Rachael Twumasi-Corson and Joycelyn Mate, both former University College London (UCL) affiliates, have built a multi-million-pound Afro haircare company, Afrocenchix, starting with just £100.
The business is now valued at over £12 million and boasts annual sales of approximately £650,000 in 27 countries.
Google is among the investors backing the company, which can be found on the shelves of UK retailers such as Superdrug and Whole Foods Market. The company aims to expand into the US and African markets.
Afrocenchix was founded with the mission to challenge traditional beauty standards and celebrate Afro hair. The founders encountered the significant barriers faced by black women entrepreneurs, who receive only 0.03% of all venture capital funding.
Rachael and Joycelyn met at the University of Birmingham and studied law and sociology, respectively. They both grew up using harsh chemicals to straighten their natural Afro hair and were concerned about the potential health risks associated with these products. They decided to start Afrocenchix in 2010 to provide a natural alternative for Afro haircare.
Rachael pursued a Master’s degree in Medical Anthropology at UCL while still running the business. Afrocenchix is not just a business, but also a mission to promote health and well-being for Black women.
In 2015, Afrocenchix won the UCL Bright Ideas competition and joined BaseKX, UCL’s entrepreneurship hub, to receive support and dedicated office space.
The company has grown and now employs 14 people. It has received recognition as the ‘Best Natural Hair Brand’ in both the Precious Hair and Beauty Awards and BBFA (Black Beauty and Fashion) Awards, and has been named one of the ‘hottest Black-led startups in Europe’ by CityAM.
Despite facing discrimination and barriers as a Black woman entrepreneur, Rachael remains optimistic and is determined to grow Afrocenchix into a successful, global business. She believes that by continuing to work hard, she can challenge perceptions and make a difference in the industry.