In conjunction with our launch of BAUCE HAUS, we interviewed black-owned businesses that supported our vision of creating a space where women of color could see their future self-made selves. Continue reading to learn more about Aisha Shannon-Bates, the founder behind Coil Beauty, an online platform that makes it easier (and fun!) for people of color to browse, shop and find beauty products targeted towards them.
What inspired you to start Coil Beauty?
Aisha: I started Coil Beauty after visiting my best friend and COO who was living abroad at the time — she had mastered her naturally curly hair. I figured if she could get her coils to flourish in a foreign country I could certainly do it living in Chicago. This task was proven much harder than I initially thought as I became an accidental product junkie from trying anything.
One day when I went into my local beauty supply store to find a conditioner that I loved the employee dismissed my inquiry on where to find the conditioner and offered me a weave. I was so frustrated with the treatment in the local store and also with some of the big brand beauty stores because they had not yet started carrying products for people of color so at that moment I decided I’m going to start a beauty store that caters to people of color.
Did it cost you a lot of money to get started? What were your startup business costs and expenses?
Aisha: We chose to build everything custom from the ground up — from our band to our website. That dictated a lot of our spend and meant that we spent more money up front compared to most who use out of the box websites. In addition to these expenses, we had to cover city and state licenses, products, photography and packaging materials.
What differentiates Coil Beauty from other online black beauty marketplaces or subscription boxes?
Aisha: Our community. We love engaging and speaking with our customers. Our customers provide our reviews and contribute to blogs while also engaging via email in regard to products they are “crushing on” and want to see on our site. We interact with them directly at pop-up shops and festivals while also engaging with them on social media with our favorite beauty bloggers. Coil Beauty is creating a community around beauty for people of color which is something that has never been done before.
How do you go about selecting which products should be sold on Coil Beauty? Can anyone make the cut?
Aisha: We select our products based on several criteria the primary one being that it is made by a person of color or with a person of color in mind. We do this because as a person of color you better understand our needs; they do not have to research what certain terms mean. They know this because this is a part of their lives as well. The other criteria we look for is packaging because we spent a lot of time and money on our site; we want to offer our customers products that reflect that attention to detail. Lastly, we look for clean ingredients; with so many products on the market with links to cancer or other diseases we want the products we sell and use to be free of harmful chemicals.
What are your biggest challenges in running an online business? How are you seeking to overcome them?
Aisha: Shipping is our biggest challenge primarily because we have no control over what happens to a package when it leaves our offices. We have had to change our boxes to ensure things don’t break in transit and also what types of insulation we use to pack the products. Everything is trial and error and we are constantly working behind the scenes to make sure we are offering the most competitive shipping rates and most secure packaging.
Another challenge we face is big box online brands. Amazon and Target, although they do not prioritize African Americans as valuable customers, they have an extremely large footprint and the mechanism to reach so many customers and ship quickly and cheaply. It’s hard to compete with that, so we focused on our customer service and our branding and unapologetically focus on African American men and women as our main customers.
How are you looking to expand or grow your platform? Are there any upcoming projects or campaigns that you are looking to highlight?
We are looking to expand our platform by bringing on new product offerings and we are planning to open a brick and mortar store in the future. We do have a campaign we are very excited about that will be launching in July that will have some fun sales it’s called the “Coil Clock” and we will be offering these sales weekly with more exclusive deals going to our “Coil Crew” which consists of anyone on our mailing list.