It’s no surprise that growing and developing a business from the ground up is incredibly hard work! Any business owner will tell you that you must have the passion, drive, and support to be successful. If you ask Parfait Co-Founder and CEO, Isoken Igbinedon, she’ll tell you it’s also about your personal confidence, facing challenges head-on with appropriate resources, and strategically building your community.
Parfait offers tailored hair wigs and extensions through A.I.-powered technology to craft an all-natural look and comfortable fit for customers. As a child, Parfait CEO and Co-Founder Isoken Igbinedon faced challenging problems. At 10, Isoken was singled out for being different because of her personal style, skin color and hair texture. She began to understand how her hair impacted her self-esteem, and wanted to address this in her new business model for other women who may be experiencing similar challenges. Isoken and her team started a business focused on improving self-confidence through hair.
Isoken built a nationwide business, and utilized the appropriate resources found at Saltbox to grow. Isoken now has the space to continue to expand her business and the resources to get relief when it comes to fast fulfillment for her new customer base. She was able to accumulate the right amount of capital to run smoothly, but only after dedicating herself to funding rounds and good committed investors. In fact, she was able to garner financial support from coworkers who believed in her concept. This serves as a testament to her determination and the grit it took to accomplish her goals.
CEE NG: What inspired Parfait?
ISOKEN IGBINEDION: The origins of Parfait really started with a problem experienced by many women of color, and that’s managing and caring for our textured hair. That journey started for me when I was 10 years old. I had this really dangerous experience with a chemical relaxer that made all of my natural hair fall out. After that, I started using hair extensions and wigs to give my hair a break and a chance to regrow. I spent the next 20 years navigating this friction-filled, highly manual market of hair products and services. But what I’ve seen in those 20 years is that we’ve seen very little innovation when it comes to the customization, installing and purchasing experience for consumers. Little attention is being paid to solving problems for marginalized communities, and that problem is deeply felt by Black women, especially in the beauty industry. Women continue to look for a better experience. Right now, our capabilities allow us to deliver fully custom wigs and extensions direct to consumers within five to seven business days from purchase to delivery.
CN: Especially being of mixed cultures myself, it’s been challenging to figure out what trends work for me with my skin tone and style. With your A.I. technology, it’s amazing that you’re helping in that way.
II: One of the biggest innovations on the technology side for us, we’re given the opportunity to solve a lot of the issues we see with A.I. bias and machine-learning generally. We really want to be one of the first companies to make major progress in improving product and survey outcomes for those marginalized communities, so we’re starting by building technology designed to serve women and people of color. It’s just an approach to solving the chaotic purchasing experience for wigs and extensions that allow us to really build these robust machine-learning models that are also filling gaps reflected today in commercially trained data sets. This allows us to create an A.I.-driven product experience that expands into other beauty products. This can make us a leader in equitable consumer technology that actually recognizes and prioritizes everyone, because we finally solved for the margins that have been forgotten for so long.
CN: What was your financial startup experience like?
II: We started with zero dollars like everyone else! We figured out the idea and how we wanted to approach solving the big problem in the market for consumers and we realized we needed $40,000 to begin training our algorithms. We started by being very scrappy on the operations side, I put in all of my savings to begin scaling and hiring employees. As we started to pitch the idea, we were met with a lot of skepticism. They didn’t understand the problem because they were not the consumer. We never got the $40k! I actually went to intern at Microsoft that summer instead. I started pitching my business idea to a lot of the engineers who worked there at the time and I met an engineer who fully understood the need. Of course this was a man who was a person-of color, who has a mother, a sister, a girlfriend who used these products. After telling him the problem and how much I needed, he rounded up a bunch of Microsoft employees who pulled their funds together and gave us our first $40k investment. They believed! That momentum helped build my confidence as an entrepreneur and fueled other investors to follow behind them.
CN: How did your mentality shift once you started getting funding?
II: People don’t realize the impact resources have on your confidence and your ability to do what you need to do. I feel like the first step is to get the funding, but after that it feels incredible to use the funding to gain the resources needed to solve problems. It’s really empowering to have resources but it shifts your mentality on how fast you want to grow. That momentum built that confidence.
CN: What is your favorite part about entrepreneurship?
II: My favorite part is really being able to dive deep into a specific subject matter. When you fully understand something end to end, you gain a lot of power in that knowledge but also the power to make an impact. That feeling of all the possibilities of what we can do for people, that is my favorite part of building this, hands down.
CN: What can we look forward to in the first year of Parfait’s launch?
II: There’s a lot of exciting activations coming up. You’ll hopefully see us at Black Women Talk Tech, Essence Fest and hopefully the runways of New York Fashion Week in September.
Your business grows here. From the painful growing stages to the big leagues, Saltbox helps your business develop and scale through every stage. Parfait thrives using Saltbox, now benefiting from space to grow and the resources to confidently build the business. Parfait is rapidly growing just six months after launching the business in April and is not showing signs of slowing down any time soon.
Interested in hearing the entire interview with Isoken Igbinedion, CEO and Co-Founder of Parfait? Check out the full interview here to learn more about running an A.I.- centered company, developing a business from the ground up, and helping support a niche consumer market within marginalized communities.
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