A roller coaster year for The Renatural
The backstory – The Renatural
She wasn’t a stylist, just an experimentalist.
Aged 10, Aasiyah Abdulsalam and her family, who are of Nigerian heritage, decided to move from the UK to Ireland. This was at a time when the country’s immigration policies changed, resulting in a wave of immigrants starting a new life in Ireland – but Black hairstylists were hard to come by.
This discovery later became Aasiyah’s good fortune. Fast-forward to today and you’ll find her at the helm of her own brand – The Renatural. At 25, she set about changing perceptions of wig accessories with her invention – The Wig Fix. It’s a medically-approved tool that keeps wigs in place, comfortably and safely, even when riding roller coasters.
After spending 10 years as a wig enthusiast I felt the beauty industry was experiencing so much innovation and the wig industry was being left behind.- Aasiyah Abdulsalam
Firstly, why wigs?
I grew up wearing wigs. Psoriasis would affect my scalp and my hair would fall out. I experimented with many different styles over the years and my mum and her friends would ask me for guidance on how to work with hair textures, such as afros. Throughout my teens and student years, I built up my skills naturally this way.
I then went onto writing my dissertation about wig manufacturing. I’m massively into research and I looked into the economics and history of wigs, from its globalisation to ethical standards. From that research, I realised there’d been very little innovation in the wig market since around the 1950s. No one was challenging the norm.
After spending 10 years as a wig enthusiast I felt the beauty industry was experiencing so much innovation and the wig industry was being left behind. Stylists and customers were super creative with DIY solutions but the products just didn’t cut the mustard.
I wanted to develop something different. Something that certainly wouldn’t use elastic bands and glue!
And that something different was The Wig Fix. How did you go on to soundboard and test your lightbulb idea?
From just being an idea on a piece of paper, The Wig Fix took around seven to eight months to develop.
I talked to so many people, friends and family to start with, and collated all of the responses in numerous Excel spreadsheets. I then spoke with focus groups of men, women and children above the age of 12, from all backgrounds. Black women; people who lost their hair through pregnancy, illness, or chemotherapy; trans women and non-binary people – they were all more than willing to get involved and provide insight.
I also spoke with design experts through my Uni alumni contacts to look at curves that would enhance the gripping ability of the silicone headband – it needed to look cute as well as do its job!
Overall, I believe we tested it with 118 people.
You weren’t a complete newbie to product development though were you?
No. After studying geography and then behavioural economics at the London School of Economics, I interned at a tech start-up business while running a sustainable clothing line called AleroJasmine. These were vibrant two-pieces that featured in Topshop stores and at Afropunk festivals. I guess that’s where my fascination with making things started.
It was actually my mentor from the tech start-up that ended up investing £20,000 to help me get The Renatural off the ground.
In your first year of launching, what successes are you most proud of?
In the first 12 months, we sold more than 40,000 units across the UK and US (thankfully we were using a fulfilment centre in both countries!) We’ve worked with some incredible celebrities too like Kehlani, Kahh Spence, Patricia Bright and Tokyo Stylez. Tokyo, who’s so respected in this niche, loved the product so much she shared a demo video on Instagram. That was an amazing moment.
In the first 12 months, we sold more than 40,000 units across the UK and US - thankfully we were using a fulfilment centre in both countries!- Aasiyah Abdulsalam
What’s the process been like for getting The Wig Fix patent-approved?
Patents are super-expensive to get and the process is long-drawn-out. That said, The Wig Fix is currently patent-pending and we’re nearly at the certified mark.
Who’s The Wig Fix customer?
More widely, the wig industry is made up of 60 percent Black female consumers between the ages of 16 and 65, an additional 20 percent are ‘in’ the wig industry or wearing wigs due to illness or medical conditions, and the other 20 percent are performers such as actors and drag queens.
From Jewish women who take pride in wearing their sheitel wigs, to women suffering from hair loss (due to chemotherapy, thyroid ailments, even pregnancy), our customers around the world find a renewed source of confidence due to wearing wigs.
A quick fact: there are over 100 illnesses for which you’re entitled to receive a wig paid for by the NHS. So many people undergoing chemotherapy use The Wig Fix, including one 46-year-old gentleman who purchased over 10 products. As one fix can last for years, we were intrigued as to why he’d bought so many. We got in touch and he told us he liked to keep a few in the fridge to keep his head cool throughout his treatment.
We also see a lot of people who wear hijabs purchasing The Wig Fix. They’ll often tag us in their videos on social media of how to secure them in place. We love seeing how our customers use our product for various applications, it’s really insightful and helps us inform future product decisions.
As an entrepreneur of your own business, have you been challenged, or had to challenge yourself?
The biggest challenge has been convincing people of the importance and prominence of wig wearing. People hold the belief that the wig industry is impenetrable and heavily monopolised.
While wig-wearing once experienced an uphill battle in beauty, it’s amazing to see its growth in popularity within mainstream celebrity culture today. The Kardashians, Jennifer Anniston – they’re fans of wigs, and Ariana Grande has been very open about wearing wigs too. She made a statement about her ‘broken hair’ which was a result of excessive bleaching for her role in American teen sitcom, Sam & Cat.
Singer Kehlani was one of our first customers. She was tweeting about wig security and I reached out with some info on The Wig Fix. When she bought one, I was so excited, but having this level of backing is really great for our industry and getting people on board with the product.
While challenge always presents itself, you’ve got to try and look for the positives every day, especially when you’re running a business. I genuinely believe our products are enriching lives.
I’m in my element when it comes to product development - I absolutely love it!- Aasiyah Abdulsalam
And finally, can you share any top-secret plans of what we’ll see from The Renatural next?
We’re launching a brand new product in the next few months. It’s currently in its testing stage and from then on, every six months, we’ll be bringing new products to market under The Renatural name.
I’m in my element when it comes to product development – I absolutely love it. We’ve just got tonnes of ideas for the next two to three years. You’ll see a theme emerging around natural living and wear-all-day-long, ergonomic products.
Watch this space!
James and James Fulfilment
It all began in 2010, when James Hyde and James Strachan couldn’t find a modern shipping service for the eCommerce business they ran. Faced with messy warehouses based on out-dated systems, they decided to build their own.
We’ve not stood still since, helping hundreds of online brands scale up – and scaling with them.
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