Introducing Mane Hook-Up – a platform to help find and book local afro hair stylists with ease. The company was founded by entrepreneur, Jade Phillips a few years ago after her family members moved to Bath, England and struggled to find hair stylists that catered for their hair needs. “There are so many talented stylists and salons out there and, in this digital age, we should be able to find them online with ease. That’s what Mane Hook-Up does — it allows you to find and book appointments with the best afro hairstylists in your area.”
“There are so many talented stylists and salons out there and, in this digital age, we should be able to find them online with ease.”
In this interview, we chat with Jade about creating a business that directly responds to the needs of black women all across the globe.
How did you develop the idea for Mane Hook-Up, and what motivated you to start up your brand?
Mane Hook-Up was created to solve a combination of problems that I’ve experienced as a young, black woman. After transitioning back to my natural hair four years ago, I found it painfully difficult to find an afro hairdresser beyond word of mouth. There was no way for me to find, filter through and compare any stylists (and Instagram just wasn’t cutting it). I also watched many of the women in my family struggle with the same issue – especially those who had moved out of London. My grandma, for example, moved to Bath in 2010, but for years she travelled back to London to get her hair done. Spending as much money on the coach fare as she did on her hair appointment.
I couldn’t comprehend that we live in a world where we all have access to the internet 24/7, have phones (that are basically mini-computers) in the palms of our hands, and yet there was no online source where I could easily find and book appointments with hairdressers who understood how to manage afro hair. After speaking to a few hairdressers, I found that with such a hands-on job, the act of finding new clients wasn’t easy either. There are a lot of stylists that don’t know where to start when it came to marketing, and those who do often don’t have time to follow it through.
So, instead of waiting for a solution to appear, I chose to create it.
In the simplest way, can you explain to us how Mane Hook-Up works?
Mane Hook-Up was created to help people on both sides of the chair. Anyone who wants to book an appointment has a chance to find local hairdressers who specialise in afro and curly hair. Instead of scrolling through Instagram, customers can enter their postcode, select a style, and get a list of local hairdressers to choose from. I’ve also partnered with sixteen black-owned hair and beauty businesses to create a member’s area of the platform where they can get discounts on quality products.
Hairdressers can also list their business on Mane Hook-Up and get exposure to people who are looking for their services, giving them a chance to find new clients with minimal effort. Beyond that, they have access to our booking tool to manage and keep track of all the appointments coming through.
What’s your career background and how did it help you with creating the brand?
I’ve been working in marketing for about eight years and spent the majority of my career at technology companies. My background played a huge role in my understanding of how to research, position, and build a platform, like Mane Hook-Up, that has a lot of moving parts.
My marketing career started at Nike, which was pretty eye-opening and helped me to understand how important it is to have a strong and compelling brand. That’s why both the name and visual identity mean so much to me – I wanted it to make people feel at home and be reflective of our culture. Everything from the print to the colour palette, font, and logo were pulled together to create a feeling of belonging. Especially as there is still so much to do to create equality in the hair industry. Afro hair isn’t celebrated or normalised and, in some instances, it isn’t even tolerated. So, creating a brand that both looked and felt like home, was everything.
“Mane Hook-Up was created to help people on both sides of the chair.”
What makes Mane Hook-Up stand out from other hair platforms created for black women?
Again, Mane Hook-Up stands out because it serves the women on both sides of the chair. Hairdressers are provided with a platform that allows them to manage their business and get exposure to the right kind of customers, and, unlike other platforms, we don’t take a commission for any appointments. It’s important to make sure we’re contributing to the financial success of the many black women who are leading the way in the hair and beauty industry. So, making sure that they keep as much of their earnings as possible is key and this is a core part of who we are as a business.
What would you say is your unique selling point?
We’re more than a directory or a booking platform; we’re here to redefine the experience of caring for afro hair. Mane Hook-Up provides people with everything that they need when it comes to afro and curly hair. The people, the products, and the information are all in one place.
How did you raise the funding for the business?
Mane Hook-Up is completely self-funded at the moment. Raising money is important and something that I will do and, as with all things, it’s about finding the right people and the right method. The people behind the scenes have a huge impact on how likely a business is to succeed so I want to make sure that, regardless of how we get funding, the people that invest in us truly believe we can deliver and will support us every step of the way.
So far, what have been your greatest obstacles in business – especially as a black woman – and how have you overcome them?
One of the things I really want to do with Mane Hook-Up is making sure that it’s created for black women and is predominantly run by black women. This plays a huge role in creating that authentic experience, as the people behind-the-scenes are trying to solve problems that they’ve experienced. While I’ve found some amazing black women to help with social media, content production and PR, it’s been a huge challenge to find black women in the technology space to develop and build the platform. My biggest challenge this year is to find a Technical Lead, who can help pave the way with me and continue to turn Mane Hook-Up into an exceptional online platform.
The technology industry is very white and male, which means that, while there are many black women in this space, they aren’t elevated anywhere near as much as they should be. This lack of visibility makes it so difficult for black women to find opportunities in the tech space and it makes it troublesome for people (like me) to find talented people who genuinely understand the problem that we’re solving. While I haven’t quite overcome this yet (as I’m still on the hunt!), I plan on changing this by supporting and uplifting black women at every opportunity. That way, I can be part of the solution by providing black women with the support and exposure that they deserve in the tech space.
What would you say to other hair entrepreneurs starting up a company or brand?
Speak to as many people as you can in the industry to learn from those who have been there and done it. Learn from other people’s mistakes and use their successes as blueprints that you can test out for yourself. Also, establishing relationships with people is just as important as building your product or service. When your business starts to achieve big things, you want the right people to be there supporting you and spreading the word, so establishing those relationships is key.