After experiencing an unbearable itchy scalp, Sherrel Sampson decided to formulate a solution. The solution was Canviiy, which took over a year and a half to create. Canviiy offers a collection of products that promote healthy scalp care and is a go-to product for people all over the country and now it can be found on the shelves of Target stores.
Since the inception of Canviiy, Sampson has fully funded the company as the CEO and she has been strategic about building her business.
“We’ve had to really bootstrap the entire way. And ultimately, be very lean and conservative with how we spend our dollars. A lot of those decisions have led to our success, which meant that it gave us the ability to prioritize what was really important. It also is the ability to make quick shifts and pivots along the way,” said Sampson.
As the founder and funder of Canviiy, landing a deal with Target is a dream come true for Sampson.
“To walk into the store to see our brand feels phenomenal! I’ve walked through the aisles and have said to myself, ‘I can’t wait to see Canviiy here.'”
Sampson also says that being on the shelves is telling of the times for black entrepreneurs in the beauty industry.
“We are on the shelves of Target, but, I don’t have an investor. I don’t have a big brand partner with me. This is truly blood, sweat and tears right, brought forward. And so, bigger national multinational brands have no other choice but to respect it, to acknowledge it, and ultimately mimic it. We’ve seen a series of brands recently launched scalp care. All of that combined is definitely showcasing that the black entrepreneur is being respected and they’re being thanked to a degree for the innovation that they’re bringing to the marketplace.”
In the beauty industry, customer and influence go hand-in-hand. As well as being able to convert sales. At one point, Sampson thought that Canviiy would be a go-to brand for younger women, but after much customer analysis, she learned that her brand was for established women who would invest in high-end products.
“What we later learned is that our demographic was in their late 20s and early 50s. These are professional women that care about ingredients, the products that they have, the performance of the product, which is important, and they have the disposable income to actually pay for premium haircare scalp care products.”
Relationships are invaluable
Sampson said that in learning that information Canviiy was able to better understand who the company serves as well as how to target customers. Forming partnerships has also been key for Sampson as she grows her business.
“We have relationships with Moffitt Cancer Center, which is amazing as a small black-owned business. We also have relationships with airport concessionaires. Canviiy started at a farmers market in Tampa. And at that farmer’s market, that’s where we met one of the top physicians at Moffitt Cancer Center. She said, ‘This is unique. And I actually think we have a need in our organization for this type of product.’ They were looking for natural alternatives to what they were giving patients as they go through their cancer treatment. They [patients] have new growth, scalp irritation especially when they’re hair starts to fall out, and it’s [their scalp] is sore,” said Sampson.
As a beauty founder, Sampson prides Canviiy on using natural and botanical ingredients that promote wellbeing.
“It is an amazing process to conceptualize something and then see it come to life. I work with some really great organic chemists. From the jump, we have the necessary knowledge to make sure that we don’t have five and 10 iterations of a product. That’s the power of having that knowledge and having that expertise in house and working together.”
While many products for women of color are made with harsh toxins, Sampson is committed to making sure that her products aren’t harmful.
“I think companies have to be responsible and go the extra mile in doing research to see what are the effects of the ingredients that they are putting in products. For me, being a woman of color, being a woman that is very conscious of what ingredients can do to the body, we go over and beyond to understand the synthesis of our formulas. And more importantly, we go over and beyond to make sure they’re safe.”
Business lessons from the top
Sampson is a confident leader who says that having an intimate understanding of the business side of the industry keeps her at the top of her game. “If you don’t, you’ll be taken advantage of. And especially being a woman in the beauty industry. Even though there are women in it, it is predominantly run by men, especially on the contract manufacturing side. And when they sniff out that you aren’t as savvy, they’re going to take advantage of you. Meaning, the prices they’re going to offer is going to be higher. They’re going to offer things that are going to be better to suit them. They also might put things in contracts that you may not be aware of,” said Sampson.
Being data-driven is also key. “Oftentimes, we, as women, we’re very emotionally driven. Yes, you want to trust your gut, but sometimes to help you make smarter decisions, you have to be data-driven.”
As a businesswoman, she has also learned the value of saying no.
“I’ve had opportunities where potential business partners want to work with me or opportunities that could have taken me to the next level faster. But for me, it wasn’t about being fast it was about doing it right. And making sure everything was true to the brand,” said Sampson.
And her advice to others who are looking to enter the industry is to aim to be different. “You really have to take time to make sure whatever you bring to the market is differentiated. How you position the product, how the product looks, the colors that you use, and the way that you describe it. And more importantly, the brand that you’re going to project to the world. All of that combined has to make you special and has to make you differentiated, which ultimately, will help you gain market share, and open up opportunities for the future for the brand.”