Many women have daily frustrations when it comes to hair care maintenance. This problem resonates on an emotional, physical, spiritual, and financial level. Techturized Inc. hopes to solve this problem. Their new app, Myavana, is providing a central resource for hair care information and a community for women of color to work through these problems collectively and have a support system.
Co-Founders Candace Mitchell and Chanel Martin were generous enough to do an interview with BWLW to discuss this new venture and how they plan to make their stamp on the tech world in this edition of Black Women in the Global Village.
Tell us about Myavana.
Myavana app is the first of its kind. It’s a technology platform created by and aimed to support Black women. We fulfill the need of real-time, accessible content, community, and commerce for women of color around the globe. It’s a safe space where users can confidently share their fabulous styles, but also their struggles with their hair.
In addition to being the first of its kind, what else makes it so special?
The most unique aspects of the app is that it brings together the socialization of hair care conversations, the professionals who can provide expert advice, and the simplistic ability to share content within its own network.
Users don’t have to fear public exposure on the broader social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, but can share and be lifted up in an exclusive community. The design of the app was also a very well thought out process with the end-user in mind, along with the unique lingo incorporated throughout the app.
How did you meet each other?
We all met while attending Georgia Tech. We originally had four members. Candace, Joy, and Jess were all computer science majors and Candace and I were in a student organization together. Joy and Jess have since moved on from the company.
Techturized Inc. was founded in June 2012. We had several iterations of a web version of Myavana which lead us to create and launch the Myavana mobile app. We started working on the app July 2013 and launched it December 2013.
We have over 1,200 users. We will be engaged in a lot of promotion and partnerships to expand our user base. We would love our user retention to be 25% or more on a daily basis and expand our user base to 100,000 by the end of the year.
What strengths does your team bring to this venture?
Candace is a computer scientist and has a passion for computing and all things technology. She has always wanted to work in the hair care industry and wanted to figure out a way to use her computer science degree to help women with their hair.
I became a chemical engineer because I wanted to work for a company that developed hair care and beauty products. I even had hopes of one day developing my own line of beauty products. Both Candace and I realized there was a hole in the market and wanted to use their backgrounds in computer science and chemical engineering to revolutionize the hair care industry.
How were you able to improve your business model and raise funds?
In June 2012, we entered Flashpoint, a startup accelerator program based out of Georgia Tech. They taught us basic startup principles, including the customer discovery process. That process empowered us to seek out over 1000 women and interview them about their hair care experiences. We pitched every week to refine our business approach and receive feedback from mentors.
At the culmination of the accelerator, we had the opportunity to pitch across the country in Atlanta, New York, and Silicon Valley. Flashpoint invested $35,000 in our company. Following that program, we raised money through a family and friends round, local angel investors, Indiegogo Crowdfunding Campaign, and pitch competitions, including a business launch grant through the Technology Association of Georgia ($50,000 and $200,000 in services).
There aren’t too many apps targeted to black women or hair care in general. How are you using this to your advantage?
By connecting with many networks within the “hair care ecosystem” to establish Myavana as the go-to destination on mobile. We cater the experience to the consumer, but also incorporate stylists, salons, hair care brands, trade shows, and other hair care events. Since this has never been established, we use this as an opportunity to revolutionize the way black women navigate the hair and beauty market.
What are some of your favorite app features?
Definitely the Headlines! I just love opening my app and looking in the Headlines feed to see new photos shared by other women in the community. Another great feature on the Discover page is the stylist listing that pulls local stylists within a 50 mile radius of your location.
You’re able to click their account and see their work, similar to a “digital lookbook”. There are also 3 main hairstyle galleries (Curly Kinky Wavy, Straightened, and Protective) that I love to look through for hairstyle inspiration.
I heard about Myavana through a retweet from Black Girls Code. How are you marketing Myavana?
We’re currently marketing through our social media channels and email lists. As a startup, since we’re very limited on resources it has been critical for us to use all free promotional strategies possible. We really appreciate being featured on blogs and articles because it helps us share our vision and spread the word about Myavana.
You are currently based out of Atlanta. What makes this city a great environment over typical tech hubs like New York, Seattle, and Silicon Valley?
The advantages of growing a tech company in Atlanta is the ecosystem of universities, enterprise companies, and rich cultural fabric that the city has. Georgia Tech is right in our backyard and provides an invaluable network of people and resources, as well as the nearby HBCUs in the Atlanta University Center (Clark Atlanta, Morehouse, and Spelman). Atlanta is also the hair care capital of the world and mecca for African-American culture.
There are several business organizations that support the growth of tech companies such as the Technology Association of Georgia (TAG) and the Atlanta Technology Development Center (ATDC). In addition to that, the co-working space and mentorship through Hypepotamus allowed us to build relationships with key people and was our first home after graduating from Flashpoint, the startup accelerator we participated in from June 2012 – September 2012.
Where do you see Myavana and Techturized a year from now?
In 2015, we will be focused on making Myavana the best it can possibly be. You will definitely see expanded features on the mobile app to incorporate personalization and robust hair care information including a full product database.
There will also be an expanded web presence for Myavana as well. By next year, we aim to expand globally to reach women of color in all countries. As we hear more from our community on what they need, Techturized will continue to develop to meet these needs. We are working for you!
How has life changed since founding Techturized and launching Myavana?
Each one of us had our different struggles since beginning Techturized. In the early stages, our days were long and sleep was a luxury. Since then, we have figured out how to have balance in our lives and what is most important. For Candace, working out and celebrating birthdays and special occasions with friends and family is a must. For myself, spending time with my family and staying healthy are important priorities. Both Candace and I understand the hard work it takes to start a business and are dedicated to doing whatever it takes to make sure it’s successful!
How easy or challenging has it been working on Myavana?
It has been very challenging. First, we want to bring technology to an industry that is behind the technology curve. We are also one of the few all black, all female owned, hair care technology companies. We spend a bunch of time educating our counterparts on what it is we are doing, why we are needed, and what gap we are trying to fill. Staying positive when your surroundings and current situation looks bleak is also a challenge. There are many ups and downs when starting a company, and it’s easy to get distracted and discouraged.
What motivates you? What keeps your team hungry?
Understanding that building this company isn’t only for us, it’s for women of color everywhere! Every article, blog post, appearance, feature has the potential to inspire others to follow the dream that God gave them.
How have your friends and family reacted to your success?
We were very lucky and blessed to have friends and family that supported and continue to support us through each and every phase of our business. The outcry of support we have received is part of what keeps us motivated each day.
If we didn’t have the support system that we have in place, there probably wouldn’t be a Techturized or Myavana. Having a strong support system is crucial and critical to your success as an entrepreneur. We understand the value of having loved ones with you as you build your business. Our supporters are the best!
I’m looking at your press and team pages and you all look fantastic! How do you all stay fit and fabulous?
We are both very passionate about health and fitness. Candace ends each day with a workout and I follow the Lean Gains method to stay in tip top shape. Although I’m currently 7 months pregnant, I will go to the gym a few times a week and walk around the track.
We have teamed up with Urban Tangles Salon in Atlanta for hair and makeup whenever we make appearances or have a professional shoot. Natt Taylor, an Atlanta Stylist, styles most of our photo shoots and Jas Photos, an Atlanta Photography studio, has taken most of our team and promotional photos you see around the web.
I’ve been inspired by you all after reading your story. Who inspires you, both professionally and personally?
Candace is professionally inspired by Oprah and Russell Simmons, and personally inspired by her mother. Chanel is professionally inspired by Shonda Rhimes and Beyonce, and personally inspired by her mother.
There will be women reading this who would love to get started creating apps, but have had very little exposure to coding . How should they get started?
Well, you should first start by smiling because there are several online resources and support groups that can help! 🙂 Codeacademy is a great first stop to get your feet wet with different programming languages. Then, you can move up to either Udacity or Coursera. Coursera has specific courses for programming mobile applications. Also check out Meetup.com for local groups who come together for workshop sessions. Simply search for groups dedicated to developing apps or support circles like women in technology.
What advice do you have for black women who’ve created their applications and are looking for funding? What strategies were beneficial for Techturized and Myavana?
If you are able, bootstrap your business for as long as possible. Figure out creative ways to finance your passions. There are competitions and business grants that you can enter where you can receive cash awards. There are also sites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter that provide a platform where you can raise money via donations. If you must get financing, start with your friends and family first. They will be your early supporters, and will most likely invest in your company at an early phase.
What do you hope black women and girls take away from the success you’ve had so far?
All things are possible with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on your team. You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. Create a strong support system, stay focused, and work hard, and you will see the fruits of your labor begin to bloom.
I’m sure my readers are already on your site trying to figure out how to get more involved with Myavana.
Opportunities to expand our team will be proportionate to our company growth. We hope that by the end of the year, we will be able to bring on full time employees if we scale significantly. We are, however, looking for interns now to help with our social media and marketing efforts.
After you’ve downloaded the Myavana app, be sure to check out the ladies of Techturized. A little birdy told me about Chanel’s love of epic trilogy and sci-fi movies and Candace’s obsession with butterflies. You can learn more about their quirks and awesome startup through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and their blog Myavana. Don’t fret Android users. You can get their hands on this app Spring 2014.
Interested in joining the Myavana team?? Send your emails to firstname.lastname@example.org about learn more about their current internships and career opportunities.
Thanks again ladies! We’re excited to see what the future holds for Techturized and Myavana 🙂