Healthy hair and healthy living is the philosophy of the artisans of afro and curly hair, Big Hair. Their products are high-end natural haircare, for every afro and curly girl out there.
Meticulously formulated to love your locks and help you understand your hair type better, they want to be a part of your hair journey, no matter where you’re going. Here at Melan Mag, we caught up with founder and entrepreneur, Melissa Sinclair, who believes Big Hair is very much a way of life.
Melan Mag: Tell us a bit about your heritage, childhood and upbringing?
Melissa Sinclair: My family’s Jamaican on both sides, so I’d say that I had a very British Jamaican upbringing. My grandad lived with us until I was a teen, and my mum was first generation born in the UK, so there were definitely strong influences of both. I was the kid with fried chicken and hard dough bread instead of sandwiches on a school trip, but the very British kid when we visited Jamaica. It was nice to live between both worlds!
It’s funny looking back on my childhood now though, as I actually grew up around the hair business and never thought I’d end up here! We had a family owned hairdressers and barbershop which my mum ran, so I spent a lot of time there growing up. It was my first Saturday job too, I used to sweep hair and make tea for customers, then got promoted to answering the phone and taking bookings. Pretty sure the younger years were unpaid, but I’m grateful for the work ethic and unlimited free hairstyles!
MM: What drove you to create Big Hair?
MS: It happened organically. I big chopped and started living a healthier and more conscious lifestyle, so became curious about food ingredients and was subsequently horrified. Then I became obsessed with reading the labels on everything and just couldn’t put any of it on my hair, and the toxin free products I did find, didn’t work for me. So, Big Hair + Beauty was born.
MM: When did you spot a gap in the market?
MS: I registered the company back in 2012, but I actually spotted the gap in the market a couple of years before that in 2010 when I first big chopped and struggled to find suitable products. I was working in the corporate world at the time and wasn’t thinking about starting my own business.
MM: What makes your brand different from others?
MS: We’re rooted in wellness. We’re not just using natural ingredients, we’re connecting the dots and looking at hair and self holistically. That’s what our recent event ‘Big Hair Self Care’ was about. People might think, “what does yoga or meditation have to do with hair?” or that we’re just another beauty brand jumping on the wellness bandwagon. But it was very intentional and well thought out.
Black women and women of colour experience high levels of stress for various socioeconomic reasons. Stress affects a multitude of things, including our hair and skin, and in extreme cases can even lead to hairloss. So, we’re looking at all of these interconnecting things and basing our brand around that. I don’t think our competitors are making these connections or realising how important the bigger picture is!
Yes, we make amazing haircare that will have your curls and afro looking and feeling great. But we also want the whole woman to look and feel great too, and that makes Big Hair + Beauty a little different.
MM: What are your tips for women of colour wanting to start their own business?
MS: It’s so different for each business and each person, but the most important thing is do your research. Then research some more. And keep researching. The learning doesn’t stop once you launch. If anything, it accelerates.
Also, find your tribe. Find other business women who are starting out so you have a support system, and reach out to people who aren’t quite a start-up, but are further along than you, as the insight they can offer is amazing. Also reach out to experts in your field. You’d be surprised how many will be happy to give you advice, answer a few questions or even meet up for a coffee!
MM: What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced so far?
MS: Securing manufacturing, raising finance and retailers understanding the vision. The industry is forever evolving and we’re seeing a lot more representation, but I still feel that there’s a huge lack of understanding and misconceptions about what the black buying market want and need and the purpose and reasons why brands like us need to exist.
MM: What’s it like starting out as a new entrepreneur?
MS: It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I was months away from being a chartered surveyor working in the aviation sector before this, and that was easy in comparison, so that’s saying something. On the flip side, it’s also the most rewarding and fulfilling thing I’ve ever experienced. You can pretty much go through both of these emotions on a daily basis. Entrepreneurship is interesting to say the least.
MM: That all sounds very hectic. What do you do to relax?
MS: It really depends on my mood. I have a few self-care practices that I use to relax and wind down, but it depends on what kind of day I’ve had and what my soul needs. It could be cooking a nice meal and setting the table for myself, as there’s something therapeutic about cooking after a long day, or reading a book in my favourite chair, having a long soak in the bath listening to music. Some days relaxing might even be going all out at kick boxing and breaking a sweat!
MM: What is your passion outside Big Hair?
MS: I love learning new things! I spent years trying to find one passion or hobby to focus on, then realised that the passion was the learning itself. I like the excitement of something when it’s new and exploring it, whether it’s travel and visiting somewhere I’ve never been before, trying a new food or cuisine, joining an art class or learning guitar or beginner’s carpentry (I’ve tried them all in the past year) – I get really passionate about it all. I think we lose that passion for things as we grow up, because we’re conditioned to think we should pick one thing – one career, one focus, one thing at a time, otherwise we’re considered flaky or something negative – but I’m trying to reconnect with my inner child and find passion and joy in everything.
MM: Where do you see the business going in 5 years?
MS: Big plans. Bigger Hair. Big Moves.