Meet Tracey Pickett. She is a young entrepreneur whose company has created the Hairbrella, an innovative way to protect hair and makeup from getting ruined in inclement weather. Think of a rain hat for your hair, but the company stresses that “this is not your Grandma’s hair bonnet” on its Facebook page.
Brandon Andrews of Values Partnerships and a Black Enterprise contributor sat down with the Hairbrella CEO.
Andrews: Women have created many ways to protect their hair from the elements. How is Hairbrella different?
Pickett: It’s funny because while there are a variety of rain hat options (plastic bonnets, bucket caps, umbrella hats, etc.), none of them completely insulated my hair from rain and humidity. And worse, they smash hair down, ruining whatever style I might have.
Hairbrella is the first ever satin-lined rain hat that completely insulates women’s hair from the rain while preserving their style. I felt it was time to reinvent the rain hat to combine the protection of a shower cap with the stylish appeal of a beanie. In addition to our unique 100% waterproof microfiber exterior, we incorporated a satin lining to keep hair soft and moisturized, a UV protective visor to keep makeup flawless, and a hidden storage pocket for easy travel and storage.
It is truly a solution to an age-old problem that women all over the world face on a regular basis.
After developing the Hairbrella concept, what was the tipping point for you? When did you know you had to start the business?
I knew that I had to start the business every time it rained and I saw a woman running with a plastic bag on her head. This was an obvious problem that women all over the world face on a regular basis, and I knew that the product I was designing would solve it.
I also knew that if I didn’t do it, someone else eventually would, and I would be extremely upset with myself for sleeping on the idea.
You have a design patent for Hairbrella. What tips do you have for other entrepreneurs looking to protect their innovations?
If you have an idea that you believe is patent-worthy, do as much research as you can online to see if your idea already exists. If you don’t find it, get in touch with a patent attorney or firm and have them do more formal research to determine whether or not your idea has a good chance of approval.
If the search turns out favorably, I’d recommend getting a provisional utility patent: a low-cost solution to buy some time before filing a full utility patent or proceeding with a design patent where applicable. Once these patent filings are registered with the USPTO [United States Patent and Trademark Office], you can feel more confident about developing and pitching your idea with a “patent pending” status.
Additionally, it is wise to have an NDA in place when disclosing the idea to anyone and also having proper contracts in place for any third-party professionals that may assist with the product’s development. This will ensure that your IP rights are protected throughout that process.
Does the design speak to the needs of women of color in particular?
Pickett: I often get the question, “Did you design Hairbrella for black women?” Now of course, rain/humidity is the archnemesis for our hair. And it was definitely designed to meet the needs of women of color because I experienced this problem on a regular basis (it rained virtually every time I went to the salon). However, rain and humidity affect the vast majority of hair types–causing swelling, flattening, frizzing, etc., depending on the texture. To put it simply, moisture returns your hair to its original/natural state, so if you’ve done anything to style it, rain and humidity will ruin it.
So to answer the question, the design speaks to every woman that spends any time or money styling her hair. If you wear a shower cap in the shower, you need a Hairbrella for the rain.
You pitched at our Atlanta Shark Tank casting call. What does the opportunity appear on Season 10 of Shark Tank mean to you?
Aside from the day I get to sit down and talk to Oprah (*prayer hands*), appearing on Shark Tank would be the most amazing opportunity of my professional life!
It has been my dream ever since the show’s first season. I’ve been coming up with product and business ideas since I was a kid, but Shark Tank ignited my passion for entrepreneurship and helped me build the confidence that one day, I could have a product idea that would impact millions of lives. It is truly the American dream, and I think it is important that faces from all cultures are represented so that young, aspiring minds can build the same confidence that helps them pursue their dreams.
It would be especially amazing to appear on Shark Tank this season if Sara Blakely (founder of Spanx) happens to be a guest on the panel. In 2012, I had a small amount of money saved up to start the patent process for Hairbrella (I was calling it the “rain beanie” at the time). I had been reading about Sara Blakely’s journey and how she started her company with $5,000 she had in savings.
Values Partnerships is leading a nationwide casting tour for ABC’s Shark Tank. This casting tour is focused on giving diverse entrepreneurs the opportunity to pitch their businesses and appear on the show’s ninth season. In addition to having the opportunity to audition for Shark Tank, Values Partnerships has also held discussions on access to capital, offered pitch prep sessions, and shared entrepreneurship resources with entrepreneurs from around the country, all throughout the Shark Tank Diversity Tour.
To apply to audition for the ninth season of Shark Tank and find out more information on the Shark Tank Diversity Tour, visit www.sharktankdiversitytour.com.