By Mirianna la Grasta
A front-end developer later-turned-marketer, and now business owner, Rahel Tesfai founded FroHub in June 2018. The startup provides an online booking marketplace for black hair and beauty, and it aims to reshape, in the words of its founder, “the hugely fragmented, offline, and under-served black hair industry”.
A 2019 Google for Startups graduate, FroHub has the 5th UN Sustainable Development Goal at its core: it strives to empower women through technology, by allowing a traditionally-offline industry to move online. The startup is not exclusively a booking platform, but also a forum where black women can learn how to better take care of their hair, read blogs, watch tutorials and exchange ideas. FroHub was, as a matter of fact, initially born as an online community.
“I got tired of having to spend hours on Instagram or asking friends and family to help me find a trusted hairdresser that could do my type of hair; I’m sure they got tired of me asking too!” Rahel told TechRound.
Rahel opened the @frohub Instagram account in March 2017 to feature the work of local black hairstylists. The account soon had many followers asking for advice and guidance on where to find the nearest stylist: that’s when Rahel realised that FroHub could become the platform that her community was missing.
How Big Was The Gap In The Market For Such A Platform?
The average high street does not cater to black hair, nor do the major beauty booking platforms on the internet. My friends and family have even been turned away from hairdressers at various times too. The hairstyling skills are around, but we have to work harder to find them.
What Does Your Team Look Like?
We’re like an advert for United Colours of Benetton! Diversity in thought, as well as ethnicity, has definitely made us a stronger collective. Despite having different ethnic backgrounds, FroHub are lucky to have found people who share our work ethos, as well as our aim to build the feeling of community we champion, through support, unity and trust. These are the major reasons why I love working on FroHub: I’m driven by passion and purpose. What we’re working on has the potential to improve the lives of black women worldwide and that is an inspirational thought for me.
What Was FroHub’s Biggest Challenge? And Its Biggest Success?
As a young business, unsurprisingly, our biggest challenge so far has been Covid19. Hairstylists have been unable to operate, so we’ve had to temporarily disable bookings through our platform. The biggest success has also been on the back of this. While thinking of ways we could support our community and hairstylists during this difficult time, we found that there was a big demand for DIY hair tutorials. So we launched a series of at-home video tutorials for our users. We’ve also doubled down on community building, and we have seen it grow by 72% over the last two months.
How Can People Support Black-Owned Hair And Beauty Brands, Now And In The Future?
Just in the past two years, by attending as many black hair & beauty events and panels as humanly possible, I’m proud and have been privileged enough, to have met so many clever, talented and driven individuals who own a startup or an already-established brand. But a lot of them are not getting the love that the quality of their product deserves. FroHub have always aimed to champion these entrepreneurs on and offline, and will continue to do so in any way we can.
Today, we’re encouraging others to speak to, contact or use black-owned businesses wherever possible, write product reviews, research black-owned alternatives for the products you normally use, and listen to the story behind those brands – there are some truly inspirational people out there! Really champion our community wherever possible. Everyone can help black businesses gain a more equal footing and give them the opportunity to sit at the same table as the more established brands. A close, informed and supportive community can help give our entrepreneurs the courage and fortitude to make and take their seats.