By Sara Bauknecht
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Tamiah Bridgett,a cosmetologist,is also the founder of Diversame, which specializes in making hair care easier for those with curls. She’s at work on the company’s first product, a hair dryer specially designed for styling textured hair anywhere on the curly continuum. The creation attracted the attention of AlphaLab Gear in East Liberty, which invested $50,000 in the project and provides Ms. Bridgett with mentorship, legal counsel and office space as part of its accelerator program for entrepreneurs.
Hair care is a multibillion dollar industry. But despite the seemingly endless assortment of straighteners and curling irons, clips and combs on the market, options for those with naturally curly and textured hair — including for the growing number of African Americans who are embracing their natural hair — are limited.
That’s where Tamiah Bridgett, a licensed cosmetologist who lives in Wilkinsburg, comes in.
She’s the founder of Diversame, which specializes in making hair care easier for those with curls. She’s at work on the company’s first product, a hair dryer specially designed for styling textured hair anywhere on the curly continuum.
“I’ve been working with natural hair for so long, and I know what’s missing and what I need to make it work,” says Ms. Bridgett, who created a few years ago the local group It’s a Natural Thang. Through meet-up events and social media, the group aims to educate and support men and women in their journeys of letting chemical agents and relaxers grow out and their natural hair textures and curl patterns grow in.
She came up with a hair dryer that doesn’t have the traditional gun-shaped handle and includes comb attachments that are extra sturdy to help ensure they won’t snap off while in use. It also will make use of sensor technology to protect hair from heat damage.
“We’re definitely making it user friendly,” she says. “It’s going to be lightweight and ergonomically friendly so you don’t have to twist your arm to manage the hair.”
The creation attracted the attention of AlphaLab Gear in East Liberty, which invested $50,000 in the project and provides Ms. Bridgett with mentorship, legal counsel and office space as part of its accelerator program for entrepreneurs.
“Tamiah is exactly the kind of entrepreneur we’re looking for — someone who has identified a problem that they have a burning desire to solve and they’re knowledgeable in that industry,” says AlphaLab Gear managing director Ilana Diamond.
AlphaLab Gear helped Ms. Bridgett research her concept and confirmed that there’s indeed a void for such a tool in the hair care industry.
She contracted two engineers to help her develop the prototypes, which will be tested by Philip Pelusi Salons and the Diva Den salon in Garfield. All of this leads up to AlphaLab Gear’s Demo Day in April. From there, Ms. Bridgett hopes to secure some investors who can help her cover manufacturing costs and take the product to market.
The sales potential for a product like this is significant.
“This is a hugely underserved market,” says Ms. Diamond, adding that Philip Pelusi Salons confirmed that it’s challenging to find tools that address the needs of those with textured hair.
Market research firm Mintel projects that the black hair care industry could swell to more than $700 million by 2017. Plus, other startups that target textured hair, like Bevel shaving products for people of color by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Tristan Walker, have attracted attention from investors and major retailers alike.
The price of Ms. Bridgett’s dryer has yet to be determined, but she plans to sell it directly to consumers through an e-commerce platform and through retailers that sell to professional salons.
And that’s just the beginning for Diversame.
“There are ideas for other style tools,” Ms. Bridgett says. “I think the dryer is the first of many.”