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The launch of Fenty Beauty in 2017 marked a turning point for diversity within the beauty industry, as makeup brands were tasked with matching the new standards of Fenty’s foundation shade range of 40 colors. Brands like Revlon and Dior stepped up to the plate with more inclusive shade ranges. Meanwhile. a blank space remained in the beauty industry for brands catering to Afro-textured hair. Maeva Heim, founder and CEO of Bread Beauty Supply, a Black-owned hair-care brand catered to textured hair, aimed to fill this gap with Bread Beauty Supply.
Heim, an Australia native, worked within the beauty industry prior to launching Bread, so she experienced the lack of inclusivity in the hair-care sector from an insider’s perspective, as well as from the perspective of a Black female customer. “The brands that I was working on personally — and even the brands in the beauty industry, in general — weren’t speaking to me as a woman of color,” she said on the latest Glossy Beauty podcast.
Bread, which offers products including a scalp-serum, hair masks and oils for curl types 3a to 4c, came into fruition during the pandemic, in July of 2020. Since then, sales for the brand, which has a core customer who is “young in her career” and “on that cusp between Gen Z [and] millennial,” have tripled, said Heim.
Now, Bread Beauty Supply is available on both breadbeautysupply.com and sephora.com. According to Heim, she’s successfully created an indie brand that “resonates” with customers in a way “that a giant, multinational corporation can’t.” And, while Bread’s partnership with Sephora is set to continue, Heim aims to expand her brand in a bigger way.
“Our priority is existing where our customer wants us to exist, and we’re constantly refining what that looks like in the next 3-5 years, and where we need to go and exist internationally,” she said. “Because this issue and this gap exist not just in the U.S., but [also] in pretty much every Western market.”
Below are additional highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited for clarity.
The hidden market for textured hair
“Categories like makeup and skin care almost had this transformation and a bit of a renaissance, where it was the education around what you’re using and what you’re doing [were prioritized]… Whereas in hair, it’s been a little slower. And that’s probably partly to do with the fact that hair is personal. Everyone has different hair needs… And people don’t know enough about hair and why they do the things we do. We all use shampoo and conditioner without understanding the science of why. [Hair care] has been slow to catch up. And in textured hair, specifically, innovation has been slow to catch up. And resources have been slow to catch up to care about this customer enough for there to be investment in the space, and for investors and for the industry to see that these people are spending a lot of money on hair care. And you don’t typically see those dollars, because a lot of women with textured hair and a lot of Black women are shopping at independent beauty supply stores… It’s like a hidden spend; it’s a hidden market. There hasn’t been as much investor activity in the space until now. We’re in this phase now where it’s certainly going to grow, and you have brands like Pattern and so many others that are coming onto the scene. That, for us, it’s amazing. It puts a spotlight on the category and it puts a spotlight on this customer.”
On her journey to creating Bread
“I grew up in beauty, and my mom had a hair salon when I was growing up. So I’ve always been around hair. I then went on to have a career in beauty. I worked in marketing at L’Oréal, and I managed to work across pretty much every category within the beauty space except for hair… They [beauty brands] weren’t speaking to my friends and my peers who looked like me, and that was becoming increasingly frustrating. And it’s that scenario of, ‘Can you make change from within? Or do you have to go outside of what’s already established, in order to see the change that you want to see in the space that you’re operating in?’… I ended up leaving and knowing that I wanted to launch a brand and create a brand that would speak directly to the needs of women of color, and specifically Black women. But I had no idea what the brand was going to be… I happened to go on a trip to the United States, and I was in New York and I had a chemical hair straightening product in my suitcase, and I got on a flight from New York to Colorado. And when I arrived in Colorado, I opened up my suitcase and this relaxer had basically exploded all over my stuff. And I didn’t have access to get another one at the time, because [we] were in the middle of nowhere. And I made a decision in that moment that I was going to stop using this chemical hair straightening product, which was something I had done for 20-plus years since I was six or seven years old — something that a lot of women with my texture of hair do. And that was the beginnings of my journey to creating Bread.”
The two parts of the digital
“Digital is two things for us. One, it’s about fostering community and helping people to buy into the brand beyond the products that we’re selling. And it does give us that direct connection to our community, and what she’s saying about us and how she’s using us. And like any brand, that’s super powerful for us. But then the second is creating this pathway to product that’s easy for people, once they’ve discovered us at Sephora. What we’ve found is that…Sephora becomes a significant channel for people to discover your brand. And for us, our strategy has to take that into account. It is a significant portion of our business, and we take that seriously. We don’t look at our e-commerce as one channel and Sephora as another channel; it is all completely integrated. Everything we do is integrated. When we spend, it’s integrated. The results that we see are integrated. People who find us in Sephora are speaking to us online on our own channels, and vice versa. What we found when we’re following people down their path to purchase is that they’ll make the purchasing decision in whatever channel makes the most sense for them at any given time.”