The South By Southwest (SXSW) Interactive conference has descended on Austin, the home of NaturallyCurly headquarters, once again and we couldn't be more thrilled to be partnering with MVMT50 to bring more awareness to their movement during the festival. MVMT50 is a coalition of Black thought leaders committed to sustained and systematic improvement in employment diversity, cultural representation and leadership development in the innovation, technology and digital sectors.

Each year, MVMT50's partners and participants gather to connect, collaborate and build consensus around disruptive and innovative solutions to empower and elevate Black thought leadership.  SXSW serves as MVMT50’s annual convening of thought leaders, advocates and practitioners and this year, they have awarded Dr. Tausha Robertson, the founder of the app primpii, as one of their Top 10 Innovators. 

Dr. Tausha Robertson is the founder of the app primpii, a platform that works to make word of mouth beauty referrals easy! It’s used for crowd-sourced, intimate reviews of salons and hair stylists all over the country. Primpii also offers benefits for beauty professionals, as they can benefit from client referrals; post VIP deals for customers, and have a web/social media presence without spending a lot of capital and time.

We interviewed Dr. Robertson about her innovative app and her experience as both a natural looking for a stylist and a woman entering the tech world.

Was there a moment or an experience that inspired you to develop Primpii?

I got the tech bug when I moved to Austin 3 years ago. Since I was new to tech, I thought about ways to solve problems I experience with tech. I tossed around several with friends/family and finding beauty professionals resonated with everyone so I refined that idea into the functionality of primpii.

What do you see as the major challenges or barriers for women and stylists, and how does Primpii help provide a solution?

Primpii was designed to create a respository of all the great beauty pros your friends use and keep them accessible and searchable any time, anywhere.  Many of my friends across the country have downloaded the app and put in their best beauty professional referrals.  When I open the app, I can click friends in the menu to look at all of my friends and their referrals or I can go to the search function and type in a state, like FL. All of the beauty pros entered by users for FL will appear but most importantly, I know if someone in my Facebook network has recommended any of these beauty pros because their picture will be associated with the listing and I can click  on that beauty pro to read the referrals! There is a huge reason to tell your network to use the app. You want access to pros they have vetted when you need them.  That could work on a local level as well. What if your current pro goes on vacation?  How do you find another quickly? Call, text, post to ask friends and maybe you’ll get an answer but probably not in a timely manner.  With primpii, you could have those in the palm your hand.  

Why is the search for a hairstylist such a difficult one, especially for women with textured hair?

It really is and the only way you find a good one is from your friends who have tried them.  Again, this is what separates primpii from Yelp or other referrals…it’s coming from someone you know. When I made my referrals I noted whether the pro was good with managing my natural curls or if they happened to be someone who does a great blow out on natural hair. The heart in our logo is about sharing the love! Don’t keep that great pro a secret from your friends who need them.

How can women with textured hair use Primpii to find stylists that are trained and experienced in caring for their texture?

Right now that information is in the referral text that friends or others input and also in the info section that the pro can customize.   In the very near future we will be launching some affiliate relationships that will further assist you in finding great pros that specialize in textured hair.

Why is the power of word of mouth referral so important in this industry?

Studies have shown that it is the primary source of new business for stylists and other beauty pros. That’s why we built in functionality to allow beauty pros listed on primpii to customize their pages with pictures and more details about their services. Primpii also allows them to send special offers and open seats directly to users.  No other app does this.  We designed the app to be a win-win…a discovery tool for trusted referrals for users and a direct marketing tool for beauty pros to users who are actively seeking beauty services!

How is the search for beauty services changing, and where do you see it going in the next few years?

Primpii innovated in two ways: 1st by allowing users to find easily beauty pros vetted by friends they trust and second, most beauty pros are small businesses without a lot of marketing resources or access to technology. Our app is first to the market to allow a direct line of communication for special offers and open seats to the most fertile pool of potential customers, users of our app. Our app users are only there to find great beauty pros!  I think the mobile platform will continue to make this marketing channel more accessible to small businesses.

Many of our community members view stylists in a negative light, what would you say to the woman who has been burned one too many times by negative salon experiences?  It is unfortunate but we’ve all had some tough experiences.  That’s why primpii was developed on the premise that referrals from friends are much better than trial and error.  If like-minded users make it a point to collaborate  to input their referrals, they all benefit by having a handy repository of those vetted pros. I know that lots of people do things themselves but there is also large proportion of the market that still needs professional services to maintain the health of their hair. We think that primpii will be a platform for those pros with specialized skills to shine.

Congratulations on your MVMT50 Innovator award! How do you think initiatives like this can bring about change?

I was thrilled to be nominated by MVMT50 for an innovator award this year!  They were really intrigued by this use of tech in the fairly untapped beauty space.  I hope that by participating with the other thought leaders and innovators in MVMT50 we can support and push each other forward and provide opportunities for other people of color to engage in the tech space.  I want to share my journey with others so that they can bring their products to the market. MVMT50 can be a great catalyst for improving access and opportunities.

Dr. Tausha Robertson and 9 other awardees will be recognized tonight, March 11, at the MVMT50 annual SXSW Welcome Reception.