December 05, 2019
Tapping into the black pound
By: Accenture UK

Joycelyn Mate at work

Every year, businesses are missing out on billions of pounds worth of revenue.

What’s going wrong?
Where’s the untapped market?
What can be done?

The “black pound” was being left on the table. ‘Last year, something like £24 billion was left on the table in the UK by companies not engaging with black communities’, explains Andrew Pearce, Head of Accenture’s African Caribbean Network. ‘Black communities won’t spend their money with companies who don’t address issues that are important to them. Or, even worse, alienate them’.

Take beauty brands, for example. For decades, some of the biggest beauty brands out there have left out black and mixed heritage women. Whether it’s through a lack of afro hair care products or limited foundation shades, a huge section of the market simply hasn’t been catered to.

Not anymore. Change is underway, and Joycelyn Mate is at the forefront of it.

Joycelyn and Rachael Corson are the brains behind Afrocenchix, a safe and natural range of products for afro hair. Today, their products sell out at hair shows and can be found in retailers up and down the country.

But that wasn’t always the plan. Joycelyn didn’t always see herself selling her products and starting a business.

“The idea wasn’t just to create a 100% bio brand. The idea was to totally redefine beauty and challenge the politics around black and mixed heritage women’s hair.”

It all started when they were at university. ‘Afrocenchix was born out of frustration at the lack of hair care products for afro hair that were natural and safe’, says Joycelyn ‘I suffered from alopecia, so I used to mix together some natural oils to fix it. One day, Rachael, who suffers from skin allergies, used the oils on her skin and discovered that she didn’t react to them. After that, she practically forced me to start a business selling my oils’.

Joycelyn Mate at Afrocenchix

They knew there must be other women out there that shared their frustration. And they weren’t wrong. Afrocenchix’s big break came when they completely sold out of oils at a hair show. From there, everything went uphill.

‘I remember being in our university accommodation trying to study while making oils and taking orders to the post office. We had so many requests that we couldn’t keep up’, says Joycelyn. Fast forward to today and Afrocenchix has been voted Best Natural Hair Brand and is the first afro hair range to be stocked in Whole Foods UK.

It wouldn’t have been possible without their customers’ support. From giving product feedback to telling their friends, it’s the customers who have proved to be Afrocenchix’s biggest support system.

This is something Andrew Pearce has started to see businesses tailor to. ‘Being an entrepreneur isn’t about you, it’s about the people you’re serving’, he says, ‘and because they’ve had that passion to make a difference, they’ve drawn from the black and mixed heritage community. The community itself has helped to support them. And in doing so, has given them a strong start’.

Not only has Afrocenchix well and truly tapped into the “black pound”, they’re redefining what it means to be black and beautiful. ‘The idea was to create a natural and organic brand that completely redefines beauty and challenges the politics around black and mixed heritage women’s hair. We educate them through blogs, keep the conversation on black hair going and put on events to give women a space to share their stories. We’re working hard to make their natural hair journey nice and easy’, Joycelyn explains.

“It’s my niece seeing me breaking barriers and glass ceilings and, knowing she can too.”

‘To me, it’s seeing black women embracing their natural afro hair in a way that’s never been socially accepted before. It’s seeing black women and children in the beauty industry in a positive light. It’s my niece seeing me breaking barriers and glass ceilings and knowing she can too’.

Joycelyn’s top tips for budding black entrepreneurs:

  1. Invest in your network – be it with investors or customers, mutually-beneficial networks have been essential to Afrocenchix’s success.
  2. Listen to the experts – whether it’s podcasts or expert speakers, pay attention to what leaders in your industry are saying.
  3. Read, read and read some more – when I started out, I didn’t know how to run a business. But I learnt so much from reading business books. We even have an office bookshop to make sure we’re always reading and sharing our learning.

Copyright © 2019 Accenture. All rights reserved

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