We had the good fortune of connecting with Abenaa Brew and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Abenaa, how did you come up with the idea for your business?
My initial plan wasn’t to start a business. I decided to stop chemically treating my hair & needed hair care products that would aid in my regular hair care routine.
The 1st time I got a relaxer I was 13 years old, so after 20 years of chemically straightening my hair I had no idea what my natural curl pattern(s) was.
Instead of doing the big chop, I transitioned from relaxed to natural hair. The more my natural hair grew in, the less the “natural” products I started purchasing worked. This pushed me to start making products.
Being a Biology major at Hampton University, I was accustomed to conducting research. That’s what being a science major is all about. Working in the cosmetic industry for 10 years, I had experience as a formulator. I coupled the two & began making hair care products for myself. Of course there was a trial & error period, but out of that came shampoos, conditioners & hair moisturizers that not only helped with styling but aided in restoring the health my hair lacked from years of chemical processing & excessive heating tools.
Friends & family members noticed the change in the health of my hair. They also noticed the plain white bottles I would bring on vacation & questioned what I was using. Once they tried the products & realized their hair also felt softer but also stronger & more manageable, they encouraged me to sell what I had been “brewing”. This encouragement pushed me to start Hair Brew.
I never say myself as a salesperson. I hated selling candy for fundraisers as a child. It’s important to always be open to what the universe has in store for you as well as have people around you that are an inspiring supprt system.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Hair Brew is all about improving the health of hair, skin & beard care. For too long products in the personal care division solely focused on style & not the health of these three things, especially for people of color. Textured hair was not being studied the way straighter hair was so there weren’t many quality products in that sector. What sets Hair Brew apart from many others is the fact that I come from a science background. I’m not a person who started mixing ingredients in my kitchen or a person with a business background who saw an opportunity to flex my salesperson or marketing skills. I actually took the time & did the research necessary to find ingredients that would restore moisture & soothe skin conditions like eczema. I formulated products for myself, not realizing how many people were like me, in need of products that really worked.
Of course it wasn’t easy. I didn’t have a business background so I literally had on the job training. From marketing to promotion to web design & SEO management. I also had to learn that I can’t do everything & it’s ok to ask for help (which I’m not the best at). I’ve been fortunate to have a support system of people who have multiple skill sets & want to see me win, so they offer their help whenever I need it. I’ve also learned how to balance being a business owner with being a full-time employee & having a social life. It’s important to remain well rounded to avoid burn out. Also, staying focused on why I started Hair Brew so I don’t lose my passion for it.
When people think of Hair Brew, I want them to instantly think of Abenaa Brew. The young woman who didn’t allow fear or not having the right connections or a business background deter her from starting a product line. A product line that truly answered the customer’s needs.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I live close to NYC which is the mecca of all things fun. I have an affinity for Harlem because it’s my 2nd home, but also because of the food, culture & history. Lenox & 8th Aves are some of my favorite spots. You can walk up & down both & fall into something great. From brunch to dinner to nighttime partying.
Being a science nerd, I love the museum of Natural History but MoMA & the Guggenheim are among my favorites as well. There’s nothing like NYC museums.
Next up is the Village. From restaurants to bars, there’s always a place to grab a delicious meal & drinks & the people watching is like none other.
Last but not least, Brooklyn. Brooklyn offers food, music, sights & fun. There are so many diverse small businesses in Brooklyn so shopping is always a good time. Having African & Caribbean roots, I love going to Brooklyn. Due to the large Caribbean population youre bound to finds some of the best Caribbean food you’ve ever tasted. It’s also a place where you’re bound to bump into someone famous.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My parents, Norman & Carol Brew.
Linkedin: Abenaa Brew
Antoine Smith (photographer)