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More Natural Hair Businesses are Crowdfunding — But Not All Are Finding Success

Avatar • Oct 4, 2014

Crowdfunding is the new black. Almost every day, I receive another alert for a Gofundme, Indiegogo or Kickstarter campaign with people asking me to donate for anything and everything, from funding weddings to medical procedures, to business endeavors. Businesses are finding ways to capitalize off of these initiatives, which may not necessarily be a bad thing. In this day and age, it’s difficult to get a substantial loan, especially for small businesses. But is there a way to crowdfund efficiently and effectively?

CWK straight plates kickstarter

Companies may utilize crowdfunding for a number of reasons – to expand their inventory, grow staff, open a new store, or even get them out of debt. Earlier this year, there was a lot of buzz about the production of “CWK Straight Plates,” which promised nearly silky, straight hair without the use of heat, answering the prayers of many naturals. The project was successfully funded and backers are expected to receive their plates this fall in the first production run. 

puff cuff indiegogo

The owners of PuffCuff, an innovative hair tool that is NOT a banana clip, started an Indiegogo campaign to expand their inventory to various sizes of the PuffCuff, rather than produce it for the first time. They requested $3,700 from supporters in exchange for bundles with the new different sizes of the tool once funded. Unfortunately, the campaign did not meet its goal, but the original PuffCuff is still available for purchase.

afroveda gofundme

In a bold move, ayurveda-based line AfroVeda started a gofundme campaign in order to get their “business back on track.” At the time, there were several complaints on the AfroVeda Facebook page about customers not receiving orders, so it seemed that they needed the funds to buy ingredients for their products and fulfill back orders. The owner stated that she would need to come up with “$7,520 in loans and over due debts that must be paid by the end of the first full week in August in order to keep the business open.” This campaign seems to have been deleted from the gofundme site, and you can still place orders on the AfroVeda site, though several items are on 3–4 week backorder.

What made the “Straight Plates” campaign successful while the other two were not? Opinions regarding crowdfunding vary among consumers. Ultimately, it depends on the presentation of the cause or product. This determines whether people want to contribute or not. If there is a great need for a product or it looks like a game changers, people may be more likely to contribute as opposed to an updated version. I asked some of my curlfriends what they thought of crowdfunding, and the opinions were certainly different:

I don’t believe in donating money. To put it bluntly, you want me to give you money now to enable me to pay for product and give you money later. Ummm NO! I do believe in supporting, I do videos and advertise sales and new products on my FB sales page. I basically give loads of free advertising.”

It depends on how much money they need to raise, the circumstances behind it, and whether or not they’ve fallen on bad times before and whether or not it relates to how they handle (or don’t handle) their finances. It also depends on their customer service. You can’t be crappy to people, then turn around and ask for a handout. I’m a nice person, but I’m not a fool so don’t take me for one.”

Okay, so the “bad times” point is a big deal to me. I’m all for supporting businesses and helping them grow, especially black-owned businesses, but please, don’t expect customers to pull you out of your debt. We’re consumers, we are not a bank. I also take issue with companies who have not shown their business savvy in the past and depend on consumers to bail them out of their situation. There is a difference between expanding your business and keeping your business afloat.

Obviously, people will contribute if they believe in the company or the person, but make sure you know where your money is going. And that’s all there is to it.


Do you contribute to crowdsourcing campaigns? Do you think crowdfunding is an efficient business strategy?

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Jc
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I donated to the straight plates campaign because it was innovative and I want to promote genuine innovation. The production is delayed right now, but I am definitely hoping that all goes well and this product becomes a staple for heatless stretching. Just to say that it is not all smooth sailing as a backer, you are putting faith into the project and its management without really knowing if you will get your money (FYI: Some people requested and received refunds after the first delay for the straight plates and Kelechi who set up this fundraiser has been pretty straight… Read more »

Sandra
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Sandra

S, I was one of the unlucky customers who placed an order with the product , “Afroveda”. My first order took three months. I decided to give it another change, since I got a 50% coupon for the initial delay. My second order was placed in June, now it is October and I am still waiting for it. I am DONE with this vendor and the products. I want to support minority businesses but this is ridiculous. As a business owner, I would value each of my customers and would reach out to them to reassure them about the status… Read more »

Darlyn
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Darlyn

@Sandra, sorry to hear that. The owner of AfroVeda needs to realize that women with natural hair have so many options as far as natural hair products are concerned.

naturally Tee
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naturally Tee

wow never heard of them or their products in all the forums, youtube videos, blogs of natural hair I read maybe they should get better marketing which would result in more customers which equals more profit or maybe its to late now with all the bad reviews and press.

OHR
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OHR

This is the FIRST time I’ve heard about “Puff Cuff”, and I consider myself relatively informed on all things natural hair care! I intend to order one on Amazon. Thanks!

VJ
Guest
VJ

I recently bought a puff cuff thinking they would work better for my puffs. I was hoping they would make my puffs appear bigger since I am still in the “in between phase”. Unfortunately, I realized, after it arrived, that I am better off with a headband or a hairtie. It did nothing for my puff but give me bunny butt. Maybe I did it wrong, maybe my hair is too short, IDK. I am holding on to hope though! Maybe, in a few months, I will be able to use it as it was intended to be use. We… Read more »

Napturally Kia
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Napturally Kia

lol @ bunny butt. that’s so cute!

Jasmine
Guest

Hi VJ,

Sorry to hear you weren’t satisfied with your purchase. How long is your hair and what is your thickness and curl pattern? It is designed for longer, thick, coily hair, so we hope that our tool could give you the results you’d like. Can you do us a favor and try it on friend and let us know whether the style came out better for them.

Reach out to us directly via Twitter @thepuffcuff to let us know.

Best,
JP

Lydia Shoto
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Lydia Shoto

Afroveda had the nerve to ask unhappy customers who haven’t received their orders to give more money to help her get out of debt? Really?!?!? I met her last year. She was one of the first products I ever tried when I went natural six years ago. I was relatively new to natural products and my hair so I can’t attest to how good her product was, but I do remember not wanting to order again because she greatly increased her prices. I remember seeing a lot of naturals complaining on forums about that. Man… I know it sucks to… Read more »

Captain Curl
Guest

I think there are two main reasons not all natural hair businesses are doing well on crowdfunding sites: No quality indicators and no “tribe”. I love Kickstarter and I back projects all of the time, I even hope to launch my own natural hair business there someday. It’s really important that your project/campaign have quality indicators like a great video, high quality photos of your prototype, and no grammatical errors in the description. These things are signals to buyers that this idea is worth investing in. Another issue: No existing tribe. I think the days of just launching blind on… Read more »

Twinkle
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Twinkle

No I think it isn’t a good business move unless the idea is something innovative or important..and I don’t consider paying off debts as innovative lol but the puff cuff and hot plates are..they could really help some of our fellow naturals with their styling routine

Captain Curl
Guest

Agreed. I wonder how many great products we miss out because their creators didn’t know how to bring them to market! Of course, that applies to all products though, not just goodies for naturals.

sandy
Guest
sandy

The last time I ordered from Afroveda was last October. I received my order at the end of December, after calling numerous times and sending several e‑mails, which went unanswered. I received my order, only after I threatened to contact my credit card company. The sad thing is I loved her Shea Amla and Hemp Seed butters. The good news is that there are many products that work just as well for my hair.

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