Emotions can run deep, for both women and men, when it comes to hair. And where there's passion, there's a potential business idea. That's one thing we've learned watching the power of online community prove itself again and again.
One case in point is a recent flap over the public diss of a million-dollar investment in NaturallyCurly.com, an online community for people with curly and kinky hair.
In a piece titled: "Dumb Money: Exposing Silicon Valley’s Stupidest Investments," a writer for New York magazine snarked " . . . what kind of genius decided to throw $1.2 million at NaturallyCurly, the 'leading social network and community for people with wavy, curly and kinky hair?' "
Outrage from the curly-haired community followed. A Huff-Po blogger piled on, as did race-and-pop-culture blog Racialicious, which spawned a discussion on Ycombinator.com, the site of the Silicon Valley seed accelerator.
Michelle Breyer, co-founder of NaturallyCurly.com, was thrilled with the outpouring of vocal support from its community. "The response has been really, really positive," says Breyer, president of Austin, Texas-based TextureMedia Inc., which is the parent company of NaturallyCurly.com and earns money from advertising, market research and ecommerce. "The entire curly world got on there and said: 'Do you know what you're talking about?' "
What can entrepreneurs learn from the kerfuffle?
- In seeking funding, target investors who understand your market. It can be tougher, for example, for a women-oriented business to get backing if male investors just don't get it.
- If you're looking for a killer business idea, go where the pain is, and then stick with your passion. "From the very beginning, there were naysayers," says Breyer. But she knew that there was market potential from her own experience.
- When building a business, look after the care and feeding of your community. "They are not just a nice thing to have. They are your business," Breyer says.