Industry: B2B Sales, Beauty Products and Consumer Goods
Founding Student Name(s): Payton Cranford, Jeremiah Johnson
Brief Description of Solution: Cranford’s company, March, is producing an inclusive toiletry line for hotels and resorts that includes a shampoo and conditioner that suits Black hair. The shampoo and conditioning hair care line caters to all travelers, but in particular Black women and men, who are unable to use many commonly distributed hair products due to the damage it may cause their hair. The Black travelers’ market is a $109 billion industry and zero hotels have complimentary hair care items for consumers with textured and coily hair. The March toiletry line will be beneficial for all hair types and help hotels better cater to their clientele.
What led you to launch this venture? While traveling with a friend about five years ago, Cranford said they were sharing a hotel room when Cranford made a comment about the shampoo she had just used from the hotel. Cranford’s friend – who is a Black woman – explained how she has to travel with full-sized personal hair products if she plans to wash her hair. The complimentary products available at hotels would not work on her hair and could do damage to her hair.
The conversation was eye-opening for Cranford, who talked to other friends with similar stories. One young man is a football player and explained that he travels with his own hair care products because hotels do not carry brands that cater to his hair needs. Other friends shared similar stories about the planning required to go on a vacation that includes swimming, when hair washing will be necessary.
“This is a very big discrepancy in this industry and I want to solve it,” said Cranford.
Cranford said she waited to proceed with her company because, as a white woman, she questioned the appropriateness of her developing a Black hair brand. Through research and conversation and identifying her co-founder Jeremiah Johnson, who is a former TCU student, she finally determined her hair care line is really an inclusive product. Even though it’s catered to coarser and curlier hair textures, it’s still inclusive and for everyone.
What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with venture? In March 2022, Cranford entered her business concept in the TCU Neeley School of Business Values and Ventures Competition with the support of a team of classmates. The competition invites undergraduate students from around the world to pitch ideas for conscious capitalism ventures that make a profit while also solving a problem. The pitch team included students Cranford, Chase Berry, Aliza Porter and Laurent Shumbusha.
In the renowned competition, Cranford and her teammates received the Ripple Effect Award, which is presented for an idea that could change an industry in society. The feedback and award validated the concept and provided startup money to officially launch the business.
How has your business-related major helped you further this startup venture? Cranford is majoring in Marketing with a minor in Comparative Race and Ethnic Students. She also serves as the Entrepreneurship Club President.
At TCU Neeley, internships and experiential learning are priorities for students. Cranford works in a full-time position for a media buyer at a digital marketing agency specializing in digital advertising on social media platforms. The knowledge in class and this career position has been beneficial to her knowledge of how and when to apply in startup, such as the size of her budget for advertising and when is the best time to begin marketing.
She said the next round of funding for the business will include running ads to begin the presale process to get money behind the idea and truly validate it.
Which business class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? The combination of Brandon Chicotsky’s marketing class and a diversity course connected to her minor have been valuable resources for her business. The marketing class supported the development and execution of the business plan, especially the best areas to focus the budget. In Chicotsky’s class, Cranford developed a case product working with a client, who was so impressed with the marketing strategy provided that they applied it to their own business venture. Cranford plans to use a similar marketing structure for her startup. Being able to present something that people in the industry were willing to test was very beneficial.
The diversity class she has taken also supports the startup concept and ensures Cranford is asking the right questions about various cultures and a hair care product marketed to hotel operators that may not be aware of the impact inclusive hair care products will have on customers.
What business professor made a significant contribution to your plans and why? Cranford describes Professor Rodney D’Souza as her “go-to professor” at TCU. She said she is in his office almost daily gathering input and support as he is directing her to various opportunities. D’Souza has been the most impactful professor Cranford has had at TCU thus far.
What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or she prove motivational to you? Nathan Butorac is a TCU Neeley alumnus and founder of Piñatagram who hosts weekly Wednesday coffee meetings and invites Neeley students to attend. Cranford said. while sitting at one of those meetings, she heard the story of how he started and his journey. Then he turned to Cranford and asked what she is working on. When she shared her hair care idea, Butorac encouraged her to pursue the idea. His input inspired Cranford to begin her startup.
What is your long-term goal with your startup? Cranford and her co-founder, Jeremiah Johnson, are on the journey of raising capital. They are working to raise $5 million over the next year. The next step in their plans is to enter an accelerator program to launch in the boutique hotel market space and then build to larger chain hotels, such as Hilton.
Cranford’s ultimate goal with March it to be a movement in addition to being a consumer product that helps people wake up to an inclusive hair care solution.
Person Completing Nomination Form: Tiara Richard, Director of Communications, based on interview with Payton Cranford.
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