If you’re in need of a quick trim, color or a blowout, chances are you can walk into any neighborhood salon, get serviced and walk out relatively satisfied.
But for millions of women of color across the country with a variety of hair needs, finding the right hairstylist with the correct products to properly take care of their hair isn’t always the easiest feat. There’s usually a process before any service is rendered: vetting the stylist, determining which products they use, getting testimonials from friends and associates and of course, making sure the salon is within a reasonable distance and price point for the style that is desired.
Enter Bonnti, the mobile platform that helps women of color find hair stylists and styles. Founded by childhood friends Maude Okrah and Simone Tetteh, Bonnti (which stems from the Ghanaian word “B) no ti” meaning “to braid her hair”) will serve as a platform that bridges the gap between clients, stylists and industry experts. And with the black hair care and beauty industry valued at an estimated $7.5 billion, Okrah and Tetteh are hoping to detangle their hair experience and empower consumers in this social hair movement.
Technical.ly DC caught up with Okrah to find out what inspired the creation of the app and what attendees can look forward to at next week’s launch event.
Technical.ly DC: What was the inspiration behind Bonnti?
Maude Okrah: The whole inspiration behind Bonnti started with me personally. Growing up, I’ve lived in a number of different cities: I was born in Florida, lived in Ghana, Boston, Houston, London, Paris and then Washington, D.C. After all of those travels and then having to find an apartment, the next thing that was on my mind was finding a hairstylist. And it was really a difficult process because of so many bad experiences I’ve had in the past, from getting my hair burned to having my edges ripped.
But in this day and age, it shouldn’t be this hard because if I can get on my phone and order an Uber, shop and order food, why can’t I find someone who can take care of my hair? With Bonnti, we want to give women of color with hair versatility a voice and choice, and really bring that digital experience to life.
Technical.ly DC: The app goes beyond the idea of helping women find local hair stylists, but it also aims to build community. What steps did you take in order to discover what women were actually looking for?
Okrah: We did a bit of primary and secondary research, and our findings reinforced that this was a serious problem. We had a mixed pool of focus group participants in places such as Washington, D.C., Houston, Atlanta, New York and Los Angeles.
What we found was the following:
- At least 80 percent of women had traveled at least three hours or more to get their hair done.
- Close to 60 percent had flown from one place to the next to get their hair done
- There was also 16 percent who had spent $400 to $900 to get their hair done (this is specifically to get styles with extensions)
- 70 percent of women had at least two or more stylists doing their hair
What we found in our focus groups was that generally, people want to know what’s going on in the hair community — because hair is very social. And because of the versatility of our hair, that’s why Bonnti is so important. The person that braids my hair isn’t who I go to for my monthly maintenance. And if I want to get extensions or I’m traveling for a special event, that stylist is going to be different, too. With the app, we want to provide users access to information that will best meet their needs.
Technical.ly DC: Let’s talk about the technical aspect of Bonnti. Did you all have an idea of how you wanted the platform to look and feel for the customer?
Okrah: The MVP (minimum viable product) is just a focus on stylists and styles, but when we roll out our second phase, we will put an emphasis on products as well. We really want to centralize the experience for women of color. What we found in our MVP was we know that finding a stylist is important but also the style discovery is important as well. So we had to ask ourselves, “How do we make this more of an engaging experience?”
We like to think of ourselves as “LinkedIn meets Tinder for hair” — we focus on highlighting stylists, their portfolio and their reviews. And our Tinder-like feature is taking all of their photos and aggregating them, and you can like or dislike the style. And because consumers do their own hair as well, users will have the ability to post their own photos — which then creates the platform to have necessary dialogue.
Technical.ly DC: What can we expect from the Aug. 7 launch party?
Maude Okrah: We’re to have some of the top stylists in the DMV doing live hair demos, influencers in attendance covering the event as well as a photobooth, swag bags and so much more. We’re also going to award one attendee with “The Bonnti Experience,” which will be a service paid for by us for booking a stylist on the app. It’s going to be a great time.
To attend Bonnti’s launch party on Aug. 7, click here to RSVP.