Making It: FELOH Creates All-Inclusive Online Beauty Marketplace
Maker: Camille Heard, co-founder & CEO; Jacqueline Baron, co-founder & COO; Zarin Hamid, Chief Administrative Officer
Business: FELOH (For Everyone’s Love of Hair & Beauty), an online, all-inclusive marketplace for independent beauty products
How did the idea for FELOH come about?
Camille: I would say the seedling for FELOH started in 2014, and that had a lot to do with my own natural hair journey. And a thought came to my mind, like, ‘What if there was a social space where people can learn from each other about what products work for them, and help people feel empowered and comfortable to try a different look, try something new?’ I remember taking it to Jacqueline, who was my freshman year roommate. We had just graduated from undergrad and were just playing around with the idea.
Jacqueline: I really had to rely on word of mouth to figure out where to go to get my hair done. And so that was part of like, how can we create a social platform where we really streamline this information and are able to help people get the relevant information we need when it comes to hair? Since then, we have expanded to include in beauty products as well and really just thinking about beauty holistically.
Baron, left, and Heard, right, have been friends since their time together at the University of Pennsylvania. [Camille Genise Heard]
Discuss the idea behind FELOH being an all-inclusive beauty community and how that ties in with being a minority-owned business.
Camille: The more we did research to figure out what's going on in the beauty industry at large, the more we saw the industry wanting to be more inclusive, but struggling to be authentic in that inclusivity. One thing that we really wanted to do differently is be conscious in the content that we're generating and not just race-inclusive, but body type-inclusive, ability-inclusive, gender inclusive. That's something we haven't really seen at the forefront of beauty. It's still inherently biased. And it's like, you know, why can't we see more real human beings that are being reflected when you search for beauty products, or when you want to get inspiration? So that was super important for us to be sensitive to.
Jacqueline: Beauty to me, I think it's a very internal process. It's recognizing that everybody is beautiful in their own way. And I know that's a very cliché saying that self-love is so important. I think people talk about it a lot, but it actually takes work to truly love yourself for who you are. So it's not about getting on our platform and wanting to compare yourself to other people, but it's really about knowing who you are, continuing to grow, continuing to love yourself, and then just finding products that support the beauty that you already possess.
Baron & Heard unbox beauty products from vendors that sell online through FELOH. [Jean-Marie Papoi / Ideastream Public Media]
Beyond FELOH’s approach to an all-inclusive view of beauty, what you’ve also created is a small business that supports other small businesses?
Camille: Yes, absolutely. One of our goals is to empower those entrepreneurs that are following their dreams. It takes a lot of courage to fully step out there. And what we're seeing is, we have that ability to relate on the entrepreneurial level. And so many have said, ‘Thank you for creating an opportunity, specifically for smaller beauty brands.’ And one thing that I will say is a lot of these brands are minority-owned, which we're finding is really important because these brands also have a lot of barriers for them to get out there and for them to get the exposure that they deserve. So, we see ourselves as an avenue for them to really get out there.
Jacqueline: It’s exciting to see all of the products and to see the passion that each of the business owners possess, and knowing that we're really able to play a role in helping them become more successful… they're able to play a role in helping us become more successful. And so, it feels like we have our FELOH team, but it's so much more than just Camille, Zarin and I. It has expanded, and all of that energy and passion is super inspiring.
FELOH recently sponsored a beauty expo in Pittsburgh, PA. [Jean-Marie Papoi / Ideastream Public Media]
FELOH won first place this year at the Afrosheen Pitch Competition, which was part of Black Girl Ventures, the nation’s largest global pitch competition for Black/Brown female-identifying business founders. What was your reaction when you heard the news?
Camille: Definitely in entrepreneurship, you hear ‘no’ way more than ‘yes’. And so just being able to take home that win really felt validating. It felt good. And I'm just really blessed and fortunate that we had that opportunity to do it. And I mean, that little bit of winning has taken us so far. Whether it's a big win, small win, you know, we have to celebrate all of those just to keep the motivation and keep the wind under our sails by moving forward.
Jacqueline: Oh my goodness, when I got the good news from Camille, I literally shouted and did three laps around the room. I was just so excited, because that was our first major win. And even though we talk about being resilient and keeping it moving, sometimes it does kind of weigh on you when you're like, ‘Wow, we've been putting in all this work and we don't feel like everybody is always able to see the vision the way that we do.’ So that just felt like acknowledgment and an affirmation that we are on the right track and that this is something that is needed.
Baron & Chief Administrative Officer Zarin Hamid prepare flyers for an upcoming event. [Jean-Marie Papoi / Ideastream Public Media]