In The Path, we spotlight different women making a difference in the fashion, beauty, wellness, and medical aesthetics industries. Here, TresseNoire℠ co-founder Regina Gwynn shares her road to success.
Throughout our lives, many of us have — at some point — had to break up with a hairstylist. And if you haven’t yet, brace yourself: it’s one of those inevitable relationships that’s bound to go through a rough patch. But for Regina Gwynn and her co-founder Octavia Pickett-Blakely, this fraught relationship between stylist and client — and wasting away weekends sitting in a salon just waiting to be serviced — was the inspiration they needed. After years of frustration, they decided to skip the salon and jumpstart a business to help meet the needs of women looking to have their hair styled and reclaim their time.
Gwynn’s background was in fashion marketing (with an MBA from Kellogg School of Management), and Pickett-Blakely was a gastroenterologist at University of Pennsylvania Hospital, with over 10 years of practice under her belt. Despite no experience with beauty or service-booking brands, the two friends launched TresseNoire in 2014.
Their goal was offering in-home styling sessions with seasoned and experienced stylists who specialize in working specifically on textured strands. The online-based bookings are now available in four cities (Philadelphia, New York, Washington DC, and Los Angeles) and is planning to unveil a new digital “beauty coach” service in 2019. Currently, however, you can schedule a date, time, and service, primarily focused on hair. Prices start at $50 (the beginning range for hair cuts) to $175 and above for braids and twists with extensions, sew-in weaves, and more.
Here, Gwynn explains how TresseNoire is changing the hair game for women of color and how after four years in business, her service is fitting into the major shift toward a more customized and personalized beauty experience.
Spotlyte: How did TressNoire come to be? When and how did the brand go from an idea to a real thing?
Regina Gwynn: TresseNoire was born out of necessity. My co-founder Octavia and I were both busy working professionals — I was in fashion retail, Octavia in medicine — and we just didn't have the time to spend an entire Saturday at a hair salon. I loved my stylist, but when I arrived at 9 a.m. with four other women with 9 a.m. appointments, I knew there had to be a better way to access quality stylists who could come to me — like Uber® or FreshDirect®. We tested the idea in Philly, and women were booking appointments on our first day of business.
Spotlyte: How has it been becoming business owners, specifically as women of color?
RG: Launching a business from scratch is one of the hardest things we've ever done. Building a brand in the tech space comes with additional challenges, in learning funding/investor jargon, technology development languages/stacks, and acquiring customers. The lack of resources that were available to us when we launched definitely put us at a disadvantage, but joining organizations like Black Women Talk Tech helped immensely.
Spotlyte: Why is TresseNoire important in the current beauty and hair landscape?
RG: Quick service stylist concepts like DryBar®, Blo℠, and Glamsquad® all address the need for convenience, but can overlook the convenience needs for women of color. This demographic spends five to seven times more on personal care products than her mainstream counterparts and is ready for an alternative to the current salon options.
Spotlyte: How do you curate and choose the stylists and artists that work with Tressenoire?
RG: We conduct a multi-step recruiting process for stylists who join our network. A technical interview where stylists must demonstrate certain extension install and braiding techniques is critical.
Spotyte: What made you decide to go with a style gallery approach, rather than have clients provide the looks they want to do?
RG: We encourage all clients to send us hair inspiration by texting or emailing us a screenshot of the look they're trying to achieve.
Spotlyte: Do you switch out or update the styles that are available through TresseNoire? Or do you find that you don't need to?
RG: We've changed the styles that are available based on geography. Crochet braid styles are more popular in Philly, while blowouts and overall braids are trending in NYC.
Spotlyte: How much of what you offer style-wise is trend-based? Where and how do you source these trends?
RG: We offer a wide variety of styles to support our clients, who range from millennials to baby boomers. We can start to see what styles are trending by the uptick in a certain style during Spring or holiday timeframes.
Spotlyte: There has been a clear shift in the beauty world toward personalization and customization. How does TresseNoire fit into this change?
RG: So glad you asked this question: We are definitely seeing women get frustrated with the overload of information on social media, and limited distribution of products at various beauty supply stores. They want tips and tricks for a beauty regimen that works for them. Our new personalized beauty coach app will do just that. Our technology and licensed beauty pros will analyze their hair, skin and lifestyle goals to guide them through a beauty routine of products and services.
Spotlyte: How is TresseNoire disrupting the salon experience?
RG: TresseNoire gives women their time back. Our beauty pro team has an average of five to seven years of experience working specifically with textured hairstyles, as well as focuses on healthy hair care regimens. Appointments are made online and confirmed by email within 24 hours. Payment information can be securely stored for recurring appointments as well.
Spotlyte: Does Tressenoire have any specific focus on using hair care and makeup brands by other black-owned businesses?
Spotlyte: Tell us about your personal hair routine. What do you do and how often?
RG: I'm a big fan of protective styles! I work out three to four times a week, and box or crochet braid styles give me the creative versatility I like and a look that stays fresh much longer than a blowout. Also, I can't forget to mention moisture. Because I live in the Northeast U.S., deep conditioning treatments twice a month is critical during the fall/winter months. I also live by regular trims (8-10 weeks) and drinking lots of water.
Spotlyte: What are your don't-leave-home-without-them beauty favorites (hair, makeup or skincare)?
RG: For hair — Eden BodyWorks® Coconut Shea Natural Curling Jelly ($8) for the best curl definition on my wash n go. Skin — Egyptian Magic® ($30) is literally magic in a tub. For makeup, I’m loving Fenty Beauty® Match Stix ($25)— the coverage is light, but lasts all day.
Spotlyte: What's your stance on cosmetic injectables? Have you tried them?
RG: I'm not opposed to finding the right treatments. I haven't [tried them], but I’m not opposed to an injectable.
Have you ever done any other cosmetic procedures like laser treatments or any body treatments?
RG: I haven't had any cosmetic procedures done but definitely open and curious to try dermabrasion or laser treatments in the near future!
[Editor’s note: Talk to your doctor before starting or stopping any new treatment.]