Rachael Corson and Joycelyn Mate
Rachael and Joycelyn are the two incredible founders of black-owned, haircare brand, Afrocenchix. The brand was an idea that came to the duo when they first met in university. They shared similar frustrations trying to find products that would work for afro hair—it came to a dead end. Luckily for the bright-eyed students, they set out to create natural hair care products for all hair types, especially afro hair. After being awarded for ‘Ethical and Sustainable Business Innovation’ from the University of Birmingham in 2010 and the Bright Ideas Award from UCL in 2015, they were voted BBFA Best Natural Hair Brand in 2018! Wild journey, right? We’re so proud of Rachael and Joycelyn for pushing boundaries and creating products that truly cater to all the curls, kinks and coils of the world. Moisturising one curl at a time.
1. How did you come up with the name ‘Afrocenchix’?
Rachael: I was just messing around with words.
Joycelyn: I actually didn’t like it but couldn’t come up with anything better!
Rachael: Plus the domain was £1. The name plays on words we felt were relevant to us and our identity at the time. Afrocentric. Afro. Eccentric. Chix for us two ‘chicks” young black women doing something unexpected and unconventional. Afro hair has always been seen as unconventional and odd in society. The name is a political statement if you will, to show that black women are here and there is a market for us and we deserve safe products formulated just for our hair types. That’s what we do at Afrocenchix.
2. If you went back in time and had never stepped foot in the haircare industry at all, what would you be doing now?
Joycelyn: I never planned to start a business!
Rachael: I wanted to be a human rights lawyer, an international journalist, a bioethicist, lecturer or a sci-fi writer. Never even considered hair care. I studied Law then did a masters in Medical Anthropology. I’m not even good at doing hair!
Joycelyn: I studied Sociology and had a few career ideas but now we can’t imagine a life where we aren’t in Haircare. Afrocenchix was born from a shared sense of frustration and disappointment at the lack of hair care products for Afro hair that were natural and safe for us to use. Our brand was created out of necessity. Out of a need to be represented and be a representation of a whole group that was often forgotten about.
Rachael: I think this frustration would resonate in whatever parrel universe we would be in if we didn’t step into hair care.
3. What is the hardest part of running your own business?
Rachael: Transitions and uncertainties. 9 years ago, Joycelyn and I registered Afrocenchix as a company, from being teenage entrepreneurs we officially became business owners.
A year later In 2012 after launching a second product range, we discovered that the legislation around making products was about to change. If we wanted to continue making products we would have to spend thousands on better equipment, costly scientific assessments and start from scratch to ensure our paperwork and products complied with legislation.
This legislation completely derailed our mission and we stopped trading for months, working non-stop on prototyping new products and finding the right scientists to work with. There is nothing that can really prepare you for things like legal changes or personal difficulties faced by members of your team and that’s what I think is the hardest part of running Afrocenchix: the uncertainty. I like to plan and know what’s happening!
Joycelyn: Living a balanced life. Don’t get me wrong this is very possible but often as a small business owner, I find that I’m running the business even after work hours. Rachael and I both started Afrocenchix with a mission in mind; to give black women access to safe and effective products. It’s important that Rae and I share this vision because we trust each other and are able to effectively delegate work between ourselves and our team so we can balance time between work and family.
It’s not always easy delegating time but we make sure we are accountable for each other in terms of taking breaks and not always taking work home.
4. Which piece in the Nubian Skin collection resonates the most?
Joycelyn: For a very long time Black women in professional roles had to settle for black tights whenever they were going to meetings or giving presentations. We have never been awarded the pleasures of wearing tights that were the same skin-tone as us in comparison to other women in the same professions and this is why we think Nubian Skin is amazing.
5. After receiving a ton of support from your audience and gaining funding from investors, such as WeWork, what is the biggest lesson you both have learned from looking for and successfully attaining funding?
Rachael: We have found that it is not just a product you’re selling but the story too. For many people that support us and for the investors that have funded us, it’s always been the story and our traction that they’ve bought into! They know and believe that at Afrocenchix it’s not just about making products, we are also invested in health and wellbeing, sharing experiences and building a legacy within our community.
Joycelyn; If you are not passionate about your products no one else will buy into your product.
6. What does representation mean to you?
Joycelyn: Representation means everything to us. It’s been the driving force behind why we started Afrocenchix, how we run our business and the values we align ourselves with. It’s always been about black and mixed heritage women with afro hair and even without, seeing examples of themselves in the beauty industry and in a positive light.
Rachael: Two weeks ago we had a Mummy & Me event with Hannah Lee and Jamelia, my children came too. At the event we read Hannah Lee’s book “My Hair” which is an incredible story in itself, Hannah is only 23 and she won a new writers voice competition and got published by Faber and Faber. That’s huge for the culture.
To me representation is my children knowing there is a possibility of being themselves and existing unapologetically. They can take up space without having to defend or justify their daily life in the way that I have had to.
Joycelyn: To me it’s seeing dark-skinned Black women and WOC with natural afro hair embracing their hair in a way that’s never been socially accepted before.
It’s my niece seeing me breaking barriers and glass ceilings and knowing she can too.
Afrocenchix . / . @afrocenchix