Sephora-exclusive hair-care brand Adwoa Beauty has raised $4 million in its first funding round.
Founded in 2017, Adwoa Beauty has been self-funded until now. Announced on September 1, Pendulum, an investment and advising firm for founders and leaders of color, invested the full amount. Pendulum previously invested in Crown and Conquer, a creative ad agency, and Nickson, a furniture rental startup. With the additional capital, Adwoa Beauty will invest in new product development, increase hiring, and raise brand awareness and retail support.
Adwoa Beauty has been a Sephora-exclusive brand since Nov. 2019 and has 11 products. In the first half of 2022, the brand expanded to additional Sephora doors, reaching a total of 456 U.S. doors. Adwoa Beauty is also in 98 Sephora Canada locations. According to previous Glossy reporting, approximately 65% of Adwoa Beauty’s sales are from Sephora, with the remainder coming from its DTC e-commerce site. Adwoa Beauty grew its Sephora sales 200% year-over-year in 2021.
“I thought long and hard about funding. It wasn’t an overnight decision,” said Julian Addo, founder and CEO of Adwoa Beauty. “But ultimately, the industry needs to see a success story so we can pave the way for other people who look like me and want to go down the same path.”
On the Glossy Beauty podcast in March, Addo spoke about the brand’s early days and the difficulty in securing outside funding or a loan, despite the brand earning $1 million in sales in the first year of business. According to McKinsey & Company, only 1% of Black business owners get a bank loan in their first year of business, compared with 7% of white business owners. And The Washington Post found that only 1% of founders who have raised venture capital are Black; in 2018, 81% of VC firms didn’t have a single Black investor.
Over the last two years, hair care, specifically curly hair care, has become a bright light within the beauty sector. According to the latest NPD data on second-quarter beauty sales, hair continues to be the smallest yet fastest-growing category in beauty. In the second quarter, hair-care sales grew 24% year-over-year to $781 million. Innovation in the textured hair space has undoubtedly been a contributor. For example, Sephora now retails young indie brands like Bread Beauty Supply. Brands like Drunk Elephant and Function of Beauty have also introduced traditionally textured hair products like co-washes to their assortments.
“Julian [Addo] and her team at Adwoa Beauty have showcased robust growth as an initially self-funded, innovative brand that has now turned consumers into loyal devotees across the country,” said Ron Mackey, managing director at Pendulum. “With its differentiated and efficacious product offering and strong consumer demand propelling the broader prestige textured hair-care category, Adwoa Beauty is well-positioned for continued expansion.”
Addo said she wants to build brand awareness through influencers, user-generated content, and sampling within and beyond Sephora. Addo said Adwoa Beauty would expand beyond curly and coily hair care into other hair types, as well as body care and fragrance. Adwoa Beauty has a new hair-care product debuting in October for people with less dense curls.
Adwoa Beauty has busy on the hiring front. It brought on a director of product strategy and innovation in August, and is currently hiring for a Sephora-dedicated executive, a social media and marketing manager, and a warehouse manager. Addo said Adwoa Beauty has additional plans with Sephora in 2023 but declined to share details.
“Hair care, in general, will continue to be the focus, as there are additional opportunities outside of textured hair for innovation. We see a lot of people are interested in Adwoa Beauty but are concerned that it might be too heavy,” said Addo. “We don’t want to focus more on one side of the spectrum than the other; we want to offer an assortment for everyone.”