Innovation and haircare meet for a new type of haircare experience with Our X. This first-to-market platform for highly textured hair is on a mission to create a new standard for tighter textures and scalp care. OurX does not just provide products, but a full experience that includes an in-depth assessment, education, and hair coaching for textured hair. Comprised of industry experts such as CEO Meghan Maupin, celebrity stylist, Johnny Wright, and board-certified dermatologist Dr. Jenna Lester, OurX is customizing and tailoring solutions for your specific haircare needs. The OurX products are prescriptive and thoughtfully developed based on the state of hair, length, and what is needed to create the healthiest strands and scalp based on common concerns with textured hair.
We sat down to chat with Ceci Kurzman who has a rich career in business, investment and serves as one of the few Black, female board members who set out to create a platform that would reach the folks who have been left behind in the hair aisle and the DTC and premium CPG experiences. Via OurX, Ceci has a vision of ushering in a new standard of premium hair health and care in the Black hair care industry with the hopes of removing barriers to access exceptional, premium hair care for those with tightly textured hair.
You originally come from a music background, what piqued your interest in getting involved in the haircare industry?
I was inspired by three things, First I’m a consumer and I fall into the category of spending the equivalent of a mortgage on my hair and never felt confident in my ability to understand and take care of my hair. I thought it was just me and I learned through this process over the years that not only is it not just me, but it’s an overwhelming number of people. Coming from the music industry, I’ve worked with a lot of women and artists of color in the pop and pop urban artist development sector for 20 years. A lot of my interests in these other categories really came with challenges we ran into working and developing artists, and this was a big one.
When you become more established you can hire hairstylists like Kim Kimble and always look great because you have, hair and wigs that travel in first-class seats. However, it just was hard even for the artists themselves and certainly, for people who looked up to and aspired to understand how to maintain and manage your hair properly over time. In many cases you’ve never seen a real artist’s hair and if you had you’d be shocked because of the wear and tear and beat down that that hair takes even with all of the experts that you have at your disposal.
What was the ideation behind OurX?
The ideation for OurX came from knowing our consumer is interacting with brands at the highest touch level whether that’s music, film, and television. You’re driving share of wallet and I’d love to see that happen in the beauty category by doing that, you give Access to a customer and give them preference. Baba from Ceremonia said, “At what point do we not get the benefit of preference?” You allow us to choose from a wide range of things that’s not just products, that’s offerings with different price points, distribution channels, and ingredient stories. It’s not that we don’t have great products in the market we do we should have more. We should have more and different and you know give more founders and entrepreneurs room and resources to introduce things into the market because you can’t say we don’t want it if you never allow us to have it exactly right.
What inspired the name?
I was trying to find something that hit on a few categories: community, innovation, and personalization. Community is something of ours and inclusion, hence the X. If you say “OurX”, it also sounds prescriptive, like a prescription. It also speaks to innovation when you’re talking about prescription grade and science speaks to innovations.
As a businesswoman, what did you feel was missing from the haircare market for the Black consumer?
I think what’s missing is preference. What drove me as an investor was to try and find table stakes and business models that we talked about, e-commerce, data-driven, sustainable, sort of key pillars in any modern brand. I wanted to find the brand in this category that pulled on all those levers and I had a hard time finding them. I was having a hard time finding anything that had data at its roots, one was Texturized, Candace. She was instrumental in helping us build the foundations of OurX and how the algorithm would work just by being able to use data to demonstrate how strong this consumer is. I could say anecdotally we spend more on hair, hair in terms of products and services in the general market and I don’t think anybody who lives in this world would disagree with that.
When I turned around to look for where is the facts and data it was really hard to find. I look at a brand like Olaplex, which was not marketed to this customer and is now in many cases being driven by this customer. I think the only way to solve that is to build a really strong data set and that’s where it started. We hope to build enough data to be able to publish a data index at the end of the year that just underscores this point. I think the data also refines what we’re able to offer to the individual consumer. We may all be a community, but we’re also individuals who all have different needs when it comes to hair care, and that is based on the actual attributes of your hair and scalp, your genetics, or your lifestyle.
How did using data allow you to enhance your brand offerings?
We’ve developed an interactive assessment that determines so much more than just your texture, it examines how porous your strands are. If you don’t know, here’s how to figure it out so that in the process you’re also understanding your hair and scalp and your needs better. The premise of OurX is no two heads are alike and we want to zero in on the individual and give each individual a plan and a regimen that works for them and is going to yield results for them.
We’re super proud of our product and this is designed from the ground up with the 4C texture in mind so that you’re getting high-performance design for you. Other people can use it, but that is the core consumer which is developed for. We’re highly focused on more than a wash day, but what you do every day in between because you know that’s where folks are either reaching goals or falling behind.
How does the personalized approach for each consumer help with the spectrum of haircare concerns they could be facing?
The way we design it for somebody may need intervention from one of our dermatologists because they’re facing issues versus someone else who may have very different needs and just need to know how to develop care that suits their lifestyle. It’s a combination of taking in the data and then curating product usage, but then more importantly than the products themselves, what to use how frequently in combination with what and what to do every day in between.
So we’re sort of the expert in your pocket at night or in the afternoon to learn how you need to style your hair so you’re not putting too much tension on it, even if you haven’t washed it for a few days. Every single plan is going to be a little bit different and there’s the intervention of the. coach, expert stylist, trichologist, and dermatologist when needed to supplement that. It’s a combination of art and science with a personalized stream of content. The content, types of products, and expert support are all going to be designed around the data. I think that the wave of personalization is getting more and more and more sophisticated, certainly with AI, it’s going to get more sophisticated.
The brand includes a muti-tiered approach of a plan and experts, how did you select which industry experts to partner with?
Johnny Wright has been a partner in crime since the early ideation of OurX many years ago and in some part the inspiration because when he was working with the Obama girls their hair was healthy, strong, thick, and long. A couple of years later I asked him how he did that because you know our platform is not about style, it’s ultimately focused on health. When I started talking to Johnny about that, he started educating me and we started pulling the ideas together of how we inform with hair health in mind, not as product-focused but how to care for the hair and scalp.
Jenna Lester came on board recently because she is a Harvard-educated certified dermatologist who has huge practice out of a major tier-one hospital. She developed an entire hospital sector specifically focused on melanin, rich hair, and skin. I am not an expert. I am a customer and I’m learning every day myself. When I first met Johnny, I didn’t know what my hair texture was and they’ve been teaching me ever since and I was like, “Wow, if everybody had the benefit of these folks teaching them and telling them about their hair, it’s like, it’s amazing how quickly you learn to do it for yourself.” I certainly was not confident and was petrified to go near my hair myself if I couldn’t find my stylist.
Your products include a recyclable and reusable option, why was that important to you to include in the marketing?
We had the benefit of not coming from this industry and being able to canvas the industry a little bit to see not just the consumer problems that needed to be solved but what else wasn’t happening in the category. There are brands doing much more on sustainability than we are, but there’s a baseline any brand today has to live up to. Whether it’s cleaning products or other consumer goods, you know refillable options are going to become standardized.
What would you say is your hero ingredient or product from this line?
One of the things that we wanted to focus on was scalp care. We’re doing 10-step regimens on our faces these days and yet our scalp is just supposed to get the residue from the shampoo. Now we’re learning how to apply some oils but the scalp gets as much attention in terms of pre-cleansing cleanse. When it comes to what we’re trying to do, which is health, growth, thickness, and luster, and all the things that are signatures of hair health and that all emanate from the scalp.
Instead of creating multiple different conditioners, we have a hero mask which is rich and incredibly effective. We have boosters that mix in with the mask, for example, once every six weeks you might want to mix in a protein or moisture. You’ll be able to add different elements to it given whatever your needs are on that particular treatment day.
What can we look forward to from OurX in the future?
We intentionally launched with treatment because we wanted to spend a good amount of time on just the foundation of care. We play with the data to refine the individual regimen, but we are excited to come out with stylers soon. We’re a treatment-first brand, so you won’t have edge care that doesn’t have active ingredients to heal, repair, and strengthen your hairline. You’re not going to have anything whose preliminary function is not to either repair or protect the hair and scalp.
We’re focused on making the digital tool that reflects the individual so we hope that continues to get better where each individual has an expert in their pocket than at any time. Not only could they access a real expert on the other line via chat by scheduling a meeting and getting direct responses, but we can also recommend stylists in your city. We want to be that resource that gives you kind of everything you need in terms of support wherever you are.