A new Black-owned and led startup named Fyyne has set out to address the difficulty of finding barbers and hairstylists offering services for Black hair.
To support its growth, the Toronto-based beauty tech company raised an undisclosed amount of pre-seed funding from Canada’s BKR Capital (formerly known as Black Innovation Capital) and United States (US) investors in October. Today marks the public launch of Fyyne’s platform in Canada and the US.
“We are helping to formalize what has been a historically informal industry.”
In an interview with BetaKit, Fyyne co-founder and CEO Jeffrey Fasegha spoke about how tough it is to find barbers and hairstylists capable of cutting Black hair, which he knows from personal experience. This process is especially difficult in small-town Canada, where some have to drive hours to access care.
Fasegha co-founded Fyyne with former University of Toronto classmates Olugbenga Olubanjo and Al-Ameen Ogundiran to help make this process easier through its newly launched app—while also helping Black barbers and hairstylists market and commercialize their skills.
“This is the result of years of talking to [hair] artists, understanding the problem, and personally facing the problem,” said Fasegha.
Fyyne aims to simplify the beauty service booking process “from discovery to payment.” The startup offers an app that allows users to search for, book and pay for hairstyling services. The startup’s mobile-first platform also enables ‘hair artists’ like hairstylists and barbers to commercialize their skills.
“We are helping to formalize what has been a historically informal industry,” said Fasegha. “This will help many people from our community grow their business and build generational wealth.”
Fyyne’s launch follows the success of New York-based Squire, a Black-led startup providing barbershop operations software, and grew its valuation from $75 million USD to $750 million in just over a year during the pandemic. Fasegha declined to disclose the amount Fyyne raised through the round, citing this environment and adding, “we don’t want to undersell ourselves.”
For Fasegha, it all started when he couldn’t get a haircut. At the age of 15, Fasegha moved away from his home in Calgary to pursue a career in hockey. Each time he moved to a new town, he had to scour the city for barbers who could cut his hair, only to repeatedly discover that there were few to no barbers offering services for Black hair in rural communities.
“When I moved to Toronto for university, I was literally stopping people on the street to ask them where they got their hair done,” said Fasegha. “It took me a really long time to find a reliable barber.”
What makes Fyyne special is its potential to disrupt the Black hair care experience in Canada. For those living where Black populations are relatively small, the experience of accessing Black hair care is largely based on word of mouth. In fact, many Black Canadians, and particularly Black women, have grown accustomed to travelling several hours and long distances to find someone with the knowledge and experience to care for their hair.
There is also a larger historical issue at play here—Black hair care is typically excluded from the curriculum of beauty schools. This comes despite the fact that, according to a 2018 Nielsen report, Black consumers reportedly spend much more on hair and beauty care than other demographics.
Given this, many of the best stylists for Black hair are self-taught, and aren’t found in the salons that typically cater to straight or untextured hair. As a result, the Black hair care industry relies heavily on community referrals, which are now supplemented by social media.
Fyyne seeks to leverage this community dialogue by bringing those same word-of-mouth referrals to a digital space, with the hope of giving hair artists and customers access to each other beyond their own personal networks.
“Through having conversations with a lot of barbers, braiders, and artists, we discovered the structural and systemic barriers that are limiting their growth,” said Fasegha. “People spend 3-plus hours looking on Instagram to find hair artists, and artists spend several hours responding to Instagram DMs, Facebook messages, phone calls, text messages, etc.”
Although Fyyne’s app was inspired by its founders’ difficulty accessing Black hair care services, since most Black hair artists service all hair textures, the company hopes to use the app’s reach to bolster the portfolios of these artists to any demographic seeking hair care.
Fyyne’s launch follows a particularly difficult period for Canada’s hairstylists and barbers, which have been hit hard by COVID-19 shutdowns.
Fyyne initially released its MVP in February 2020, before scaling back due to the pandemic. In the time since then, its co-founders have focused on testing and improving their product, before launching its private beta in fall 2021.
“We’re building all the tools that the [hair] artist needs to run their business.”
In addition to Fyyne, there are a couple of other Canadian tech companies that have targeted the hair care market in recent years, including Halifax-based Cribcut (now Bright), which previously offered an online hairdressing platform, but shifted its focus to workplace well-being in summer 2020 during the pandemic.
The space also features Saskatoon’s SalonScale, which has developed a solution that weighs, charges, and tracks for the exact amount of hair dye colour used in hair salons.
To start, Fyyne plans to focus on hair, which Fasegha described as “a huge market on its own.” Nonetheless, the CEO said Fyyne also sees some opportunity in potentially expanding into other segments of the beauty care industry down the road, “where people face very similar issues, very similar challenges.”
To fuel its growth, Fyyne is offering free membership to all new hair artists. Fyyne plans to take a small transaction fee from payments made through its platform, and intends to eventually roll out its app to hair artists on a subscription basis.
Fasegha claims that the startup already has several other products and features planned.
“We’re building all the tools that the [hair] artist needs to run their business and deliver their business,” said Fasegha. “We’re starting with the scheduling and the actual transaction experience, but we’re gonna quickly grow from that. There’s a lot of things that go into actually getting your hair done.”