the meaning behind the brand name, Susan explains that Uhai isn’t just some random name. She chose it because it means life in Swahili and the goal she had was to create products that would revive and bring new life to people’s hair. For her, there were so many reasons to create Uhai. First of all, as someone who had battled flaking since college, she wanted to have a product that solved that problem without drying her hair out as was the case with many of the shampoos recommended by dermatologists for her. Secondly, she knew many family and friends who were suffering from dry hair and severe hair breakage and loss and Susan wanted to create a brand that generated actual results for women experiencing these issues.
Creating Uhai Hair was a labor of love for Susan and certainly not one that she takes for granted. “It took me two years to launch – from analyzing and determining our target market, testing product formulations, finalizing packaging, and manufacturing the final product. It was all very grueling, but I am proud of the collection we created and the international brand that Uhai has become. Our products are now available globally in Liberia, Kenya, Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire, and the U.S.”- Susan.
The brand has very effective products and some popular ones amongst customers are the Scalp Serum and Oil Blend. The Scalp Serum is truly effective in moisturizing dry scalp to reduce flaking as well as soothe itchiness and irritation. It is formulated with aloe vera juice, baobab, tea tree, and rosemary oil and has been featured in The Zoe Report as a personal favorite of personal Nylon’s Beauty Editor, Tanisha Pina.
The Uhai Oil Blend was also recently awarded an Allure Best of Beauty Award. The product is made with soybean, grape seed, olive, baobab, rosemary, and tea tree oil and it is a non-greasy mixture with a light, refreshing scent that most of their customers have confessed to using on their skin as well as hair.
The mission at Uhai Hair is to celebrate the continent and its powerful botanics and so they have infused Baobab – Africa’s superfood – into all of their products. The baobab is sourced from Togo and high-quality ingredients such as coconut oil and shea butter are also used for reviving the hair and scalp. For their manufacturing, the brand uses a Black woman-owned facility in the Chicago area as a way of making sure that the black community benefits economically from their business.
As for the ways that Uhai Hair is helping to solve the problems women have with their hair, Susan says “I have learned, while building Uhai and while speaking with haircare experts and our Uhai Tribe, that there is no quick solution to our hair troubles and that we need to treat our hair like any wellness journey. When it comes to our bodies, we invest in it by eating healthy, getting proper sleep, and exercising even though we know that the results will not be immediate. The same also applies to our hair. We need to invest in it by treating it right – cleansing and conditioning regularly, moisturizing daily, and not wearing any styles that pull and damage the hair strands while also giving our hair and scalp time to adjust to the changes we are making in our regimen.”
As a black woman, Susan believes that funding is a critical challenge faced by many black women who want to start their global business. She knows that she was lucky to have had savings from her years in the corporate world as well as seed investments from family and friends. But not everyone is so lucky as to have such options for financing. That is why she recommends that women work full-time while getting their business off the ground -if they can- so that they have a steady income and can build up some savings. She also advises women to invest in creating a sound business plan that can be pitched to a network and VCs. “Even if you don’t get financial support after pitching your business, always ask for a recommendation on who you should speak with because there will be someone who believes in your vision”-Susan.
Susan’s vision is to make Uhai a staple in healthy hair regimens all over the world. She also looks forward to building a consumer goods company that would not only include Uhai but other emerging skincare, beauty, and wellness brands that are developed by women of color.
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