Disrupting an $87 Billion Dollar Industry: Meet Dawn Myers, CEO of THE MOST
by John D. Saunders — Original Article Here
While listening to Victory Lap through treble-heavy speakers, the lyrics “prolific, so gifted” are a complete parallel to browsing Dawn Myers’ newest venture, THE MOST, a company that makes incredible tools tailored just for curls.
Dawn designed an entirely new category of hair tools with both high and low-tech solutions to the toughest problems in ethnic hair care.
As an entrepreneur with HEAVY roots in empowerment and legal training, Dawn’s approach is authentic and strategic.
Dawn had the chance to answer a few questions from the team about entrepreneurship and what it takes to launch a product in a competitive niche.
So, tell us your story? How did you move from the legal industry to entrepreneurship?
Before law school, I did a pre-MBA program and I had a major existential crisis over whether I should go to law school or B-school. I chose law school, but the business itch never left.
I veered toward business law classes and, after a stint on the Hill and on President Obama’s 2012 campaign, I landed at a firm on the business side of the house.
Substantively, it was a great fit. I learned how to manage complex operations, branding, marketing, organizational dynamics, and business development, but I found the environment quite oppressive and I knew I couldn’t make a life there.
During my firm career, I started developing real estate on the side. As the political environment in DC shifted leading up to the 2016 election, I made my exit and started investing in real estate full time.
I started joining entrepreneurship groups throughout the greater Washington DC area and began learning about the startup world.
I spent a long time thinking about what problem I was uniquely positioned to tackle. Over the course of that year and a half or so, I heard so many friends with natural hair complaining about the time and effort required for basic grooming and maintenance.
I realized that my business experience, natural hair savvy, and legal background gave me the perfect cocktail of skills to create new tech-based solutions for women with textured hair.
After surveying and interviewing natural hair consumers and seeing how intense the demand was, I liquidated most of my real estate assets and got to work building THE MOST.
How has your legal background helped you become a better entrepreneur?
Of course, hard skills like negotiating and contract writing come in handy, but the soft skills have been just as useful.
Legal training teaches you diligence, work ethic, thoroughness, attention to detail, and self-motivation. That helped me power through the learning curve and tackle the technical specializations needed to bring these designs to fruition.
Generally speaking, having any professional career before delving into entrepreneurship gives you more context and confidence. So much of this game is about having good business judgment, and that only comes with experience.
Any background that instills sharp decision-making skills, discipline, and resilience is good preparation for entrepreneurship.
How would you best describe how your products stand out in a VERY popular market?
We’re a hardware company in a sea of curl creams. THE MOST is like the Lowe’s of natural hair: we provide the appliances and infrastructure for your natural hair house to make it run smoothly and efficiently.
The liquid product brands out there are like the West Elm or Pier 1 of your hair house: they provide the style, feel, and texture of your choosing. We complement rather than compete.
When I cut my hair off and went natural around 12 years ago, there were next to no liquid products readily available for natural hair — I had to make do with grocery store olive oil and aloe gel.
I may or may not have resorted to using Jheri curl juice in one particularly sad moment of desperation (I’m judging myself enough for the both of us, dear reader).
Now, awesome new brands are popping up every month and we have an incredible selection to choose from. Those liquid products address the quality and health of our hair (which is great!), but they don’t address the time, effort, and lack of convenience women with textured hair face every day.
We need hardware – tools and appliances – specially made for textured hair styling in order to streamline the process and make styling easier and more convenient.
Curling irons, flat irons, and damaging heat tools currently on the market are meant to straighten our hair rather than style it in its natural state.
We need engineering that’s culturally informed — that takes into account the unique physical structure of black hair and addresses the pain points naturalistas experience that no one else understands.
Natural haircare is an extreme sport. So many women I’ve interviewed complain about having to spend HOURS styling their hair every wash day.
So many women of color are sacrificing workouts to avoid the hours-long process of cleansing and styling. So many women are struggling to manage their careers and families with the demands of their hair.
Natural hairstyling affects women of color’s quality of life in a real way. My company is dedicated to easing the pain points that are completely invisible to the rest of the world.
As a Black Girl Ventures Ambassador, how do you feel we can empower young women to pursue entrepreneurship?
Visibility, destigmatization, and active outreach. Entrepreneurship is one of those odd pursuits that doesn’t require a particular background.
It’s important that young women know that they don’t necessarily need an ivy league MBA or the ability to code in three languages to have an impact.
Visibility is important. Seeing people like you “make it” matters. The more examples of successful women founders, the more accessible this path will feel for young women.
Additionally, we need to do more to train male stakeholders in the space. This is still a white male-dominated industry and unconscious bias against women – and Black women in particular – is rampant.
This isn’t a problem that will work itself out over time; it requires active dismantling. As an industry, we’re getting there. Organizations like the Kaufman Foundation and colleagues of mine like Cheryl Ingram at Inclusology are working diligently to address these issues, but there is so much more work to be done!
We can each do our part. Words of support and encouragement go a long way. Opening our networks to young women founders goes even further.
Sharing information and leads, further still. Investors and Industry stakeholders in positions of power have a RESPONSIBILITY to make the effort to see the world through the eyes of underrepresented founders.
It’s not sufficient to turn down a Black woman founder solely because her niche doesn’t resonate with you. For communities disproportionately impacted by economic, health, education, and wellness disparities, innovation is a critical component for improved quality of life, economic progress, and wealth generation.
If I’ve learned anything through BGV, it’s that our young women are more than adequately motivated and driven. All they need is education and an open door. It’s less about changing them and more about changing the world around them.
Let’s say an entrepreneur has a GREAT business idea. How would you spec the project and incubate it into a successful launch?
Spend time and effort laying this foundation — it’s the difference between a nice idea that falls flat and a solid business with growth potential.
First, spend time collecting and studying the data. Find industry reports, statistics, articles and create a catalogue of important facts and stats.
That will come in handy when you need to provide authority to investors. You don’t have to spend too much money on this process. Industry reports can cost a ton, but you can usually find free and reputable secondary sources that cite the key takeaways.
Compare that data to your initial hypothesis. Does the data square with your assumptions? Don’t be shy about moving around the puzzle pieces until you have a picture that starts to make sense.
From there, validate and refine. Validation never stops. It’s a constant feedback loop between your company and your customer that allows you to pivot (in ways big and small) until you find product/market fit.
The road to launch is long and bumpy, but none of the other stuff matters if you don’t get this right.
What are a few of your favorite entrepreneurial resources?
Podcasts have been an incredible learning tool for me. There tons of amazing books and publications out there, but it’s been so hard to fit them into my schedule.
I’ve tried so many times to carve out an hour for reading each day, but that just isn’t realistic for my hectic life right now.
Podcasts allow me to multitask and I listen every chance I get — while in the shower, driving, cooking, working, and even while working around the house. They really help me maximize my time.
Also, life as a solo founder can be lonely. Very few people are upfront about their biggest challenges at networking or industry events, so it can feel like you’re the only one going through it.
Podcast culture’s emphasis on authenticity and transparency gives you the chance to see that other people have gone through the same or worse and made it. The lessons are invaluable, but podcasts offer the added benefit of reminding you that you’re not the only one.
My favorites are The Pitch, Masters of Scale, and How I Built This, but there are a plethora to choose from. I’m always on the hunt for new, quality content — message me on IG @dawndoesTHEMOST with your suggestions!
You’re an advocate for entrepreneurship, and we all know how difficult it can be. With the emergence of SO many people wanting to release physical products, how could they avoid manufacturing problem areas and launch a viable product?
Physical products are tough and extremely logistically complicated. For non-technical CEOs, It’s important to have manufacturing pros on your team who understand the full physical product life cycle.
There are so many dots to connect, and you’re going to waste time and a LOT of money learning through trial and error. Hiring a sourcing consultant isn’t enough.
You need people who believe in your mission, not another link in the chain looking to skim off the top. Invest time on the front end attracting experienced team members and advisors who can help you sort through this nebulous world of physical products.
Do the work, of course, spend time researching and learning, but don’t go it alone. Find good people to lean on early in your process.
Who’s your favorite entrepreneur?
It’s a toss-up between Cathy Hughes and Sheila Johnson. I’ve been looking for a warm intro for years so I can thank them for the insane trail they blazed for us. If anyone out there has the hookup, holler at your favorite curl boss!
What’s the favorite feature film?
Apocalypto! It’s an incredible story of perseverance and triumph. When the going gets tough or I need to psych myself up, I recite my favorite quote, “I am Jaguar Paw. This is my forest. And I am not afraid.” Works. Every. Time.
Also, I’m a nerd.
What’s the ONE book everyone should read to increase financial literacy?
Rich Dad, Poor Dad. I know. How cliché, right? But it’s cliché for a reason. It’s simple, accessible for any audience, and the wisdom is timeless. More than anything, it reminds me that I’m not working hard just for myself; I’m working hard to leave a legacy of financial freedom for my family.
What’s the quickest way someone can make $100?
Sell your oldie-but-goodies on Craigslist, Facebook marketplace, or anyone of the new platforms that have sprung up for just such a purpose. Also, unsave your credit card information from your web browser to prevent impulse buys. As Robert Kiyosaki would say, it’s not what you make but what you save.
Where can our audience find you?
@themostcurls | www.themostcurls.com
@dawndoesthemost | www.dawndoesthemost.com
Thanks for having me!