Sure, there are apps and platforms that allow customers to easily connect with hairdressers, make-up artists and stylists. But finding a beauty professional who specifically specializes in afro or curly hairstyles, beyond word of mouth? That’s much more difficult. London entrepreneur Jade Phillips founded Mane Hook-Up to create a digital platform for such hairstylists, after struggling to find one when she transitioned back to her natural hair about four years ago. Today, Philips works with 30 stylists across three countries and is happy to be helping women access beauty services more easily.
Here’s our lightly edited Q&A, from The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project.
Tell us more about your business.
I couldn’t comprehend that we live in a world where we all have access to the internet 24/7, have phones that are basically mini-computers in the palms of our hands, and yet there was no online source where I could easily find and book appointments with hairdressers who understood how to manage afro hair. I also watched many of the women in my family struggle with the same issue – like my grandma, for example, who moved [about 100 miles] to Bath in 2010 but for years traveled back to London to get her hair done, spending as much money on the coach fare as she did on her hair appointment.
After speaking to a few hairdressers, I found that the act of finding new clients wasn’t easy either. There are a lot of stylists that don’t know where to start when it comes to marketing, and those who do often don’t have time to follow through on it. So, instead of waiting for a solution to appear, I chose to create it.
How is your business different from others in your industry?
Mane Hook-Up has been built with afro hair stylists and clients in mind. Our objective is to create a safe space for women who have afro and curly textured hair and provide them with the people, products and advice that they need.
Aside from signing up stylists, what is your biggest success so far?
We are partnered with 16 black-owned businesses and have gained 18 pieces of media coverage. Last year we launched the new version of our platform with an extensive set of features for stylists to use.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
I’ve never worked full-time. Every job that I’ve had, I’ve focussed on negotiating part-time hours to give myself the freedom to work on the other things that I’m passionate about — and that includes my business. Finding the time to build a platform like Mane Hook-Up required me to find work that I enjoyed, paid well and also gave me part-time flexibility.
Have you experienced any significant personal situations that have affected your business decisions?
Managing my growing business while also working part-time.
What is your biggest tip for other startup entrepreneurs?
Starting a business costs money. Consider how much you need to invest in not only getting it off the ground but maintaining it on a monthly basis.
How do you find inspiration on your darkest days?
I think about the end goal and the global impact that I want Mane Hook-Up to have and all of the people I want to help.
Who is your most important role model?
I don’t have one role model, I have several. Most of them are the women I’m friends with or related to. ◼