When it comes to hair, Adwoa Beauty founder Julian Addo doesn’t see gender, she sees opportunity. At the tender age of 14 Julian was working as a hairstylist at Kamara’s unisex palace where she learned how to style all different types of textures and curls for her friends. This later led to a deep passion for beauty that would take her to cosmetology school and launch her first beauty salon in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. After different experiences at natural hair events, launching a beauty brand, and working in banking, she started Adwoa Beauty in 2017. As founder and CEO of Adwoa Beauty, Julian has sought to break the conventional molds of haircare with clean ingredients, gender neutral hair care, and a brand that pays homage to her culture and heritage. We sat down with Julian to discuss her entrepreneurial journey, product development, and her vision for her burgeoning beauty brand.
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You started doing your friend’s hair at the age of 14, what type of styles did you create?
I started off doing pin-ups or buns as we called it. that was the easiest thing for me to do and I just perfected it over time. I could do all types of different styles at the front like finger waves, shirley temple curls etc. and I would do the bun in the back. When I became really good at one style, I’d move onto something else.
How would you describe the relationship you had with your hair growing up?
I have always loved hair, even before I started doing it, I have always felt like hair was the most important accessory to an outfit. You can be wearing a tracksuit and if your hair is in a neat bun, ponytail or bob, you’d look completely put together. vs. the same outfit with messy hair and you’d look, well…not so put together *lol*.
Your entrepreneurial path featured administration and business before creating “bella kinks media llc”, tell us about your first natural hair business venture and what you learned from it.
I learned that with hard work and consistency, you will always end up right where you are supposed to be if you don't give up.
Public perception of natural beauty was a challenge you sought to rectify with Adwoa Beauty, what were these misconceptions and how does your brand change them?
Somehow that textured hair was controversial, political, or unprofessional...Adwoa Beauty takes an editorial approach to textured hair. We showcase everything from highly defined wash n go’s to cornrows in a very high quality way. Our work can be a vogue cover or a window signage at sephora, and we’re still a small brand.
Natural haircare can feel like a series of trial and error before finding the right products, what were some pain points you experienced with other hair products?
I didn't have any “pain points”, we use trial and error with everything! We “try on” people, food, places and things with little complaint that it's expensive, and all of those things cost so much more. Folks have fifty leven skincare products, at $20+ for tiny packaging. I don't understand why textured hair is so frowned upon when it comes to investing to learn how to care for your hair. Women buy all different types of wigs, weaves and braid hair to “try on” at first without complaint, I don't get it.
Folks have fifty leven skincare products, at $20+ for tiny packaging. I don't understand why textured hair is so frowned upon when it comes to investing to learn how to care for your hair.
I am educated on my hair enough to know a very thick butter or a very light gel won’t work for me. So I would pick up products that were in the middle, not too thick or greasy and not too light to leave me needing something else. most things work, I find it is mainly preference, user error, or trying to achieve a result seen on someone else, but if I didn't care for the product for whatever reason, I would just finish it and not repurchase. I don't find that painful because at least I tried it and got the experience for myself. I seldom regret buying a beauty or hair care product. It has to be really, really bad.
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What inspired you to market your products as gender neutral versus having a womens/mens line?
I didn't have the passion to explain why one would work for a man and not a woman. Hair is hair, there’s no gender. In the beginning I promised myself I wouldn't do any type of gimmicky marketing like dark packaging and masculine scents to sell products to men. I don't want to create unnecessary products and personally I find things like that wasteful. Most men will use their girl’s hair products anyway lol.
Hair is hair, there’s no gender.
How do you select the type of ingredients used to create your hair products?
I select our key ingredients from a region in Africa (baobab is from Madagascar, blue tansy is from Morocco) and I research the sourcing, quality, efficacy, hair and scalp benefits of the oil. I use the raw oil on my face and skin for a good while before using it in products. The ingredients are resources I love and would want for myself in my own routine, it’s all very personal. I also try to be unique in my ingredient story rather than what’s popular on the market.
What are the Adwoa Beauty essentials that first time users should add to their hair regimen?
Our treatment masks and leave-in conditioners are our top sellers. The blue tansy reparative mask is now leading that charge so I would say start there. We also have a trial kit of 3oz. products where you can test all 6 in our baomint collection.
Summer is upon us and many people will be traveling, what’s an Adwoa Beauty product(s) that’s ideal for protective styling?
Our blue tansy leave in conditioning styler and baomint protect + shine oil blend. The leave-in is perfect to slather on prior to braids or a protective style, when you take the style down, your hair will look and feel moisturized. The oil is great on your scalp to avoid dryness and it also encourages hair growth.
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What’s next for Adwoa Beauty in 2022?
We’re going to continue to grow and expand our product offerings while testing out new markets and challenging the beauty industry norms. I am excited!