2 Ex-strategy consultants @vtmoyo & @ugorjileah have built a £15M+ hair business @rukahair, less than 2 years after launching. After constantly encountering frustrating shopping experiences, from faceless brands in the unregulated hair extensions industry, they decided to build their own solution. With an innovation team with ex-Dyson experience, they developed the widest range of textured hair extensions, winning the no.1 afro hair extensions provider in the UK for 2021. They raised 7 figures in investment from prominent founders including @monzo co-founder and @cultbeauty founder and launched with a virtual experience that Forbes called the consumer experience of the future.
The word Ruka means “doing hair” in Shona, and we mean it when we say it – we want to do hair as it has never been done before. Ruka is creating the definitive hair brand for black women globally, by building an ecosystem of hair solutions which are ethical, sustainable, and truly work. Most importantly, we’re taking the time to listen and learn from Black women who have experienced centuries of a hair industry dictated and driven by people who don’t look like us or understand our needs.
A staggering multitude of Black women suffer hair loss, often driven by the use of harmful chemicals in hair extensions and hair care products, poor hair Installation techniques, and an overall lack of education. Therefore, as a brand, we are as intentional about innovation within our products as we are about sharing our learnings with our community. Whether this is with live demos, or hair and scalp consultations at our pop-ups, our village is key.
What does the Black and British experience mean to Ruka?
We are founded and led by Black women. At our core, Ruka was birthed into a legacy of power and community, laced with a history of pain and struggle. This spans both the Black and British experience, as well as the experience of many Black people across the globe. Yet Ruka stands as the manifestation of the work that all the Black women did before us to keep the spirit and joy of our hair alive.
Similarly, the Black and British experience is rooted in a history that both challenged and, against all odds, celebrated our versatility and shape-shifting magic. Our experience is one that drives that forward – challenges the bounds of what the Black and British experience has historically been and champions the freedom to create an even more diverse future. Seeing our hair worn by our cocreators, village, Dina Asher-Smith, and Tems is an indication to us that we’re doing just that!
How does the world of tech and beauty intertwine, and how is this tailored to the Black and British experience?
As of 2021, Black women spend 6x as much as their White counterparts on haircare products and services. Ruka is a solution to why this is not represented in what’s marketed to us through 6x better quality, 6x more science-led, or even 6x more convenient. We started with real hair extensions, voted no.1 in the UK, and are raising to add world-class synthetic hair to the products we offer. Tech, innovation, and research are key to truly serving Black women, the often underserved consumer. Our village includes over 500 co-creators, the majority of whom are based in the UK, whose feedback has been instrumental in creating hair solutions that are needed that work. We also boast a team in the UK that passionately works to bring the vision alive. You can see this in our award-winning Edge Slick, the ever-improving range of hair textures we offer designed by Black scientists, and our hair perfume and hydrating gels formulated by Black scientists
How does Ruka represent the Black and British experience?
Since launching in the UK in Jan 2021, we’ve been voted the no.1 afro hair extensions brand, serving over 5,500 customers largely in the UK. The Black and British experience is interwoven into the fabric and history of Ruka. We know what it feels like to have to make do because it doesn’t seem like what’s out there is created for you. And that’s exactly why we have decided to make the outsiders our insiders, by creating a company that truly puts Black women at the centre and innovates around their needs.
Our aim is world domination – put simply, this is representing and innovating around those needs in every arena where Black women exist. Being the first Black hair extension business in Westfield London was an extension of the work we do daily. We’re raising the standard whilst normalising the joyful shopping experience that Black women across the globe deserve.
What’s next for Ruka as they continue to grow and flourish?
From October 31st we’ll have launched in Selfridges – a history-making partnership with Ruka being their first Black-owned hair extension concession. We’ll also be launching our crowdfund to allow us to build a proprietary synthetic hair offering, deepen our ethics and sustainability focus within our supply chain and lay the groundwork for international expansion. These are just a few of the things we’re looking forward to in our vision to serve Black women with the highest standards of hair solutions.