Two Longhorns Land a Life-Changing Opportunity with Target

When Ariel Lee got the chance to attend NextGen Summit, a three-day conference built for rising entrepreneurs in New York City, she jumped at the chance. It didn’t even matter that she had no place to stay in the city. “It was my first time in NYC,” she recalls. “I literally had no money and so I used an app to sleep on someone’s couch. My mom was so worried!” 

Despite the potential awkwardness, Lee, at the time a rising studio art senior, leaned into every opportune moment she could while at the conference; she networked with executives and brainstormed business ideas with attendees. She met a program manager from the national Target Incubator, a four-month program for early-stage startups looking to scale up. Lee took the manager’s contact info, and when she returned to campus in the fall to begin UT’s yearlong Product Prodigy Institute (PPI) course, the Target Incubator was in the back of her mind.  

Launched in 2019, PPI is a course within UT’s Division of Diversity and Community Engagement. Led by Ruben Cantu, BS ’05, MSTC ’09, its goal is to take a small cohort of students from under-represented and underserved populations and teach them leadership skills. “We need to have more diversity in the corporate workforce, specifically in the tech industry, which is the fastest growing industry,” Cantu says. “We’re training [students] so they can go into these companies and solve any type of problem because they have the skills. They learn design, start-up, and agile frameworks that help them learn how to build companies.”   

Lee, BA ’20, and her now-business partner D’azhane Cook, BBA ’20, entered the program with a desire to learn the ins and outs of business, but without a big idea for one. When Cantu encouraged students to think of a problem that a particular group of people were dealing with, Cook knew immediately what to focus on: Black women and their natural hair.  

Cook had spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to style her natural hair. Growing up, her mother relaxed her hair so it would be straight, but as Cook got older, she longed for the curls she saw in photos of herself as kid. So, she decided to stop getting relaxers and wear her natural hair texture, which eventually led to her shaving her head, a style she sports often now. “No one in my household had ever cared for natural hair, so the process was trial and error for me,” Cook recalls. “I would turn to YouTube videos but never understood why my results did not match the ones on the screen.”  

Cook’s trepidation about her hair continued in college. Mounting coursework, busy schedules, and having a social life meant there was little time to maintain her mane. She wasn’t alone in the struggle—she often heard from other Black women on campus about their natural hair experience and what was and wasn’t working for them.   

That’s what led her to develop Remane, an online, personally curated hair care site that offers users a regimen for maintaining their natural hair based on lifestyle, goals, and hair type. When Lee originally pitched the idea of Remane in the PPI, Cook was sold and the two became business partners.  

“Our goal is to provide a guide for people with kinky, curly hair that gets them excited for taking care of their hair,” Lee says. These guides will mostly consist of how-to videos and written step-by-step directions. “We know that when a woman is knowledgeable about her own hair and the product she is using, the feelings of anxiety, frustration, and insecurity lessen because they have an agency over their identity and what they’re doing.”   

Remane was created with their customer in mind and they plan to keep it that way. The women used a human-centered design approach to create their business. During creation, they gained more than 200 unique user insights, which has helped guide their product development and steer Remane into its current direction toward empowering women with natural hair.   

In May, Remane was accepted into the 2020  Target Incubator program cohort. Cook and Lee are gleaning all they can from mentors and experts they have access to through the program to prepare for an initial launch this fall. At the end of the program, they will participate in a final capstone event showcasing their business. Currently, their site is up and working and potential customers can sign up to be a part of their beta test program to help them refine their regimen builder. They are preparing three experiential online packages that will teach women how to grow, hydrate, and repair their hair. These packages will include how-to videos, written routines, and product recommendations that are simple for Remane users to follow.   

Both founders admit they applied to the incubator program on a whim but are elated that they were accepted. “We have access to some experienced and knowledgeable mentors and seasoned entrepreneurs, which we are very grateful for,” Cook says. “Having the opportunity to speak with subject matter experts and other founders who understand our experience is so great.”  

What excites these women most, however, is that this is only the beginning. Both graduated from UT in May and have big plans for where they want to take Remane next.   

“I hope people will come to our brand when they want to do something fun with their hair,” Cook says. “[We] hope Remane will be able to build a community of diverse and unique individuals who enjoy caring for their hair and showing up as their authentic selves without fear of judgment from others.”  

Illustration by Mia Charro


No comments

Be the first one to leave a comment.

Post a Comment