While the black hair care industry is worth at least $684 million, hardly any of that money makes its way back to the black community, according to reports. In a year that the market is projected to gross $761 million, three Howard University alumnae plan to challenge the norm through HausCall, the first on-demand grooming service designed specifically for men of color.
The idea for the application took root on the soil of their alma mater when the 2010 graduates took notice of a problem facing their fellow alumni during homecoming season at the mecca of black education.
“It’s homecoming at Howard. Every guy we know is trying to feel and look like Diddy,” Chief Marketing Officer Morgan K. Winbush tells VIBE on a conference call. “If you’re running or coming into town really late, and you had to go to #1000Bottles or whatever party is happening on Friday night, but you didn’t have enough time [to spare], you could use HausCall and a barber would come wherever you are to cut your hair and make sure you looked great.”
Aside from the traveling man, HausCall aims to meet the needs of working clients and men with families who can’t always afford to sit through gruesome wait times. Through the service, users can book on-demand and future appointments while choosing from a pool of recommended barbers filtered through a peer-evaluation system. They also have options to track their personal choice, expected to arrive within 30 minutes of a request, with the app’s GPS feature and take care of payments and tips straight from their cellular devices when the service is complete.
The goal for HausCall isn’t to compete with the barbershop, the founders note, but to make an impact on the market instead. “I think the first step is hiring men of color to be those barbers. A large portion of the money from each service goes back into their own pockets,” Winbush explains. “In the future, we have a lot of plans to work with brands like Bevel and to also work with men who were incarcerated and have trouble finding jobs to get them back on their feet.”
Set to debut in New York and Washington, D.C. this June with an Atlanta launch in mind for Fall 2018, crossing the finish line has been quite the balancing act for the trio of college friends since they got started four years ago. “Life happens. People get married or have kids or get new jobs and sometimes we have to switch our focus,” Chief Executive Officer Killian A. Lewis says. “I think it’s taken a while, but we always saw the vision and we wanted to really stay on track even if it was just a little bit each day or each month and finally, we’re here.”
With degrees in communications, transitioning to the world of technology required the team to learn something new every day. For Chief Technology Officer Crystal J. Allen-Washington, that meant leaving her job in advertising behind to get up to speed at the Iron Yard. “That was one of the challenges that we were facing throughout our first three years: not having a technical founder. People will shy away from giving money to a startup that isn’t able to speak [that language] so it was important for at least one of us to have that experience and that skill,” the wife and mother of one, who codes for up to 13 hours a day in bootcamp, expresses.
In the midst of her training, the disparity between men and women in tech is not lost on her either. “That’s something that I don’t see on a regular basis in the tech community: a lot of women of color making the decisions.” Just in time for HausCall’s launch, made possible with black-owned development company FIN Digital by their side, she will be a part of closing that gap.
With an “all hands on deck” approach to getting the job done while living apart (Lewis is based in New York, while Allen-Washington and Winbush are settled in Atlanta), the entrepreneurs are looking forward to expanding services for both men and women in the future after ensuring HausCall’s success through sheer teamwork.
“We really lean on each other,” Lewis describes. “One, because we’re friends. Two, because we know the other is super smart in whatever we’re doing and three, because all of us have the best interest of HausCall in mind.”
Learn more about HausCall here.