Campus Life | March 2nd, 2022
#WhatsNext: Wakati Hair Is Transforming The Industry
By: Kayla Delcham
In efforts to create a brand that ethnic people can be proud of, Wakati Hair and Walgreens collaborated host a pop-up shop and panel discussion to allow students at Florida A&M University to discuss prominent beauty trends.
The panel discussion was spearheaded by Robyn Mowatt, a FAMU alum and staff writer at Okay Player, featuring panelist Mikki Taylor, renowned author, and Editor-at-Large at Essence Magazine, Noella Williams, freelance journalist and graduating senior at FAMU, Anthony Porter, Vice President Finance Americas and REO at Kao Corporation, and Renee Gadsen, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Professional at Walgreens.
The pop-up shop featured an array of products from Wakati Hair, a line that has continuously emphasized providing Black women and men products that not only empowers them but is actually effective.
“In my humble opinion, so many products have been a smoking mirror and haven’t necessarily offered any technology. I have two daughters, a wife, and many sisters that have naturally textured hair, so when I was introduced to Wakati it was very exciting,” said Porter.
Partnering with Koa Corporation, a chemical company, the founders of Wakati Hair were able to use advanced technology that would make tedious Saturday wash days more efficient — centering the actual meaning of Wakati, which is “time” in Swahili.
While strategizing the launch of Wakati, Porter recognized that in order for the product to excel they would need a group of like-minded and intelligent individuals that understand the culture to help nurture the Wakati brand. He then realized it was “a no-brainer” to return to his alma mater, FAMU, to see these plans through.
“One of the wonderful parts of going to an HBCU is that you have lifetime connections. A friend and I were speaking about [Dr. Friday-Stroud] which made me immediately think to call her when this opportunity arose,” said Porter.
After the colleagues connected after thirty years of no communication, Porter says “the rest was history.” Likewise for Dr. Friday-Stroud, bringing this initiative to her alma mater was very important.
“Assuming the roles that I do now, I wanted to give students the same opportunities that were provided to me when I was a student at FAMU and this opportunity with Wakati Hair allowed me to do so,” said Dr. Friday-Stroud.
Starting a case competition at the University, Friday-Stroud allowed SBI students to showcase their talents for an opportunity to work on the Wakati Initiative. After forming a cohort of eligible and hardworking students, Wakati Hair partnered with Walgreens in January 2021 to start mass distribution.
The collaboration with Walgreens was very beneficial to Wakati Hair because not only are they providing financial benefits, but the company also recognizes and acknowledges the voices behind the project. Using diversity, equity and inclusion techniques, the collaboration brought even more success to the company which in turn caused the distribution to spread to other major retailers like Walmart, Rite-Aid and Kroger.
“Research suggests that companies with sound diversity, equity and inclusion programming are more competitive in the marketplace because of the different perspectives that bring innovation,” said Gadsden.
Initiatives like these are very important to HBCUs and other Black communities as they shed light on the importance of young black voices being heard and understanding them beyond their monetary value, especially in the beauty industry.
“Events like these move the needle and give us evidence of who we are and what is important to us. Oftentimes in the beauty industry you find a lot of people talking about black people, instead of talking with them. With that being said, this initiative is groundbreaking. We went from being invisible to front and center on a global level,” said Taylor.
However, having initiatives like these that can continue to grow and progress will only be possible if young Black people take control of the industry.
“You all are what the future looks like,” said Taylor as she wistfully scanned the room during the panel. “Like Dr. Maya Angelou said, ‘We must confess that we are the possible. We are miraculous, the true wonder of this world. That is when, and only when, We come to it.”