This mother-daughter duo’s story is a testament to the power of timing.
When it comes to braids, a major challenge that women mention is the time duration of the takedown process.
Wanting to create a way for efficiency, Natasha Anderson brainstormed an innovation back in 2004 — The Original Unbraider. The tool allows people to take down six to eight braids at a time. In addition to taking down the braids, it combs out the unbraided hair.
To bring the tool to life, Anderson connected with a friend whose family owned a plastic manufacturing company in Taiwan.
“As I was designing it, going through the prototype phase, and dealing with the engineers, I shared it with him when he was visiting my husband [and] he said, ‘I can take that back to Taiwan. And if my family is not able to create the mold for this idea, my best friend’s family also has one,'” Anderson shared with AfroTech.
She continued: “So, we technically ended up going with his best friend. The whole family — four at that time — flew to Taiwan. We got to see the manufacturing and how they poured it and made the mold. It was really a great experience. And my husband really helped out by allowing us to pull money off our house in order to do that.”
Alongside her family, the mother of five sold the tool at hair shows, beauty salons, and mall kiosks in California. However, the business took a halt after Anderson’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and passed away.
In 2021, Anderson’s daughter, Khadija Imara, stepped up to take over as the CEO of The Original Unbraider. Then, nearly two years later, the company officially had its rebrand.
The Original Unbraider not only sold out in the first week of its launch but has also garnered millions of views across social media. What’s more, it has caught the attention of celebrities like Tamar Braxton.
“The response has been amazing and I’ve had an amazing mentor to be able to follow in her footsteps and she provided me a blueprint,” Imara said. “It was just about utilizing today’s time and the resources and the tools that we have. And the lesson learned was how to approach with a systematic approach, the social media strategy.”
“This marketing strategy has pivoted since we first launched because it was different when [my mother] launched, we had a completely different strategy because e-commerce wasn’t a viable option at the time … So, we were doing a lot of on-the-ground work, hair shows, and whatnot. And so we continued to do that as well,” she added.
While The Original Unbraider creates efficiency for beauticians, parents, and more, its overall mission is to empower the Black community.
Anderson and Imara aim to show Black people — especially young Black women — what Black ownership can look like across industries where there is not much representation.
In the near future, The Original Unbraider aims to expand to meet more customer demand, continue to be both accessible and affordable, and become a Black household staple like hot combs. Additionally, they are looking to expand their products.
“Expanding our product line is something that we’re interested in,” Imara shared. “And expanding our reach, going international. We have a lot of demand in the U.K., the Caribbean, Canada — so many places. We’re also looking to be able to help that hair care journey because we’ve all been on it. I have cut my hair several times and done the [big] chop and said, ‘This is the last time.’ I’ve been there before. I know exactly what has helped me and I want to help others in that journey as well.”