Nancy Twine has the distinction of being the youngest African-American to launch a line of hair care products at Sephora.
After spending seven years working on Wall Street, she ditched finance for beauty. She’s now the CEO of a multi-million-dollar company and carving out a niche in a crowded industry.
So how did Nancy Twine go from managing investments to managing one of the fastest-growing hair care lines?
It turns out this wasn’t a sudden career change. Nancy started making natural hair care products years before reaching Wall Street. Let’s take a detailed look at the history of Briogeo and the CEO behind it.
Who Is Nancy Twine?
Nancy Twine is the founder and CEO of Briogeo. She founded the company in 2013 before the age of 30 after working for one of the largest financial companies in the world.
However, her experience with making organic hair care products started at the young age of five. Her family frequently took trips to West Virginia to visit her grandmother, who was renowned in her town for making homemade shampoos and conditioners. Nancy would help her grandmother with the mixtures, which is something that stuck with her through the years.
Nancy went on to graduate from the McIntire Undergraduate Business School at the University of Virginia. Following a summer internship, she landed a job in the Commodities Sales Division at Goldman Sachs in New York City.
Navigating the Fast-Paced World of Wall Street
Nancy excelled in her role at Goldman Sachs. She loved dealing with different challenges every day. She mentions how she was surrounded by smart individuals who encouraged outside-the-box thinking.
Since she enjoyed her work so much at Goldman Sachs she stuck with the same team for seven years. Only leaving the company when it appeared that Briogeo was headed in the right direction.
Family Tragedy Leads to a Reassessment of Career Goals
So what spurred Nancy Twine to make a career change? A combination of factors led to the development of Briogeo but it was a family tragedy that sparked her initial drive.
As mentioned, Nancy has a family history of creating natural products in the kitchen. She was inspired by her grandmother’s ability to take the ingredients she had available and craft soaps and shampoos.
About halfway through her career at Goldman Sachs, Nancy noticed an increased desire for natural, toxin-free beauty products. She also realized that the beauty industry was overlooking a portion of its market.
Companies were starting to release more skincare products made with natural ingredients but there were still only a few options for hair care products made without toxins.
Along with her grandmother, Nancy’s mother shared a love for mixing ingredients. Her mother was a doctor who eventually gave up the stethoscope to become a chemist. Her mother had just completed work on a natural face cream that she was hoping to take to market. Tragically, her mother died after being struck by a car in 2010, before she could release her face cream.
Her mother’s death led to some soul searching. Nancy decided that working on Wall Street was not how she wanted to live the rest of her life.
Finding the Right Formulas for Success
Nancy Twine didn’t leave Goldman Sachs immediately. While keeping her job on Wall Street, Nancy used her spare time to learn more about the industry and the processes used to produce hair care products for consumers. This included researching independent labs and chemists with the knowledge and resources to create clean, nontoxic products.
Nancy spent an entire year looking for the right lab and chemist. She then spent another year testing hundreds of formulas. By 2013, Nancy had four original formulas and a name for her company.
Launching Briogeo and Finding an Investor
Nancy named her startup company “Briogeo” by combining an Italian word and a Latin word: “Brio” is Italian for “full of life.” It represents the bustling streets of NYC where Nancy launched her brand. The energy of the city is reflected in the packaging for the products. “Geo” is the Latin word for “earth” or “of Earth,” which represents the natural ingredients used for each formula.
She was almost ready for people to discover her new formula. First, she needed funding to produce her products and reach the market.
Early on, Nancy funded the company with her own savings while pitching her idea to investors. Most of the people she pitched to were involved in the tech industry and lacked knowledge of the beauty industry. Luckily, some investors are willing to take risks.
Nancy eventually met Philip Palmedo at a networking event. Palmedo admits that he knows nothing about hair care but liked Nancy’s presentation. He invested $150,000 in Nancy’s vision for a small stake in the company & was Nancy’s only outside investor. But now she had the backing needed to start producing her product..
Nancy Finds Her First Two Buyers and a Global Audience
After obtaining financing, Nancy quickly found her first two buyers, Urban Outfitters and Fred Segal. The latter is a trendy LA boutique.
In the summer of 2013, Nancy took a vacation to attend Cosmoprof in Las Vegas. Cosmoprof is a major trade show for health and beauty products held each year.
At the trade show, Nancy met buyers from Sephora, the French multinational personal care and beauty chain. At the start of 2014, Sephora agreed to feature Briogeo products on its US and Canadian websites. The following week, Nancy gave her notice at Goldman Sachs.
Throughout the development of her company, she continued to work full-time on Wall Street. She didn’t give up her old day job until the new one appeared stable. After launching on Sephora’s websites, Briogeo hair care products quickly became a hit. Sephora soon started featuring Nancy’s products in stores and on websites across the globe.
With a commitment from Sephora, Nancy finally felt comfortable leaving the world of finance behind. However, her time at Goldman Sachs provided her with invaluable skills that would help her develop Briogeo into a major business.
Using a Hands-on Approach to Packaging and Manufacturing
Creating a successful product involves more than the quality of the product. When it comes to hair care products, packaging significantly influences buyers’ decisions.
Instead of hiring a team of consultants to select the right manufacturer for packaging and suppliers for ingredients, Nancy chose to handle everything herself. To find the right packaging, she would visit Sephora stores and look at the various bottles. If she saw a package she liked, she’d turn it over to see who manufactured it.
To find the right ingredients, she’d personally contact suppliers. Cutting consultancy agencies out of the mix helped improve her profit margins, which is one of many reasons why Briogeo is such a success story.
What Sets Briogeo Products Apart From the Competition?
It’s not easy for an entrepreneur to launch a new hair care line & compete against major companies. To become a success, you need to offer something different. Nancy Twine understood that there was room in the industry for something new. Obviously noticing the lack of clean hair care products and the segregated beauty aisles.
She paid attention to the way that hair care companies tend to target customers based on ethnicity. Nancy wanted to create hair care products designed for specific hair textures, not skin colors.
The initial line of Briogeo hair care products was aimed at four groups of hair textures – wavy, oily, dry, and thin. Nancy also ensured that her products were made from naturally derived formulas. Briogeo products do not contain any:
The products are also free of artificial dyes. There are only a handful of completely clean hair care product lines and even fewer that cater to those with textured hair. By eliminating toxic ingredients and offering products for textured hair, Briogeo is part of a select group of hair care product lines.
Reaching an Often-Neglected Segment of the Market
Many of the largest hair care brands simply do not know how to create shampoos and conditioners for those with textured hair, which includes most African-Americans.
According to research firm Mintel, black customers spent close to $500 million on shampoo in 2018. They are the fastest-growing portion of the US hair care market, which generates over $13 billion in sales each year.
Despite the demand for hair care products that can handle textured hair, many brands tend to ignore this market. This creates an opening for companies such as Briogeo, which offers a high-quality hair care product for multiple hair textures and at a lower price point compared to the competition.
People Immediately Embrace Briogeo Hair Care Products
A quality product can speak for itself. Consumers love Briogeo hair care products. After Briogeo hit the shelves, people started buying it and the positive reviews started pouring in.
Each product released from Briogeo has a proprietary blend of natural oils, vitamins, and antioxidants. Instead of relying on synthetic ingredients, each product is completely natural. They are also designed to address specific hair care issues such as damaged hair, curly hair, and frizzy hair.
One of the most successful items is “Don’t Despair, Repair!”. Featuring a special formula with rosehip oil, algae extract, and B vitamins, this product restores dry, damaged hair quickly.
Creating a Profitable Business Is Not Easy
Nancy Twine has developed a highly successful company but it required a lot of hard work. For those who want to follow in her footsteps, Nancy has a few useful tips and strategies:
Nancy believes that you cannot get anywhere without understanding the steps that you need to take. She recommends setting goals that you can define and break down into smaller steps. Create a clear path to your goals and then figure out how to achieve them.
According to Nancy, you should also avoid rushing things. She didn’t immediately quit her job at Goldman Sachs to pursue her career in the hair care industry. She did her research and slowly built her company while still working in finance.
Also recognizing the need to ask for help. For example, she tried to create the designs for the packaging of her products early on. Even taking a Photoshop class but soon realized she wasn’t cut out to be a designer. Therefore enlisted the help of a professional to create bold designs that reflected her vision.
What’s Next for Briogeo and Nancy Twine?
After the success of her initial products, Nancy Twine isn’t slowing down. She’s continuing to develop new offerings to add to the Briogeo line.
Along with hair care products, Briogeo is branching out into skin care and wellness products. The company’s website now offers essential vitamins and supplements to support healthier hair. She also plans on expanding into other markets and territories around the globe.
A Great Product Can Create Its Own Buzz
Briogeo has only existed for about seven years, which is close to the amount of time that Nancy Twine spent working at Goldman Sachs. Her company has remained profitable every year of its existence and generates over $10 million in profits annually.
There are several important points to take away from Nancy’s story. First, it’s important to recognize when there is a need for something new. Briogeo filled a gap in the market.
The second point is that achieving success involves a lot of research. Nancy didn’t jump into this business venture without taking the time to fully understand every detail from packaging and manufacturing to the selection of ingredients.
Her research paid off as she was able to develop a highly effective product for those with curly or textured hair. Customers rave about how Briogeo products help them manage frizz and soften their locks, which is the third takeaway.
When you create a quality product that people love, you have a greater chance of making a profit. Briogeo built its own buzz simply by offering the public something new — hair care products without toxic ingredients that can help manage a variety of hair textures.
If you are thinking about launching your own business venture, remember a few of these lessons from Nancy Twine’s story.
Stephanie is the Marketing Director at Talkroute and has been featured in Forbes, Inc, and Entrepreneur as a leading authority on business and telecommunications.
Stephanie is also the chief editor and contributing author for the Talkroute blog helping more than 100k entrepreneurs to start, run, and grow their businesses.