For her 21st birthday, Mary Imevbore, co-founder and CEO of Waeve, wanted what every college girl does for her special day: a party-worthy hairstyle. Wanting to switch up her style for the occasion while still protecting her natural hair, Imevbore began looking around for a quality wig only to face — as Black women have for decades now — how fundamentally broken and frustrating the wig-buying process is. Rather than accepting the indignity, Imevbore did what visionaries do, and set out to correct these systemic problems herself. Today, that vision comes to life with the launch of first-of-its-kind Waeve, a wig brand by Black women and for Black women that celebrates self-expression, individuality, and the freedom of choice.
Together with Imevbore’s co-founders and business partners Susana Hawken, and Tiiso McGinty, the Waeve ethos is all about restoring fun and joy to what should be an easy and seamless buying experience. Despite the Black community holding more than $1.4 trillion in annual buying power (with more than $2.5 billion of that designated to the Black hair care market alone), there are still significant barriers barring access to quality, reasonably priced wigs. Brick-and-mortar hair stores can be few and far between, and often notorious for racially profiling and harassing Black female customers. The digital alternative isn’t much better, either. Online, shoppers are regularly faced with anonymous companies providing little to no customer service or encryption security, difficulty assessing quality through the screen, and jacked-up prices, and exorbitant shipping times.
There’s a distinct and bitter irony in how time-consuming the process is, considering wigs are made to be easy and protective ways to cycle through styles and colors while saving the wearer from hours of expensive and time-dominating styling. “My co-founders and I had this shared vision of wanting to create something better that actually solved the problems Black women face,” Imevbore tells to TZR about the long, often painful hours spent in the styling chair. “We stand in the shower, arms aching from detangling sessions, seeing the disappointment of yet another failed twist out, or the trips to the store to stock up on the latest curly mousse trend. Waeve wigs free us and allow us to say, ‘Hey, I’m actually not going to do my hair today, because I can put on this wig and go.’” It’s this very literal reclamation of time, rooted in restoring joy and fun to hair, that’s at the heart of Waeve.
And Waeve is fun — that’s central in its DNA. The releases are structured like fashion drops to keep on the forefront of every hot trend, launching four collections of six of-the-moment wigs each year. You can think of the first drop, available today, as something of a starter pack. Appropriately titled the “Days of the Week” collection, the set features three synthetic wigs and three 100% human hair wigs to get users started. While you’re covered six days a week (Imevbore especially likes Tuesday and Wednesday — “I love the flipped ends and the side part and how soft the hair is,” she says of the latter. “It just gives luxury!”), you’ll notice Sunday doesn’t have a wig counterpart. Purposefully excluded, the blank space is a reminder for customers to embrace and love their natural hair. If you’re new to wigs, it’s no worries — Waeve thought of everything. Each wig comes complete with a tool kit to get started, and the Waeve website is full of how-tos and tutorials. At competitive prices ranging from $72-$398 based on material, Waeve wigs are firmly accessible to virtually everyone.
Filling this major gap in the market isn’t the only groundbreaking aspect of the business. When Waeve secured $2 million in seed funding, it marked the first time three Black women under 25 had pulled that high of an investment for a business catering to Black consumers. Imevbore didn’t have prior experience in the venture capital space before scoring the historic investment, but credits her time as a software engineer and B.A. in Computer Science and Political Science from Williams College for helping her land the deal. Her coding background also helped her navigate the business journey, she says, particularly with problem-solving. “There were many times along the journey that we didn’t know how to overcome a hurdle, but the coding background gave me the skills to break down a problem into its component parts and tackle it calmly,” Imevbore explains. “Coding also helped me to be comfortable with not knowing everything, and with not necessarily being the smartest person in the room, but learning to not let it intimidate me. That is important when you’re a young person starting a business and working with people who may have a lot more expertise on certain things.”
Even though all of Waeve’s co-founders are still young themselves, they’re dedicated to helping the next generation harness their own power and find success. A key component of its “Feel Good Hair” motto, Waeve donates 2%t of revenue to different causes each drop, all dedicated to advocating for and uplifting Black girls in every possible sphere. For Waeve’s launch, the brand picked a cause very close to home: Black Girls Code, a nonprofit introducing programming and technology to up-and-coming generations of coders. “By supporting this cause, more Black girls will be introduced to STEM and go on to found companies like Waeve in the future,” Imevbore says. The commitment is an important one to her, something she’s instilled in the company from its earliest days. “We want to make sure that our corporation is one that has good built into its DNA from the beginning — not just when convenient and not just in some distant future when we decide we can afford it.”
It’s the ultimate version of look-good-feel-good with one other very key component: do good.
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