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Can This Innovative Startup Transform the Hair Salon Experience for Black Women?

Abigail and Antonia Opiah (Courtesy Antonia Opiah)

Yeluchi founders Abigail and Antonia Opiah (Courtesy Antonia Opiah)

Many Black women have the same experience when they enter the hair salon. They often set aside hours of their day to have their hair washed and styled. And because professional women are continuously on the go, customers need a convenient service to meet their needs.

Now, two women are filling that void.

Antonia Opiah launched Yeluchi with her sister Abigail after the success of their Black hair-care site, Un-Ruly.

“Over the years, in building Un-Ruly and talking about Black hairstyles and care, we’ve learned a great deal about our own hair needs and what other Black women need when it comes to their hair,” Antonia told Atlanta Black Star. “What kinds of questions they’re asking, when they can do their hair themselves and when they need an expert to jump in. Yeluchi, our at-home hair styling service, is an accumulation of everything we’ve learned so far.”

Both Antonia and Abigail studied business in college. Antonia worked in digital advertising while her sister worked in public relations. Though the siblings’ marketing background is helpful, Antonia points to their strong work ethic as the key to their rise.

“We’ve had lots of practice – at previous jobs and on our own – bringing ideas to life. Honestly, I’d say everything that I’ve done in the past has directly or indirectly made me capable of doing what I’m doing now.”

Currently in beta, Yeluchi takes their first company’s work a step further by putting the hairstyles into action.

Customers in the New York metro area can get box braids, twists, sew-in weave installations, cornrows and flat twists in a variety of styles. The company is starting small and ensuring that they hire the best stylists.

(Courtesy Antonia Opiah)

(Courtesy Antonia Opiah)

“Our vetting process has about four layers to it,” Antonia said. “By the time a stylist is fully vetted, we’re not only sure about her ability to be punctual, but also her ability to do an amazing job. Furthermore, we have a ‘two strikes you’re out’ policy when it comes to stylist tardiness and cancellations.”

The many long hours Black women spend waiting at traditional salons pushed the creation of Un-Ruly. But Antonia explains that Yeluchi’s launch was motivated more by her on-the-go lifestyle.

“When it came to Yeluchi, my busy schedule and inability to always make it to the salon was more an influence.”

She said she wanted to create an all-new experience for customers by bringing the salon to their homes. For styles that take hours to complete – like box braids or sew-ins – productivity at home was a plus.

Antonia said the focus on professional women – who juggle many projects like her — was an unspoken impact for Yeluchi. Still, empowering Black women inspired the project.

“It’s not in our business plan or anything, but a passion of mine. The thing that drives me to do everything that I do is empowering other Black women because others have done the same for me, and there’s just so much untapped potential there.”

When it comes to the customers they serve, Antonia discovered there are two different kinds of women who are attracted to the business: Those who openly share what they want their hair to look like, and those who do not.

affordable-weave-yeluchi-giftcard-1 (1)

(Courtesy Antonia Opiah)

“We’re working to make sure that no matter what kind of customer you are, you get the hairstyle you want. Because there’s only so much a stylist can do without feedback, and we’re dealing with a service that is a bit subjective. So there needs to be a comfortable dialogue happening between the stylist and the customer.”

In the future, the sisters would like to expand the company globally beyond New York. Antonia said Yeluchi’s focus on quality workers means the company may not grow as quickly as she’d prefer. But it’s a trade-off she hopes will pay off long-term.

“We definitely would like to expand, even outside of the U.S. I’m based in France and would love to have this service here! But for now, we’re focused on perfecting the product and recruiting the best stylists in New York.”

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