Sephora-exclusive Adwoa Beauty hair care raises $4 million in funding

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Sephora-exclusive haircare brand Adwoa Beauty raised $4 million in its first round of funding.

Founded in 2017, Adwoa Beauty has been self-funded until now. Announced on September 1, Pendulum, an investment and advisory firm for founders and leaders of color, invested the full amount. Pendulum previously invested in Crown and Conquer, a creative advertising agency, and Nickson, a furniture rental startup. With the additional capital, Adwoa Beauty will invest in new product development, increase hiring, and increase brand awareness and retailer support.

Adwoa Beauty has been an exclusive brand of Sephora since November 2019 and has 11 products. In the first half of 2022, the brand expanded to additional Sephora doors, reaching a total of 456 US doors. Adwoa Beauty is also present in 98 Sephora Canada branches. According to previous reports from Glossy, around 65% of Adwoa Beauty’s sales come from Sephora, with the rest coming from its e-commerce site DTC. Adwoa Beauty increased its Sephora sales by 200% year over year in 2021.

“I thought long and hard about funding. It was not an overnight decision,” said Julian Addo, Founder and CEO of Adwoa Beauty. “But ultimately the industry needs to see a success story so we can pave the way for other people who look like me and want to follow the same path.”

On the Glossy Beauty podcast in March, Addo talked about the brand’s early days and how difficult it was to get outside funding or a loan, despite the brand making $1 million in sales in the first year of business. . According to McKinsey & Company, only 1% of black business owners get a bank loan in their first year of business, compared to 7% of white business owners. And the Washington Post found that only 1% of founders who raised venture capital are black; in 2018, 81% of venture capital firms did not have a single black investor.

Over the past two years, hair care, especially curly hair care, has become a shining light in the beauty industry. According to the NPD’s latest second-quarter beauty product sales data, hair continues to be the smallest but fastest growing beauty product category. In the second quarter, hair care sales increased 24% year-on-year to $781 million. Innovation in the textured hair space has undoubtedly been a contributor. For example, Sephora now sells young independent brands like Bread Beauty Supply. Brands like Drunk Elephant and Function of Beauty have also introduced traditionally textured hair products like co-washes into their assortments.

“Julian [Addo] and his team at Adwoa Beauty have shown robust growth as an initially self-funded, innovative brand that has now turned consumers into loyal followers across the country,” said Ron Mackey, Managing Director of Pendulum. “With its differentiated and effective product offering and strong consumer demand propelling the broader premium textured haircare category, Adwoa Beauty is well positioned for continued expansion.”

Addo said she wanted to build brand awareness through influencers, user-generated content and sampling within and beyond Sephora. Addo said Adwoa Beauty will expand beyond curly and frizzy hair care to other hair types, as well as body care and fragrances. Adwoa Beauty launched a new hair care product in October for people with less dense curls.

Adwoa Beauty is busy on the hiring front. It hired a director of product strategy and innovation in August and is currently recruiting a dedicated Sephora executive, a social media and marketing manager, and a warehouse manager. Addo said Adwoa Beauty has additional plans with Sephora in 2023, but declined to share details.

“Haircare, in general, will continue to be a focus as there are other opportunities for innovation outside of textured hair. We see a lot of people are interested in Adwoa Beauty, but fear that it’s not too heavy,” Addo said. “We don’t want to focus more on one side of the spectrum than the other; we want to offer an assortment for everyone.

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