The update gives hairdressers the tools to go to market, sell custom wigs from a single marketplace.

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One of Britney Winters’ goals is to “live a less confusing life.”

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She grew up in Houston, then went to Stanford and became an engineer. She worked as an investment banker on Wall Street in New York for several years before returning to Houston and taking a job in the energy industry. The company Winters worked for sponsored her MBA from Harvard Business School, and it was there that she got the idea. Update.

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“I really struggled to find a local extension stylist,” Winters told TechCrunch. “Me and a few other black students started taking day trips or weekend trips to New York to get their hair done. I also had custody of my 16 year old sister so I managed my course load and did those trips and it was during one of those trips that I thought there must be a better way to do it. There is obviously a huge demand for it and accessing high quality, comfortable hair solutions shouldn’t be that hard.”

The update is aimed at wig and hair extension industrywhich by 2026 should become an industry with a turnover of 13 billion dollars. The company, which raised $1.7 million last year, is among the hairdressing companies targeted at women and people of color, such as regroup, Morado and sliceattracting venture dollars.

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The Upgrade e-commerce marketplace has two sides: one allows consumers to choose a trusted stylist and color or customize their wig depending on the look they want. Remember Mary J. Blige’s hair at the Super Bowl? It was through an upgrade. The other side of the business is a new monthly subscription service for stylists that helps them sell their handmade wigs, cosmetics and other digital products and services.

Stylists can manage bookings from one place, including direct messaging with shoppers, one-click delivery options, data analysis and analytics, secure checkout, payment protection, buy now, pay later options, and access to customer ratings.

Britney Winters

Upgrade founder and CEO Britney Winters

“There were a lot of barbers in my family, so I saw firsthand the difficulties of running a small business,” Winters said. “A hairdresser can help a woman feel better. However, even though they provide such significant value, many of them operate with limited funding and resources, which ultimately affects the customer experience. We equip them with tools and resources so they can work more efficiently and expand their economic opportunities.”

$30 monthly subscription fee that stylists pay in addition to the purchase transaction fee. There are no subscription fees for consumers, Winters said. All stylists are independent contractors and set their own prices. The price the consumer pays depends on the chosen stylist.

It’s all thanks to a new $1 million seed expansion from the Artemis Fund and Mercury Fund seed funds, which also includes Bracken P. Darrell and ANIM. Upgrade has raised $3 million to date.

Winters explained that the driving force behind the new funding was technology and product development in the marketplace, marketing and stylist acquisition. There are currently 30 stylists using Upgrade and 300 are on the waiting list.

“One of our biggest differentiators is technology,” Winters added. “Our stylists are always thrilled about how easy it is to run their business with Upgrade, so we decided to turn this technology into a product, make it more accessible to the masses, and level the playing field to give these stylists a voice.”

The company also has a flagship retail store in Houston that serves the triple purpose of being a warehouse for selling wigs and Upgrade hair, a showroom where consumers can come in, touch hair and pick up orders, and a workspace for stylists with private offices. for them to rent. Winters says she’s proud of the space, but doesn’t aim to have a huge retail presence other than some expansion into other major cities like Los Angeles and New York.

Meanwhile, Upgrade currently has 10 employees and Winters expects that number to double by next year. The company makes money selling wigs and hair and has tripled in revenue in the last year.

As part of the company’s growth, Upgrade is working on offering micro-loans to stylist subscribers to provide them with capital to invest in inventory. This is just one of the tools the company offers to stylists in its network to help them grow their business, including tax filing support and income statement generation.

Further, Winters expects the offer of microcredit will appear by the end of the year. The company will work on additional business resources.

Samantha Lewis, director of the Mercury Fund, told TechCrunch that Winters knows her customers well and can do for them what Etsy has done for people who make handmade goods.

“The update gives the stylist the opportunity to, on the one hand, help them grow their business,” she said. “Given Britney’s experience, she’s approaching this from all angles, including in terms of fintech and microcredit. She taught me everything I needed to know about wigs, hair extensions, and the challenges women of color face when it comes down to it. It’s inspiring to have a super-successful company built specifically for black and other women of color.”


Credit: techcrunch.com /

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